Women's rights in the Hmong community

Project Overview

A story on Hmong women’s leadership, contributed to the Minnesota History Museum’s “We Are Hmong” exhibit.

Identifying the Problem

Tiffany’s Humanity in Action Fellowship in Amsterdam instilled in her a deep desire to challenge the status quo and speak up for issues and people sidelined by inequality. She was aware of the lack of Hmong women’s narratives or stories in her community, and was struck by the sharp contrast between that absence and the vivid stories of her own Hmong grandmother. Tiffany and her grandmother had long conversations about life as a Hmong woman during the Vietnam War and now, and Tiffany was grateful for her grandmother for sharing her stories and challenges. But it was not lost on Tiffany that stories such as these are unheard of – or belittled – when the storyteller is a woman. She wanted to show that Hmong women are heroic and strong, and that their stories are worth hearing.

Creating A Solution

Tiffany had many ideas for how to tell the stories of strong Hmong women, but before she settled on a particular idea, the proposal came to her – she was contacted by the Minnesota History Museum to write a piece as part of its “We Are Hmong” exhibit. Tiffany was thrilled at the opportunity to contribute to this important exhibit, and met with the exhibit coordinators to discuss ideas for her piece. Because she wanted to focus on women’s rights in the Hmong community, she decided to tell the story of a Hmong woman in a leadership role.

Tiffany’s piece, “Election of Mee Moua to the Minnesota Senate, 2002,” tells the story of Mee Moua, who was  the first Asian woman elected to serve in the Minnesota Legislature, and the first Hmong American elected to any state legislature. The article highlights the importance of Moua’s win for the broader Hmong community. “Moua’s victory broke barriers for Hmong women living within a patriarchal culture, writes Tiffany. "It also signaled change in mentality about their political participation. By winning the Senate seat, Moua increased the visibility of Hmong woman and of Hmong people throughout Minnesota.”

The story Tiffany wrote accompanied several other illuminating works at the exhibit, including photography, sculpture and intricate chronologies.

Lessons Learned

For Tiffany, the most interesting aspect of this project was speaking with people about their reactions to the museum’s exhibit. She enjoyed learning what people thought about how certain issues should be portrayed, and whether certain issues should even be included. She knew that a great deal of time, dedication and careful curating went into creating the exhibit, but she appreciated being reminded of the importance of planning an exhibit with the viewers in mind. She encourages others interested in contributing pieces to similar exhibits to think about which issues or people should be highlighted, and which may be excluded.

Funding

There were no costs associated with this project.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Netherlands Netherlands 2014

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