The 34 migrant workers come from 15 cities and provinces, some of them from the ethnic groups of H’Mong, Thai, Muong and San Diu, never having had a smart mobile phone or even taken a photo.
Working different jobs including as waste collectors, environmental workers, construction workers, and street vendors, they managed to take interesting and unique photos in different corners of Hanoi and use the photos to tell moving stories of their daily lives, observations, and feelings towards the city of Hanoi.
In their eyes, Hanoi is not a city of modern buildings with a vibrant rhythm of life, nor a cultural relic. The 98 photos taken by their mobile phones tell their different stories about their simple love for Hanoi while providing perspectives and voices of migrant workers who have contributed to the development of the city.
Entitled ‘At a construction site’, Truong Thi Thuy’s photo captures Vang A Sao, a H’Mong young man at his workplace. Born in 2002 into a poor family, A Sao had to drop out of school and headed to Hanoi for a living. A Sao is the only H’Mong and the youngest worker at the construction site in Phu Thuong ward, Tay Ho district.
Talking about her photo, Thuy, who has been in Hanoi for more than two decades, said that she had sympathy for A Sao as she is also a person from an ethnic minority background. Therefore, she often supports A Sao in his work.
In addition to appreciating his honesty and diligence, A Sao also arouses Thuy’s compassion as he is the same age as her child but had to leave home for work and earn a living by himself.
Meanwhile, Tran Thi An and Mai Thi No, two street vendors, decided to choose their “colleagues” as the spotlight of her photo, which feature female street vendors cycling across Hanoi’s corners to sell bamboo baskets, fans and brooms.
Migrant workers and their photos as part of the Photovoice project (Photo: Embassy of Denmark in Vietnam)
Another popular topic chosen by the project’s participants is public space in Hanoi, including a playground, a corner by a lake, a sidewalk, and street market where migrant workers live, work and create a “connection” with the local community. The “connection” can be seen through Pham Thi Hau’s photo, which depicts local women boiling peanuts, sweet potatoes and cassava in a playground in Phuc Tan Ward, Hoan Kiem district.
The playground used to be abandoned with garbage everywhere. After being renovated, it has become a playground for children and a place for elders to do physical exercise.
The Photovoice project also reveals migrant workers’ views of Hanoi. By interacting with the city through their work every day, the workers have become part of Hanoi, and their work is contributing to the city’s development.
Ly A Thanh, a student whose part time job is as a motorbike taxi driver, recorded the image of an ordinary worker sitting on the sidewalk mixing cement and sand to make concrete. Do Thi Hong’s photo tells the story of Nhung, who has worked as a waste collector for more than 30 years. From Hong’s point of view, this is a job that helps reduce urban waste and make the environment greener and cleaner.
The Photovoice is part of a Danish-supported project called “Inclusive city: making Hanoi liveable for the most marginalized groups of migrant workers”. Through their pictures, the migrant workers show not only their positive view of Hanoi but also their attachment to the city and their contribution to making Hanoi more liveable and inclusive for all.