Why is it essential to support ethnic minorities? - Children of the Mekong

Why is it essential to support ethnic minorities?

One of our six priorities of action is ethnic minorities. Often living at the edge of development, education is key for those populations to come out of poverty.

Text: Jessica Kalyanpur

woman hmong, ethnic group in VietnamThe Oxford definition of an ethnic minority is “A group within a community which has different national or cultural traditions from the main population.” There is an abundance of ethnic groups (“ethnic groups”, “minorities”, “groups”, “communities”) in Southeast Asia. The Rohingya, the Karen, the Chin are a few of the minority groups you might have already heard from. A rich culture, an ongoing tradition and an ancestral heritage are just a few examples among a long list making an ethnic group very unique. Unfortunately, it also appears that many ethnic minorities don’t have access to education, face unemployment, poverty and have a low development of their community.

Ethnic minorities are common in Southeast Asia but most of these groups do not have a formal recognition of their status. This lack of acceptance is a major problem and results in critical issues highlighted further in this article.

Children of the Mekong has been involved with ethnic minorities for decades. Our aim is to support education for these minorities and helping them to improve their standard of living. At our level, we want to help these minorities and stop this current trend of minorities being excluding from essential developments.

Ethnic minorities not considered as Key

Ethnic minorities are common in Southeast Asia but most of these groups do not have a formal recognition of their status. The acknowledgment but the none-acceptance of these communities creates issues. As a matter of fact, being part of an ethnic minority is often accompanied by prejudice and discrimination. Ethnic minorities tend to be at a disadvantage in most situations, most often because they are stigmatized as different from the majority of the population. These communities are excluded from basic “elements of a society” anyone should pretend to.

The issues faced by minorities cannot be taken lightly as it has a direct impact on their lives. By being “outsiders”, the vast majority of these minorities have difficult access to basic health services or education. Health disparities among ethnic groups is a reality in Southeast Asia. Additionally, some of these communities live in remote areas and the lack of infrastructure makes it harder for them to get out of this vicious circle.

Our child sponsorship programme in Tedim supports children education in Chin State, one of the poorest states of rural Myanmar. This sponsorship offers the opportunity to help a child from a minority to get an education.



Nasavanh Kids

Knowledge is the most powerful weapon

ethnic minorities

It is essential to speak and understand the official language of a country in order to find a job or for children to go to school. Most of the minorities have their own dialects and are not able to speak the official language. This is a major obstacle especially for their children who might be aspiring for life outside the community or simply to go to school. When children speak their own ethnic dialects, they find it difficult to master the official language used at school.

In fact, most ethnic minorities children still do not go to school and this is not only due to the lack of understanding of the official language. Often, they live far from any school establishment and their parents prefer them to stay at home to help with household chores or in the field. At Children of the Mekong, we want to help poor families who do not have enough money to send their children to school. We aim to help these parents who are worried about their children not getting the appropriate education. We believe that education should be made accessible to children who have a true desire to get one.

Simply put, pursuing an education is key for these minorities as it gives them more chances in life:

  • An educated child might have access to a more qualified job and thus better paid.
  • Fight human trafficking as it appears that most of the time, children are from remote and impoverished areas. We believe that an educated person will have more weapons to fight against human trafficking.
  • Educated people will recognize with more ease early signs of illness and will be able to act on them.
  • Without education, minorities are invisible and voiceless.

hmong family, ethnic group in VietnamAt Children of the Mekong we truly value the ethnic minorities. We have been helping this vulnerable population for years. By spending time with them we are more than ever aware of the richness of their group. We aim to help them to preserve their uniqueness but fight again their exclusion.

Helping them is essential to us to enable them to shape their future according to their hopes.

By sponsoring a child of an ethnic minority with Children of the Mekong you are giving a real opportunity for him/her to change its fate.