The Female Financial Empowerment program was started in Myanmar using concepts from our Credit Union Development program. The aim of the program is to develop financial empowerment for women in rural areas and provide essential financial services.
Women in rural villages are empowered through support and education, this comes in the form of self-help groups. Participants are also provided access to financial services such as loans and savings account and taught business skills.
The program is currently operating in three rural villages in Myanmar, Tha Yet Chaung, Suk Su and Ywar Tan Shae Sout Win Gyi.
We recently spoke with Daw Kyi Pyar about her experience gaining financial empowerment in the program.
Daw Kyi, tell us a bit about yourself? I am 38 years old, living in Tha Yet Chaung Village with my husband and my young son.
What was your situation like before you joined the program? I didn’t know much about the importance of money before Cufa came to my village. I didn’t know why I should be saving and what I should be saving for.
How has your life changed since you joined the program? Since I joined my local community-owned bank in 2016 I have been constantly saving. I was able to take out a loan and use it for my business – a grocery store. I am now seeing the benefits as the profits from my store have been increasing steadily.
How else are you getting involved? I have attended all the training sessions provided by Cufa staff. They teach about savings, loans and more. It makes finance easy to understand for most households. On top of this, I convey the good news about my self-help group to my village and help explain to other villagers the benefits of savings.
Thanks for sharing with us Daw Kyi!
The Female Financial Empowerment program provides an opportunity for women in rural areas to collaborate and access a support group. Subsequently, financial empowerment for women is built through access to financial services, education and support but primarily also by coming together as a collective.
Previously in the year, we spoke with Saren Koh from our Livelihood Enhancement for Economic Development (LEED) program in Cambodia. We recently caught up with Saren to see how she was progressing in the program.
Saren is a 31-year-old mother of 2 living in Krampong Chnang province. Initially, like many in Cambodia, Saren primarily worked as a farmer. However, with an initial loan of $200, she was able to start her own welding business primarily focused on roofing. Over time she developed more skills from the LEED program for her business and this has allowed her to expand. She now does welding for a larger amount of customers building roofs, doors, balconies, frames and much more.
We asked Saren a few questions about how LEED is improving her livelihood!
How have you been improving your business? We have built relationships and networked with relatives, villagers and other businesses. We saw the market demand and plan to continue to expand networking with builders both inside and outside our community.
What progress has your business made? Our income has been increased by a large amount. Welding iron is a great business as there are many people that need your services. People like villagers, builders and even schools need items like roofs, doors and windows.
How has your life changed for you and your family? We have had a significant change in our lives. I have better business skills, more income and have built confidence in doing business. My family has also benefitted greatly as we are much more involved in the community now and I can send my children to school.
The LEED program strengthens the economic development and improves the lives of disadvantaged Cambodians, particularly women and those with disabilities. This is achieved through education, vocational training and financial inclusion.
Cufa project officers provide training through theory and real practice for business skills and development. Participants are also provided financial literacy lessons and connected to a community-owned bank for financial services. This is all done with the aim of successfully improving the livelihood of villagers across rural Cambodia.
Find out more about Cufa's LEED program.
Samnang Sum is studying in grade six at Udom Sorya Primary School in Takeo province, regional Cambodia. As a participant of Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) program, Samnang has been able to change his financial habits. He has opened a savings account and is making contributions with a goal. He is aiming to support his education and become an engineer in Cambodia.
Samnang is the oldest son in a family of five. As the oldest, he does most of the housework. These duties include taking care of the animals and cleaning when his parents are not home. Due to this, his father, who works as a local vet, gives him 1500 Riels ($0.50 AUD) a day to take to school.
Initially, before Samnang was taught by the CFL program, he liked spending this money on snacks and toys, without thinking about how hard his parents worked to provide him with this money.
The CFL program taught Samnang about managing his savings and developing a short and long-term goal. It also assisted in him opening a savings account with his local village savings bank. Cufa project officers use a variety of mediums to teach financial literacy ranging from workbooks and tablets in school to home visits to reinforce the lessons and check the progress.
