55 year old, U Htay Thein, a rice paddy farmer, lives with his wife and daughter in San Pya Lauk Lay Chaung Village in Myanmar. For the past 53 years, Htay while he knew a little about saving as an individual he didn’t know or understand the power of saving money as a community group and the positive impact that this a good savings habit could have on his life and that of his family. He didn’t even know really why he should save and what to save for. His local community had no financial institution that could serve them because they wouldn’t qualify for a bank account due to the lack of financial literacy. Today Htay, realises the importance of developing good savings habits and the importance of a community-owned savings bank, thanks to the Cufa Credit Union Development Program. This program supports and trains members of a community to form member-owned financial institutions.
It was in July 2017 that Htay became a member of his village-owned credit union and attended training sessions provided by the local Cufa staff. The training provided Htay with an understanding of how to save, the benefits of saving and other basic financial concepts. As a member of the bank’s Self-Help Group (SHG) which are established to increase financial inclusion, Htay now talks to other interested villagers about his experience, the benefits of developing good saving habits and the importance of such for every household. Htay says that the SHG also helps build trust amongst each other as many of the villagers at the start didn’t believe that they could save together. The benefits generated from a community saving together include such things as access to emergency loans, productive loans and interest on savings.
Two years on and Htay says that it gives him and his family so much pleasure to open their savings book and see the amount they are saving plus interest and now they have a better outlook for their future.
Financial access and inclusion for the poor is core to alleviating poverty.
Read more about Cufa’s CUD Programs at www.cufa.org.au.
For detail about Corporate Partnerships to support our CUD Programs please email email@example.com.
Khin Thandar Soe is 8 years old and lives with her mother, father and brother in Gyoe Kone Village in Myanmar. Khin would spend any money she had on buying snacks and dolls at the small local shops near their house. It wasn’t until she attended Cufa Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) Program sessions being run in her village that she realised that she was wasting her money. Today, Khin is making regular savings at her local community-owned savings bank and has set savings goals, a great start at such a young age.
Khin said that it was after the first CFL lesson that she attended did she realise that she could make a change. Through the program children, like Khin, are taught financial literacy in their classroom with lessons every two to three months. The program encourages them to develop lifelong savings habits at a young age and also connects them with a savings account at their community-owned bank. Cufa uses a custom designed and developed app on a limited number of tablets to make the lessons fun for the children and reinforce the key messages and skills developed throughout the program.
Since starting the program, Khin said she has changed and rather than spending any money she has received, she now has built a strong savings habit and makes sure that she saves some of her money every day. Khin has shared her learnings with her parents and friends so that they can understand the benefit of saving for the future as well. Khin now understands the value of money and how building a strong savings habit will provide her and her family with a better future.
To read more about the Cufa Children’s Financial Literacy Program go to www.cufa.org.au
To find out more about Corporate Partnership for supporting a CFL Program please email firstname.lastname@example.org
In Cambodia, burning waste remains common practice, particularly in rural areas, due to the lack of dumpsites or waste collection services. In particular, the Sihanoukville Province in southwest Cambodia known for its beaches, tropical islands and the mangrove jungles of Ream National Park, has experienced a dramatic increase in the amount of plastic waste (main image) mainly due to the significant economic development and population growth in recent years. In liaison with the local communities and government, Cufa scoped and designed a Recycling Plastic Livelihoods Project to help address this issue with the project commencing on 1 July 2019.
Over the past 3 years, Cufa has partnered with communities in Sihanoukville Province through the running of its Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) project. This project focussed on assisting displaced families by linking them to employment opportunities; providing financial skills and access to local financial institutions and helping effectively integrate them into these new communities as well as providing training on how to adequately monitor and repair key elements of the community such as the water supply, drainage, waste management, roads, and vegetation. It is through this past experience that Cufa developed a sound understanding of the increasing environmental issues that the locals were facing due to the rapid economic development. And as a result of which the Recycling Plastics Livelihood Project evolved.
The Recycling Plastics Project is designed to improve the livelihoods, economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for rural communities in the Sihanoukville Province with a strong focus on developing female entrepreneurs. Project participants will learn how to use specialist machinery to recycle plastic waste so that they it can be remodelled into items that can be sold. These technical skills will be enhanced with participants receiving business and financial skills training and support to enable them to establish a sustainable business with the added benefits of bringing the concept of recycling to rural communities, increasing awareness on how to manage plastic waste and more broadly, cleaning-up the environment.
