Every year, International Women’s Day shines the spotlight on the incredible achievements of women, and aims to foster a gender equal world. This year’s theme is ‘Embrace Equity’, highlighting that equal opportunities are no longer enough. Rather, equity recognises different needs and circumstances to allocate the best opportunities and resources for success.
The Women’s Creatives mission celebrates creative work while increasing exposure for commercial projects. In keeping with this theme for International Women’s Day, we honour the skilled female artisans we work with at Banyan Tree Gallery. They create beautiful, eco-friendly products to delight shoppers and help preserve traditions, while passing down cherished skills and providing employment opportunities.
Talent, passion and determination weave through their unique stories. Here’s an inspiring glimpse.
Basketry is a craft that pre-dates pottery and woven cloth. At the Phu Vinh Bamboo and Rattan Village in northern Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Han works to preserve its 400-year-old heritage while advancing bamboo and rattan woven products towards a sustainable future.
As founder of the May Viet Company, she provides an inclusive environment offering income opportunities for women to partake in the local economy and achieve a sense of self-fulfilment. This includes offering free training programmes that advance gender equity in what was once a male-dominated industry.
Even beyond work, Nguyen wisdom extends to helping women balance the many responsibilities of running a household, including parenting, self-care, gaining the financial independence and attaining fulfilment afforded by a career in basketry.
Her sentiments, though offered in respect to women in the basketry industry, apply to women across the globe, as she says: “A woman’s greatest challenge can also turn out to be her strength. Balancing aspects of personal and professional life can be an enormous feat, but in turn it provides an unrivalled sense of patience and resilience that will help them persevere in turning their knowledge of this craft into a lifelong career.”
Tòhe is a social enterprise co-founded by Pham Thi Ngan in 2006, and operates with a team largely made up of women. Its goal is to empower and give back to children with disabilities and social disadvantages, where these children submit designs for featured products, and receive a percentage of generated revenue if their designs get selected.
The journey first started for Pham and her two partners after extensive volunteering at the Center for Nurturing the Elderly and Disabled Children in Thuy an, Ba Vi. They decided to create a space where kids with perceived disadvantages could feel “unconditionally respected, accepted, and freely expressive both creatively and personally”.
Even as they juggle the need to generate revenue for the business and fund the children’s programmes that they run, Pham and her team also express a dedication to maintaining the high quality of their products while keeping them affordable and environmentally friendly.
It can be tough to be a woman in business, as societal expectations may lead to a desire to want to prove yourself, she says. However, Pham believes that it is important to trust her instincts and forge her own path. “Women are innately intuitive and empathetic and our strengths as a collective are what will allow us to become creative in succeeding in our business,” she says.
Cuong Duyen Ceramics is a family business that first started operating in the 1960s, and was inherited by its current President Pham Cam Linh in 2014. It reflects a deep appreciation for the history of pottery – a craft preserved in Hanoi’s Bat Trang Pottery Village – through elaborate works of art, and the training of apprentices to carry on the Bat Trang traditions while instilling in them a sense of pride in traditional Vietnamese handicrafts.
Historically, men have been the ones to inherit the necessary skills to carry on the village’s traditions while women supported them behind the scenes. However, changing times have resulted in more women taking on managerial roles on top of their work as sculptors and artists, and helping to play a bigger part in preserving cultural heritage.
In fact, women have proven time and time again to not only be capable but exceptional in their understanding of clay as a material, the execution of techniques, as well as the distribution process. Eventually, this paves the way for even more women to join the pottery industry, and receive recognition for the work they do. That’s why Pham believes that “if the craft is to survive thousands of years later, the woman is crucial.”
Celebrate and support the exquisite work of skilled local artisans when you visit Banyan Tree Gallery outlets at our various properties.