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FROM A VILLAGE GIRL TO AN EMPOWERFUL WOMAN

By Man Linh


Nguyen Thi Hai Yen was born in a small village in Quang Binh province in Vietnam, that is often hit by floods, typhoons and other kinds of calamities. Her parents are peasants who toil and moil all year-round. After finishing grade 8, Yen moved to the town for high school, then went to big cities for higher education.


During her childhood, she used to struggle intensely, especially in the way she perceived herself. She used to think “I’m not good enough, not beautiful enough, I’m too short, too sensitive.” She couldn’t help seeing herself negatively although she was aware that it is very self-destructive. Also, moving to big cities to study and to work, for a village girl like Yen, was not easy at all.


Until a year ago, Yen had a serious health problem, even the doctor could not diagnose her with any disease. She could not talk, could not walk, could not lay in bed without feeling great pain. Like other young people, Yen prioritized her work and didn’t pay much attention to her health. That’s the moment she realized how important health is to her. Hence, she decided to start her healing process. She chose more healthy habits, did more exercise and slept more properly. She took up meditation and drank some herbal tea as well. Gradually, she felt the transformation happening in her, Yen has changed a lot of attitudes towards life and how she perceives things.


That’s when the idea of The Elegant Women came in. Yen wanted to help other people who have the same problems as hers, especially young women.

Nguyen Thi Hai Yen - the founder of The Elegant Women (photo: TEW)

According to Yen’s observations, women in Vietnam are being held back by many factors, such as parent's opinions. Vietnamese parents often impose that girls had better get a stable job, marry a good man and have children. They think women should not be too ambitious or mentally strong, should not take risks or lean in as men do. Consequently, although women of today stand much more opportunities to thrive, they often hesitate to grab the chance due to fear of uncertainty or social bias.


Therefore, The Elegant Women was established with 2 missions. The first one is helping young women have a healthy body and healthy mind, and the second is empowering them by changing their mindset. At present, The Elegant Women is achieving those goals through two main activities: selling herbal tea and organizing workshops. With herbal tea, it has already come with four types for different uses such as detoxifying, improving sleep quality, treating dizziness headache, enhancing blood circulation or preventing anemia in women. Through workshops, women practice mindfulness, do exercises together, discuss topics regarding healthy lifestyles and positive attitudes, etc.

A yoga session for women (photo: TEW)

Besides, The Elegant Women is expected to become a sisterhood community, where young women can come and share their thoughts, their untold stories to be understood and accepted as they are.


Yen nourished the idea for six months but spent only two weeks bringing it into reality. She built the plan in terms of production, supplying, accounting, and organizing herself. Fortunately, Yen received support from her friends to manage marketing. To Yen, the biggest difficulty was time because she had to handle a lot of things in a short amount of time. When selling food and beverage products, it is a prerequisite to ensure all food safety conditions. At the first place, Yen intended to find a tea supplier and examine the materials’ safety standards by herself. However, after considering carefully, Yen decided to buy materials from a traditional medicine pharmacy, which often has their materials properly inspected.


After several months of launching, a number of people using The Elegant Women’s products said that they really sensed the health benefits from the tea. It helped them relieve stress, feel more calm and relaxed. Some women also confided they have been applying the guidance gained from workshops to live a more balanced life.


Different types of herbal tea (Photo: TEW)

Yen believes setting the right goals is very important when starting a community start-up or organization. It must be the goals that truly “touch” the insights of a targeted group. In order to define what kind of goals, Yen advised people to have deep and meaningful conversations with people within their network to figure out actual problems. The more you travel into one’s mind, the closer you are to a valuable goal.


Last but not least, Yen has currently been reaching out to inspiring women entrepreneur with an aim of connecting them with The Elegant Women. Yen wants to explore the stories and experiences behind those women such as how they balance work and personal life, what healthy practices they maintain or how they overcome challenges regarding social bias. From that, Yen wishes to motivate other young women, who are struggling to define themselves or find balance in their lives. Yen has already met up with one woman, who is the Director of a travel social enterprise and the project is in progress.