In Myanmar, women usually bring in half the monthly wage of men, even for the same work, meaning they struggle to provide for their children. But when women come together to share and solve their problems, great things can happen. ActionAid has set up over 600 women's self-help groups in Myanmar, benefitting thousands of women - and their families.
Mum of two, Naw Mway Rae Paw, is part of her local group in the rural communities of Pathein West, southern Mynanmar. Thanks to group training, she has not only inproved her income but can now send her 11-year-old daughter, Naw Tar Lu Moo, to school safely.
We know that by working with women to improve their skills and knowledge, family incomes improve, meals are more nutritious and children’s lives are transformed.
Through regular meetings and training workshops, all 38 women in Naw Mway Rae Paw's group have come to realise what rights they have, and feel empowered to take charge of their own lives. They have developed their confidence, meaning they can take on leadership roles, challenge patriarchy and pursue their own economic independence. And it’s all thanks to our support through child sponsorship.
A bus to get children to school safely
"Originally the group's main concern was how our children got to school," Naw Mway Rae Paw explains. "The nearest secondary school is over a mile and half away, along a busy highway, used regularly by lorries and buses. With no footpaths the journey to school was a dangerous one for the children. I couldn’t afford the regular bus fare for my daughter; everyday I worried about her safety, but I wanted her to get an education. Together with other members of my local women’s self-help group, we approached ActionAid for help and advice."
I couldn’t afford the regular bus fare for my daughter; every day I worried about her safety.
"We worked with ActionAid to devise a plan," Naw Mway Rae Paw continues, "One that turned out to be of huge benefit to the whole community. ActionAid provided our group with a three-wheeled motor car, to be used to ferry the children to and from school for an affordable fee."
Naw Mway Rae Paw’s daughter, Naw Tar Lu Moo says the new school bus has made a big difference to her.
Now I get to school in plenty of time. My studies have improved because I’m not so tired.
"It used to take me and my friends such a long time to walk to school, that we often got there late, which would make our teacher cross. Now I get to school in plenty of time, I even have time to play with my friends before school starts and my studies have improved because I’m not so tired. I am glad my grades have improved because I would like to be a pre-school teacher when I am older."
Turning the bus into a small business
When the bus isn’t being used to take the children to school, the group use the bus to run regular trips for community members to the local market and healthcare centre.
A delighted Naw Mway Rae Paw continues: “ActionAid helped us turn running the bus into a small business. They showed us how to record how much we earn from fares and how much we spend. Within just two months, after deducting driver and fuel costs, we have made 100,000 mmk (£50) profit.
"I am so happy because the more income we make, the more money we have to loan to other group members, it helps other women like me start their own small businesses and increase their incomes, which means we no longer have to rely on our husbands for everything."
From strength to strength
"I can’t believe the success our women’s group has had. ActionAid established this group back in 2013 with a fund of just 400,000 mmk (£200). Initially 12 members took a small loan to buy and raise pigs. Within a year, those members had repaid what they had borrowed with a small amount of interest, enabling another group of women to benefit.
"With ActionAid’s support we then expanded our groups activities, bulk buying sacks of rice that we then split and distributed to group members, at a discounted rate. On each of the 30 sacks, we made a profit of 5,000 mmk (£2.50).
With the training and support we have received from ActionAid my group can plan for the future.
"Our group has gone from strength to strength. With the training and support we have received from ActionAid my group can plan for the future. The small bus we have has been such a success we are now saving to buy a larger vehicle. We cannot thank ActionAid enough."
It's all thanks to child sponsorship
None of this would have been possible without the support of our child sponsors.
If you already sponsor a child – thank you. We'd love your help spreading the word about the difference child sponsorship makes - why not share this blog?
If you haven't sponsored a child before but have been inspired by our work in Myanmar then please consider sponsoring a child with ActionAid, and helping us support more women like Naw Mway Rae Paw.
Photo credits: ActionAid Myanmar