“Joining loan and saving group changed my life”

Wah Wah runs a small scale business in concrete, environment friendly and energy-saving cooking stoves.

Cyclone destroyed Wah Wah’s and her  family’s home and all belongings. The support from the Women’s Bank gave them their lives back and made Wah Wah an entrepreneur.

“I will never forget the day I joined the loan and savings group, since it is the day that changed my life. I joined the Shwe Hin-Tha (Golden Hemsa) loan and saving women group supported by the Women’s Bank. At first it was very difficult for me to save any money, because I earned very little and struggled with heavy debts. But I did, starting with 1,000 kyat (± 0,75€) a month. Soon I could borrow 30,000 kyat from the group to put a thatched roof on my house. Then, in 2014, the group provided me a loan of 400,000 kyat at 2% interest and I immediately bought a motorboat for my husband. Just one year later we had repaid all our debts and became the proud owner of the motorboat!”

Daw Wah Wah still gets emotional recalling these memories and understandably so. May 2nd 2008 is another day she will never forget. On that day cyclone Nargis made landfall in her village Hsar-Oh-Chaung, located on the western bank of the Pyapon River in the Irrawaddy Delta, Myanmar.

“The storm swept away my fragile house and all my belongings. I was in complete despair, felt hopeless and sad all the time. I was in a bad state of health while my husband ferried passengers over Pyapon River with a rented boat. We earned 1,500 kyat a day which barely covered the 20% interest we had to pay over the money we borrowed.”

Wah Wah's husband Thaung Soe with their motor boat.

Wah Wah’s husband Thaung Soe with their motor boat.

But those dark days are gone. Today everybody in Hsar-Oh-Chaung knows Wah Wah as a helpful and friendly woman always willing to take on a leading role in social events and village development activities.

A mother of a teenage daughter, Wah Wah is a positive and energetic woman, running a small scale business in concrete environment friendly and energy-saving cooking stoves in her village.

“And the orders keep coming in from other villages nearby as well, because delivery is free!”

Wah Wah, like 392 other members of 28 women groups across 22 villages in the Delta, attended several trainings sponsored by the Women’s Bank and its Myanmar partner LWF. She attended the Entrepreneurship education and Enterprise Development programs, trainings for Community Livestock Extension Workers and Business in the Market Place, and, three times, the Leadership Skills training.

“I now understand the qualities and responsibilities a leader should have. The knowledge I gained from these trainings helps me enormously in decision making, working together as a team and in helping others.”

“I was helped by others so that I could rebuild my life. It is now my turn to help others and start doing so. Next to my business I also work as a secretary of Ayar Pyomay (Ladies of Ayar), a network cluster of 12 women groups, and also am secretary of Shwe Hin-Tha. I have changed from a timid and insecure woman into a confident leader, all because of the Women’s Bank!”

Daw Wah Wah and her daughter Kay Thwe Soe.

Wah Wah and her daughter Kay Thwe Soe

The ‘new’ Wah Wah now aims for a bright future for their only daughter Kay Thwe Soe (15) who is attending 9th grade at a high school in Pyapon.

“My daughter wants to become a teacher. I want to provide her with good private lessons, just like many other teenagers in Myanmar.”

Text: Khin Moe Moe Aung
Photos: Myo Thame  / c4dm ltd Myanmar