The Recycling Plastics Livelihoods Project will also be implemented across five villages in the township of Taik Kyi in Myanmar. The project will be adapted to local conditions however there will still be a strong focus on aspiring female entrepreneurs through community social enterprises specialising in recycling and reusing plastic waste while improving the environment.
Image: Waste collection in a local village in Myanmar.
We’ll keep you updated as the project progresses.
The Female Financial Empowerment program was started by Cufa in rural Myanmar to improve the financial education of women and improve their access to financial services and education. Women are able to not only develop their financial knowledge but also improve their business and encourage their community to be involved.
We discussed the importance of financial access with Daw Hla Mon Win and this is what she had to say!
To start off with can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from?
Hi. My name is Daw Hla Mon Win. I am 31 years old and have two children. We live in Inn Yet Gyi Village with my husband. We own a grocery store and have also recently been able to start farming animals thanks to Cufa’s program.
Why did you join Cufa’s program? What was your situation like before?
I didn’t know much about saving and how important it can be before the Cufa team arrived in my village. I didn’t know why I should be saving and what I should be saving for.
What was the change you noticed after you first joined the program?
After I joined my local community-owned bank as a member I attended some training and have been saving since June 2016. Now I always see my saving amount and the interest in my saving passbook which make me very happy.
How is your situation different now?
Now I am much more clear on the savings process and profits of saving. I can also explain to others in my village about saving, encouraging them to get in the savings habit.
When did you notice all this change taking place?
In June 2016 I joined the community-owned bank with some other villagers after it was established here. We wanted to be a part of owning it and have access to saving.
Have you made a contribution to the project?
I have worked with the bank which makes me happy. I also convey the news from it to other villagers and explain the benefits of saving.
Two years ago, Daw Myat Kay Khaing joined Shwe Myanmar Village Saving Bank, a community-owned bank set up in Tha Yet Chaung Village with the Cufa Female Financial Empowerment program. She lives with four other family members and ten years ago started a small shop at the front of their house. Unfortunately, without any financial education, Daw Myat Kay Khaing struggled to make any profit or save any of this income.
When Cufa project officers first came to her village Daw Myat Kay Khaing was cautious at first but after engaging with the program she started to learn a lot. She opened a savings account with her local community-owned bank started by Cufa and realized the importance of some of the skills being taught. After this, she started to save some of her money and it made her very happy to look at the progress in her savings book.
Cufa’s financial literacy lessons helped her understand concepts like calculating the interest on her savings and learning how to set savings goals and about the benefits of saving. As she learnt, Daw Myat Kay Khaing developed stronger saving habits and began making contributions more regularly. She encouraged many of her friends to also join the program and open up savings accounts saying, “Having a community-owned bank in our village helps teach everyone how to calculate our interest on savings and loans. Moreover, we can share knowledge about our bank when we meet friends from other villages.”
As Daw Myat Kay Khaing attended more financial literacy lessons, she and other villagers exchanged more stories about their businesses. Together they learnt about auditing, financial cooperatives, leadership skills, bookkeeping and more. Their businesses began to grow as they learnt more and their community-owned bank was there for them. After six months making regular savings deposits, Daw Myat Kay Khaing was eligible to take a loan out and did so happily with the aim of improving her business.
Daw Myat Kay Khaing was able to grow her business with the loan and begin earning extra money. After a short time, she had already repaid the loan and was thrilled with her progress. She had to say of the program, “I now know about the benefits of saving money at a bank and I have decided to make regular contributions to my savings account. Thank you Cufa!”
Pyae Phyoe Mg is a ten-year-old boy living in Inn Yat Gyi Village in rural Myanmar. His father is a farmer and his mother doesn’t work as she cares for their household. Even though Pyae Phyoe Mg’s family does not have a daily income his parents still manage to supply him with a small amount of pocket money. Prae Phyoe Mg never gave too much thought to his family’s financial situation and spent his pocket money on toys and snacks. This was until he joined Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program and began developing important savings habits.
