Monday, June 13, 2011

VIETNAM - A high-risk street trading

In Kim Lien, a village near the city of Danang [750 km south of Hanoi], no one remembers when these acrobatics began. But in spite of fatal accidents, one thing remains certain: jump on the train is the only way that these women have found to make a living. Tran Thi Cuc, an old woman with a face tanned by the sun and covered with scars starts by boarding trains for the last twenty-five years.

The eldest of five children, who is now 20 years, accompanies the last three years. "My husband is a construction worker and his salary is barely enough to feed him. My daughter and I are reduced to walking the tightrope, "she said with a sad face. Cuc awaits the train twice a day, 7 am to 10 pm 15 and 30.

On good days she can earn up to 100,000 dong ($ 5), but it also happens to return empty-handed. Once they hear the train whistle, Cuc and other women rushed to the motorcycle-taxis (xe om's) and drivers drive on the deck without a word. The xe om participating in the underground economy because they affect about 0.17 euro for a trip with two passengers.

"They prefer the Nam O Bridge as the train slows down often to this place," explains one of the motorcycle taxi drivers. On deck, dozens of women of all ages await the arrival of the train, their bags firmly secured to their bodies. When the train arrives in slowpoke, they cling where it can then, one by one, seize the metal railings that surround the doors of the cars, then climb onto the roof to wait until they can come into the compartments.

"If the doors are locked, we wait until the train stops at the station in South Hai Van, Le Thi Ty explains. Then we can start selling our products. "Ty is well aware of the dangers they run, but this work allows him to feed his family. Many women in the village of Kim Lien get up very early in the morning to do their household and reheat leftovers from the previous day for breakfast for their husbands or their children before leaving for work.

For 6 hours, their voices echo throughout the village, they go shopping for their "work day". Because once the train these women acrobats offer for sale of souvenirs, handicrafts, cuttlebone and local specialties, and their goods packed in bags carefully patched. Why not store these trinkets in a safe place instead of buying them every day? They could save themselves unnecessary risks.

But Hanh, one of the women said that nobody has the money. These women put their lives every day for paltry sums of money. They may go under the train, being electrocuted or being chased by the controllers. "We must accept, resigned one of them. And in the words of the old Cue, beautiful women have in fear, they have no choice.

Phuong, born in Hoa Vang district [on the coast of the Pacific Ocean to the south of Vietnam], left her four children with their grandparents and rented a house near the station of Kim Lien. In seven years, she was arrested twice and spent many weeks recovering after falling from the train.

"But I will continue until I can no longer climb," she says, resigned. Nguyen Thi Tuyet Nga, president of the local Women Association, is aware of the situation of these women. She said the local authorities told them the dangers and promised to help them sell their goods to market. While most of them want a job less dangerous, they believe it is better to set foot on familiar ground.

Fishing companies have recently proposed labor in their factories for a hundred women, but paradoxically, they refused the offer, claiming to be too old. Some have even said that as the train was going twice a day, they had time to care for their families. A luxury than a long day of work at the factory can offer them.

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