Due to the CFL program, Samnang has been much more attentive to his savings. He better understands the value of money and how hard his parents work to earn for their family. Consequently, he has been able to save around $200 USD in his savings account over the past 2 years. Now Samnang has made his long-term savings goal to save up enough money to pay for a tertiary education to become an engineer in Cambodia!
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has taught over 90,000 children since its inception. In the past 3 years, 66% of participants have been actively saving. Since the CFL program started in 2008, the average monthly savings from each child has increased by 236% from $0.89 to $2.99.
Sok Toh is a participant of our Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) project. She was living in one of the affected households that were moved from a rehabilitated railway area in Cambodia. Sok now lives in one of the resettlement communities outside of Phnom Penh and recently began her quest for environmental change in Cambodia.
Previously, the community suffered from a plethora of waste management issues. A majority of these were caused by a lack of knowledge about how to care for the community.
Cufa started working within this community at the end of last year, implementing the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) part of our SRIRI project. This involved waste management campaigns informing people about good hygiene practices and how to correctly dispose of waste, encouraging the use of local landfills. Similarly, waste collection services were implemented and the negative implications of poor waste management were outlined.
Members of the community are invited to join the O&M committee so that everyone can contribute to making a difference to their local community. In the beginning, Sok did not join as she did not see the benefits. However, after a few months, she came back. She had started seeing that the reduced amount of waste meant less flooding in her house. Once she understood the benefits she became extremely involved, attending O&M training and building a new drain near her house
Flooding around her house has now been severely reduced thanks to a reduction in litter and the upgraded drainage. Sok now spends her spare time collecting plastic bottles around her community. She also sells them to make extra money, maintaining this is just a bonus on top of a clean community.
Sok has become an encouraging figure within the community, inspiring others to work towards environmental change in Cambodia!
In March 2016, Sokhney Kean was given the opportunity to join Cufa’s Village Entrepreneur program and start her own chicken farm. The program helps participants set up their own business. This involves a constructing business plan, becoming members of a local village bank, and providing regular training and support.
We asked Sokhney a few questions about her Village Entrepreneur journey so far and this is what she had to say!
What made you join the Village Entrepreneur program? "It was very tough being a widow and having limited education and skills. I have two sons as well. I just wanted to support them and also fix up our house so it doesn’t flood every rainy season."
How have you benefitted from the program? "I have learnt more skills to run a successful microbusiness. The biggest benefit is that I can now better support my son’s education. I recently purchased two new bikes for them to ride to school and new school uniforms. I am now adding more soil around my house and building new walls to prevent flooding."
What are your plans for the future? "I would like to connect a public power line to my house to provide electricity for my family."
Do you have any last words? "Yes. I am very appreciative of the support. My business has really developed and it has helped me support my family. I just want to say thank you to my Community Investor."
To find out more or support a Village Entrepreneur: ve.org.au
As a participant of Cufa’s Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) program, Torn Chanteth was affected by the Cambodian government’s decision to rehabilitate a disused railway track where he had been living. He now lives in one of the newly established neighbourhoods around Phnom Penh.
Due to Torn’s family situation, he was unable to finish his education and found himself working night shifts for low wages.
In February of this year, Torn applied with Cufa’s Vocational Placement Strategy (VPS) staff for employment assistance. He was given an interview with a guesthouse for the position of receptionist assistant. They immediately hired him and he was even promoted to a full-time receptionist in July!
This change has had a profound impact on Torn's life as he is now better equipped to support his wife and child financially and can begin paying off his loan. His manager has also been very happy with his performance and expanded his duties within the workplace.
Torn acknowledges that the help of the VPS staff has changed his life. He told Cufa, “I would like to thank the VPS staff. They provided the opportunity for myself and other affected participants to find jobs.” Torn would encourage anyone else in his community to seek assistance from the team.
Cufa works throughout the Asia-Pacific, focusing on education, employment, enterprise and developing economic institutions. The assistance that is provided throughout disadvantaged communities gives people a hand up, not a handout.