Two years ago when school returned for the year, Pyae Phyoe Mg noticed many of his friends had new school bags. He really wanted to get a new bag, however, his parents could not afford it and hoped he could continue to use his old bag. He was disappointed but started to understand the value of money and its uses.
A year later Pyae Phyoe Mg attended his first Children’s Financial Literacy lesson. As soon as he starting learning about the program he wanted to know more and more. He found the lessons interesting and engaging and it helped him understand different ways that he could spend or save his money. After learning about financial literacy Pyae Phyoe Mg decided to start buying fewer toys with his pocket money as he didn’t think he should spend such a large portion of his money on them. He opened a savings account at his local community-owned bank and began to save money.
After a while, Pyae Phyoe Mg was becoming less reliant on asking his parents to help him as he had a small amount of money saved and a better financial education. Now, one year after joining the program Pyae Phyoe Mg is saving money regularly and has set his sights on one day going to university, with his savings helping him along the way.
In describing the impact the program had had on him he said, “I like sharing my financial knowledge with my family and friends. I want them to know how to spend money and how to save money. The lessons are what everyone should learn to create a brighter future for all. I have no doubt about that.”
Pyae Phyoe Mg is continuously encouraging his friends to attend the lessons and discussing what he has learnt with his parents, spreading the savings habits he has gained.
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has taught over 100,000 disadvantaged students across Cambodia and Myanmar about developing improved savings habits in a fun and engaging way.
Cufa’s Female Financial Empowerment program was started in Myanmar using concepts from our Credit Union Development program. The aim of the program is to develop the financial education of women in rural areas and provide the tools to empower them. This can be through support, financial services and business skills.
Recently we caught up with an entrepreneur from the program to discuss how she is going. This is how it went!
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from?
“Hi. My name is Ma Thin Thin Oo and I live in Patauk Tan village in Myanmar with my husband and daughter. I recently turned 27 and I earn our main income through the grocery store that I own.”
What was your situation like before you joined the program?
“Well before Cufa even arrived in my village I didn’t know about the important role that savings played in so many parts of people’s lives! I just had no idea why I should be saving and what I would be saving for.”
What sort of activities were you involved in when you joined the program?
“I joined the program at my local community-owned bank and began attending the self-help groups. In these, I learnt about financial literacy and began to start saving money which I put into my new account. I was given a passbook which let me track my saving and interest. It makes me happy whenever I open it and see how well I have done!”
How have you benefitted from the program?
“Now I am very clear on how to save and things like interest and profits. I can easily explain it to others and recently I got a loan from my community-owned bank to use to improve my store. This has also helped me improve my profits.”
When did you really notice the program having a bigger impact on your life?
“In March 2018 when the community-owned bank started I noticed with other villagers the benefits as we had a place to save our money and we feel a part of it as it is community-owned.”
Have you been able to give back to the program at all?
“Aside from developing my skills and work ethic, I have helped and supported other villagers. I also convey the great news and achievements of the community-owned bank to other villagers who want to know more about the benefits of savings.”
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experiences?
“This program has been able to help everyone in our village providing systematic training sessions on topics like saving product development, loan product development, saving mobilization and more. By attending more of the training sessions held by Cufa staff I have a better and better understanding of financial topics and this is very helpful for my household. Thank you Cufa!”
Sustainable development has been defined in many ways but put most simply:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
What are the sustainable development goals?
The 17 sustainable development goals are a set of global goals established by the United Nationals General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. The goals are broad and interdependent, yet each has a separate list of targets to achieve. Achieving all 169 targets would signal to accomplish all 17 goals. The goals cover social, economic and environmental development issues including poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, clean water, sanitation, affordable energy, decent work, inequality, urbanization, global warming, environment, social justice and peace.
Why should we concentrate on sustainable development programs?
As sustainable development focuses on creating change for current and future generations it means that there will be fewer people relying on assistance in the long term. Developing programs in which you promote self-determination, a trait that is easily passed on through generations, not only improves the lives of those families but also improves the local community and national economy. Imparting people with education and skills helps reduce reliance on handouts and creates brighter futures for not only current but also future generations.
Why does Cufa do it?
