No Longer Left Behind

Ma Khin Lay is a 37-year-old married woman living in Htee Lone village in Taunggyi Township. She has two children in the 5th and 7th grades. Ma Khin attended school up to grade 5, and her husband never attended school. She and her husband grow corn, garlic, and rice. In addition, they had a pig farm, launched through support from Shanta and Muditar, but their pigs died as a result of the African Swine Flu outbreak last year.

Ma Khin became a member of the women’s savings group (WSG) when it began in 2018. Since then, she has saved regularly and now has a total saving of $208! This a significant amount of money in an area where many people scrape by on less than $2 per day. Her primary reason for involvement in the savings group is to learn how to better manage her family’s money and increase their income.

“I’ve heard that some villages have saving groups so I also wanted to have such a group in our village. When Muditar introduced the ideas of this group, I was really excited, and at the same time, I decided to participate,” she shared. “We, women, know that we need to save money, but we are not able to do it. Saving is always the last priority when income is less and there are many things to spend money on. So mandatory saving through the savings group is the best option for us to be able to save,” she added. 

The savings group also increased her motivation to work more. All of the WSG members are diligent, and whenever extra income is available, they deposit it into their monthly savings. Even in the months between harvests when money is tight, Ma Khin saved a minimum of $4.

She has also utilized the microloan feature of the WSG. She borrowed money from the savings group three times; the first two times were for purchasing farming supplies like seeds, and the third time was to purchase an additional two acres of land to expand her farm. Talk about results! She felt the repayment terms (installments) were acceptable and not overly burdensome. Even though the WSG requires its members to pay some interest on the loan, Ma Khin feels that it is worthwhile because it becomes their group’s working capital.

  “I’m happy to pay the interest because it also becomes our individual member’s property and it increases the fund from which we can borrow more,” she explained.

Ma Khin’s dream of buying that additional piece of land to be given to her children when they get married came true in 2019. Last year, she made $770 USD from selling crops off of that addition to her farm.

“I can make my dreams for my children happen with such a small amount of regular savings. I can’t even imagine our condition if the savings group was not formed in our village. I will save as much as I can. Now I, as a woman, do not feel anymore that I’m left behind in my family. I am the one who can prepare for my children’s future. My husband is also proud of me. In next couple of months, I will borrow again to do some renovations in my house”.

Women’s economic empowerment is vital to creating a more equitable village atmosphere in rural Myanmar where women have historically experienced significant discrimination. Ma Khin’s experience with the WSG brings hope to other women in her village. By allowing them to take control of their economic situation, it encourages them to reach for their dreams.

Update on Ma Khin’s pig replacement:

An emergency fund was created in December 2020 to replace pigs that died due to the African Swine Flu that affected much of Southeast Asia. Ma Khin received two replacement pigs in April. The plan is for one to be “fattened” and the other will be kept for breeding purposes. We are so grateful to our donors who supported this urgent request for funding to replace the animals lost! This revived these villagers’ opportunity to permanently escape extreme poverty.