Tu-Myaung Village in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta was hit hard by cyclone Nargis in 2008. Nwe Kyi was thankful her family of six survived the disaster.
But life was harsh. Although her husband Ko* Maung Kyi, 50, worked hard as a laborer in paddy fields and Daw** Nwe Kyi, 49, exhausted herself for a meager wage transplanting rice seedlings and reaping paddy, they often could not even afford daily meals for their three daughters, son and themselves. To make matters worse Nwe Kyi had to worry for her daughters because after the disaster human traffickers tried to lure young women away.
Nwe Kyi had just before Nargis borrowed money to invest in a coconut business. But the ship on which she had sent the coconuts to Yangon got hit by Nargis. She and her family were left homeless while having to repay the local loan shark at a steep interest rate of 10%. The family survived on food aid from local and international charities.
Saving started with 75 cents
A first attempt of the village to start a women’s group in 2009 failed, because no one was able to make any savings while having to rebuild their houses under a lot of stress and post-Nargis traumas. In 2014 they succeeded and now Ngwe Thawtar (Silver Moon) has seventeen members who have been working hard, with support of the Women’s Bank, to make it a success.
Nwe Kyi started saving 1,000 kyats (± 0,75€) a month and invested a first loan of 100,000 kyat in two pigs.
“A few months later I sold them for 400,000 making a profit of 300,000! I invested the profit to grow paddy and made a 500,000 profit. I then borrowed 300,000 more to continue growing paddy. And now we built this house!” She proudly points at her brand new wooden house.
“We also have 180 ducks providing us a daily income of minimum 4000 kyat from selling eggs. I hope to open my own grocery store in the near future.
Most importantly, while older children could not stay in school because they had to help the family, their youngest daughter is now attending 7th grade.
“We can support her without difficulty to finish her education. Only education can save our children from poverty.”
“I know how to protect my daughters and granddaughters”
Women’s Bank with its Myanmar partner LWF provided Daw Nwe Kyi not only a new livelihood; she also gained skills and knowledge. “I never thought I would ever receive in my life”.
Her favorite LWF trainings include Disaster Management and Preparedness, Maternal and Child Health and, especially, the Anti-Human Trafficking training given by a police official sponsored by LWF.
“After Nargis I was always worried whenever I saw strangers in our village. We heard that human traffickers frequented villages to persuade young women to come with them, promising lucrative salaries. But after attending these trainings I now know how to protect my family, especially my daughters and three granddaughters”.
Text: Khin Moe Moe Aung
Photos: Myo Thame / c4dm ltd Myanmar
*Ko = Mr. (honorific)
**Daw = Ms. (honorific)