Women’s Bank in Myanmar
Myanmar (formerly Burma) is the largest country in Southeast Asia according to territory. The exact size of its population is not known, as carrying out a comprehensive census can be difficult in such a fragmented area. However, the country’s population is said to range between 56-60 million.
The first Women’s Bank saving and loan groups started here in 2014; 12 groups in six villages in the Pyapon delta. They aim to support women in becoming independent actors and to create the conditions for them to become employees or entrepreneurs. Training and consultancy can raise women’s standard of living significantly. The goals and methods are much the same as in other Women’s Bank projects.
In January I visited 6 groups in 3 villages. Saving and loan groups had already made so much progress that they had received the $ 1700 initial capital from Women’s Bank funds. In total, the groups got $ 20 400; which they doubled by the end of 2014. In Ywar Thit’n village the Toetat Mytter group had even lent a starting capital of $ 700 to another group: a first in the history of Women’s Bank. There are 178 women and 3 men in all the groups, and 7656 people benefit indirectly from the groups’ activities.
Most of the women are fishers, taxi boat owners and rice farmers. In addition there are pig farmers, dried fruit producers, soap and other consumer good-makers, dressmakers and shopkeepers among them. Many of the husbands are at sea or working abroad. Men only return to their families after several years, so these women are taking care of their families.
The majority know how to read, write and calculate, as they went to school. In addition, some of them have been involved in earlier projects where they have been taught accounting and other skills related to entrepreneurship. As a result, teams have been able to start savings and lending operations quickly and efficiently.
Text Ritva: Ohmeroluoma, Tiina Toivakka
Photo: Ritva Ohmeroluoma
This article was published in Women’s Bank Annual Report 2014 (available in Finnish and Swedish).