Vietnamese businesswoman selected as a finalist for the global ‘Women in Business’ Award


thu PCG joint tradeMs. Nguyen Thi Thu, a self-made businesswoman from Hoa Binh province, was proud to be selected as one of the ten finalists of UNCTAD’s global Empretec Women in Business Award. She travelled to Doha, Qatar, to take part in the award ceremony in April 2012.

There is ample evidence that enhanced opportunities for women lead to improvements in poverty reduction and to accelerated economic growth.

The Empretec Women in Business Award is presented to women who have excelled in developing innovative business ideas, providing jobs and increasing income in their communities. The prize honours businesswomen from developing countries who have founded successful firms, created jobs, and become role models in their communities. Many of the award finalists tell compelling stories of overcoming social and cultural obstacles to their business careers, as well as surmounting financial challenges.

The Joint Programme on Green Production and TradeMs. Nguyen Thi Thu is no exception. Ms. Thu learned how to make handicrafts when she was a girl in primary school. Struggling to survive, she used to sell all her products in the village market once a week, already wondering how she could sell them abroad and offer income opportunities to her siblings. She is now a successful businesswoman. Her company SANDA produces and exports handcrafted products, including bamboo and rattan baskets and tiger grass brooms.

Ms. Thu’s production and sales site is located in one of the poorest rural areas in Viet Nam. Ms. Thu hires her workers from poor ethnic minorities. Often her employees are illiterate, abused women, former drug addicts, or prisoners.  They would have trouble gaining employment elsewhere, but Ms. Thu has found that “once accepted, trusted, and inspired, they are very dedicated and eager to learn.”

The firm now has ten permanent employees and some 700 part-time or seasonal workers who cultivate materials, including rattan, bamboo, and grass, and help when needed with production. About 80 per cent of these workers are women.

Ms. Thu’s company SANDA recently benefitted from international design assistance. US designer Mimi Robinson, commissioned by International Trade Centre (ITC), travelled to Hoa Binh province and helped Ms. Thu to create more value-adding tiger grass brooms, the so-called Tet brooms. Inspired by the Vietnamese New Year, and the Year of the Dragon, these utilitarian brooms are transformed into contemporary household accessories by adding color and patterns to the existing design. Each broom is handmade using locally grown sustainable fiber, known as tiger grass.

thu PCG joint trade-02Within the framework of the joint programme on Green Production and Trade, the Empretec programme has helped business managers/owners to strengthen and awaken the key behavioural traits of a successful entrepreneur, such as persistence, commitment, goal setting, information seeking, taking calculated risks and seeking opportunities. In Viet Nam the programme has been customized to the Vietnamese context and translated into Vietnamese. Together with its local counterpart organization VIETRADE and a team of local trainers, the Empretec programme has been made available to some 150 companies in Hanoi and the four provinces targeted by the programme.

Ms. Thu says that through an Empretec workshop “I realized what studying is and what learning by doing is.”

“When I was girl in primary school, I was often dreaming of flying on my grass broom beyond the small village market to sell my products outside, offer job opportunities to the poorest members of my village, and help them survive. Now that dream has come true,” she concludes.

See this short video on Ms. Thu below: