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.
Financial inclusion is where individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs and are delivered in a sustainable way. Financial inclusion for women is a key enabler in reducing poverty and boosting prosperity. Here at Cufa, we focus on the most disadvantaged rural communities where we find women need the most assistance and thus, many of our programs focus on providing them financial products, training and education, forming the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
What is financial Inclusion and how does it help women?
Obtaining access to a bank account is the first step towards financial inclusion. This access facilitates day-to-day living and helps both families and businesses plan for the future. As an account holder, people are more likely to begin using other services like loans and insurance, expanding their earning potential by investing in business, education and risk management. Great strides have been made worldwide with 1.2 billion people gaining a bank account since 2011 and now 69% of adults have a bank account. However, there are still over 1 billion women that are unbanked.
Why is it important to empower women with financial inclusion?
Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make vast contributions to economies whether it is in business, agriculture, as entrepreneurs or in unpaid work such as care at home. Basically, when more women work, economies grow. It is estimated that gender gaps can cost an economy over 15% of GDP.
How does Cufa provide women with financial inclusion?
Many of Cufa’s programs focus on empowering women. The Female Financial Empowerment program in Myanmar has a sole focus on providing financial inclusion for women through support, financial services and business skills. Members gain access to a savings account and microfinance and are taught financial literacy and a variety of business skills alongside a leadership skills workshop.
Do you want to make a difference for someone less fortunate these holidays? Find out why you should donate to Cufa today!
At Cufa, our programs focus on providing sustainable change within communities, a hand up, not a handout. We supply the most disadvantaged people the tools to break the poverty cycle.
Cufa’s work focuses on alleviating poverty through economic empowerment. We teach young people the importance of saving, empower women to gain financial access, provide employment services, help finance and train rural entrepreneurs and much more!
We have reached over 4 million people each year through our programs and our results show the impact that we have had on developing communities.
For each $1 of donor funds we create $12.33 of social value and over a 1.75 year period Cufa created over $30 million of social value in the form of jobs, businesses, community-owned banks and much more.
Some of our programs have performed exceptionally with some of these examples including:
Village Entrepreneur - $28 of social value for each $1 invested
Bougainville Youth Project – $13,530,299 social value created
SRIRI Project – 707 people employed
Credit Union Development Cambodia - 21 credit unions formed
Credit Union Development Timor-Leste - $266,456 total community savings
Our success stories
We have seen countless unique stories about the way in which Cufa has had a life-changing impact on people’s lives. All of these stories are special and portray the importance of different aspects of our work.
Make a life-changing contribution these holidays and give someone less fortunate a much needed helping hand!
Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy program has recently reached the milestone of teaching over 100,000 students.
The program was first started in 2008 as a fun and engaging way to teach financial education to disadvantaged students. Cufa has been able to grow the program immensely in the past few years. It has expanded from Cambodia to Myanmar, growing the number of children reached. Cufa has also worked together with Teachers Mutual Bank and CPA Australia to develop the program further with CPA Australia helping develop the Count4Kids app.
The program encourages students to set both short and long-term goals and hence, we continue to witness a multitude of success stories such as Samnang, who maintains aspirations of studying to become an engineer in Cambodia.
The growing success of the program has seen 66% of participants actively saving over the past 3 years. Alongside this, there has been a 236% increase in savings per child over that same time period. In the past 1.75 years, Cufa has educated over 22,500 students with over 1000 lessons. As a result, the growth and development of the program is constantly increasing.
Read about the vast impact that the program and Cufa’s work has on children in our recent Social Return on Investment report.
The success of the program doesn’t stop with the children educated. The student's families also benefit from their participation in the program as they are provided access to community-owned banks. Consequently, they can gain financial services like a savings account and access to finance in the form of business loans.
Over 100,000 students have been imparted the tools to develop lifelong savings habits at a young age thanks to the program. Therefore, many have been able to steer clear of poverty using these financial tools. We hope to reach many more to provide this opportunity in the future!
Find out more about the amazing Children’s Financial Literacy program.
Cufa’s team has recently made a field trip in Myanmar to Pa Tauk Tan Village in Taik Kyi Township to visit and assist participants of our Credit Union Development project.
The program is initially set up within a community signing people up to a community-owned bank to gain financial access. Following this, the program looks at increasing the member’s financial education. This is achieved via a range of methods such as bookkeeping training and learning about loans and interest.
Once the program is established, smaller livelihood projects are delivered to improve the living standard of the local communities. All of the pictured participants below are members of their local community-owned bank. They are working in Roselle fields picking and packaging it to be sent to the markets for sale.
The Cufa team members field trip in Myanmar provided a learning experience for both themselves and the participants. They assisted and encouraged participants to build a deeper engagement with the program. At the same time, they gained a better understanding of the living conditions of the participants and their types of work.
The program fosters independence within disadvantaged communities. It provides the tools for people to break the cycle of poverty through businesses and financial access. The program makes a life-changing difference by encouraging locals to work hard, spend wisely and by encouraging them to learn.
Roselle is an extremely common farming plant in rural Myanmar. It is the most widely eaten and popular vegetable in the country. Its uses vary but the most popular include in curries and soups. Other uses of roselle include the making of jam and tea from the flowers and in salads as the leaves are used as a spicy equivalent to spinach.
The Credit Union Development program targets disadvantaged communities in the rural areas of Cambodia and Myanmar. It provides financial access and education and consequently makes a massive difference to the lives of people within these communities.
Find out more about Cufa is providing financial access with the Credit Union Development program.