At Cufa we believe in a hand up not a handout. Our vision is for the communities of the Asia-Pacific to be free from poverty through economic development and self-determination. We are committed to achieving this through grassroots programs that focus on education, empowerment, entrepreneurship and financial institutions. Thus, our programs provide a range of ways for people to create better incomes for themselves, breaking free from poverty and helping them and their children to achieve the remaining sustainable development goals.
How does Cufa do it?
Over 90% of contributions to Cufa go directly into local communities where they are used to build financial institutions like credit unions, giving the most disadvantaged people a safe and affordable place to save their money. Credit union staff and members are then taught vital financial literacy skills, equipping them with the tools to save and handle their finances. Loans and savings groups are also made available at credit unions so that people can start their own small business, with Cufa project officers teaching the crucial business skills for these businesses to become successful.
Imparting these skills, knowledge and financial access provides people with a hand up, not a handout, a livelihood that can be passed on to future generations to break the poverty cycle.
Financial literacy is the combination of financial, credit and debt management and the knowledge that assists us in making fiscally responsible decisions. A financial education can differ from country to country but includes an understanding of how a bank account works, what credit means and how to use it and most importantly how to avoid debt.
Why is financial literacy so important?
The importance of financial literacy cannot be understated as it develops our ability to negotiate the financial landscape, manage risks and avoid financial pitfalls. Generally, less-educated and low-income consumers tend to be less financially literate and countries where the rate of poverty is quite high, for example, Cambodia tend to have very low financial literacy rates. Thus, if you do not know how to save money, make a financial plan, understand credit and many more financial skills, it will be very difficult for you and your children to break the poverty cycle.
Why does Cufa do it?
Cufa believes that a quality financial literacy to be one of four core pillars in empowering people to break the poverty cycle, not only for themselves but also for their children and their children. For many people, their means of finding a way out of poverty are limited by their incomplete understanding of basic financial concepts and ideas.
Financial education is not just important for helping save for the future, it also helps effectively understand and make better financial decisions. This prevents people from obtaining unsustainable debts that can often push people further into poverty due to the lack of income generation and financial education.
How do we do it?
Many of Cufa’s programs educate participants about financial literacy. Lessons are provided and delivered through a variety of different mediums for the most effective knowledge retention. Due to this, a strong basis for localised economic development is created and provides people with the tools to lift themselves from poverty.
Cufa teaches financial literacy with the aim to educate all members of communities, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. The knowledge and impact of a financial education can, therefore, be passed on for future generations.
Some of the programs
Though most of Cufa’s programs have an element of financial literacy, the three main programs are:
- Children’s Financial Literacy: Teaching disadvantaged students financial literacy in a fun and engaging way
- Female Financial Empowerment: Providing women in Myanmar the tools to manage their finances and build a successful business
- Credit Union Development: Enabling extremely rural communities to gain financial access and education in order to build their income capacity
Kyar Chaung village is a rural village situated north of Yangon in Myanmar that was recently transformed by one of Cufa's programs. Most of the villagers here are farmers with low incomes and many of them lack any kind of financial knowledge. The community had a poor understanding of how to manage a business and without the ability to develop a business plan or savings habits there was a large loss of income for them.
The Cufa Myanmar team began working in Kyar Chaung village as part of the Credit Union Development program in April 2018. The program came to the village to reduce the level of poverty in the town and turn many of these villagers lives around. Since Cufa began working, aiming to raise the towns average income and introduce good savings habits, the townspeople have been highly engaged and happy for the introduction of the program. Cufa's financial literacy lessons were the first time in their life they had had the benefits of saving explained. The Cufa team taught the community how to start saving, set saving goals, manage daily or monthly income and expenses and how to co-operate with a team.
In August 2018, thanks to the program, the village made the decision to start their own community-owned bank. They named it Shwe Taung Kyar Saving Bank and started with 179 members. Once they all had a safe and secure place to save their money they felt great and excited to expand it.
Currently, the villagers have regular meetings and training with the Cufa team and their community-owned bank is still developing. Many of the villagers are managing their businesses much more effectively and have developed business plans. As well as this, the townspeople do not have to borrow money at high interest rates and have a better education and understanding of financial concepts.
Villagers from Kyar Chaung village are now saving their money and doing it with pleasure. They have built a strong community-owned bank and both they and Cufa see a bright future for the village.
Find out more about how Cufa is providing financial access with the Credit Union Development program.