The following is from an interview with Daw Thet Thet Oo, 48, who with her husband runs two businesses in North Okkalapa township, in eastern Yangon, Myanmar. She’s a client of Accion partner DAWN Microfinance, which specializes in serving women entrepreneurs. DAWN and Accion have worked together since 2015, and the partnership was formed to offer financial services to a largely underserved population in Myanmar. Since then, financial services in Myanmar have evolved and technology has spread rapidly.
Like so many in Myanmar, now that the country’s economy has begun to open up to the outside world, she’s eager to access the kind of financial services that are only just starting to become available. Here is Daw Thet Thet Oo’s story, in her own words.
“We have 14 staff that work in our two businesses, and we treat them like family. My husband runs our printing press business, and I am in charge of the rice snacks. Our staff come from the local community, and we pay them a good daily wage. They come in each morning at 8 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m. When the business is doing well, I like to reward my workers with a group retreat to a park or a nearby pagoda. We also celebrate whenever a worker has a birthday.
“I only finished high school, but I’d like for my sons to attend university. They are only 11 and 9 years old now. The older one likes to learn English, the younger one excels at math. Maybe one of them will take over the family business, but the other one has no interest in it.
“I have two bank accounts, but I don’t borrow from the bank. I only save a little bit in my accounts, I mainly use them to receive transfers from my family. When I need money for the business, I ask my family to send me money, and then I collect it from the bank. The loan from DAWN helps because I don’t have to ask my family for as much, but I still need to borrow from them if we have to fill a large order. I’d like to be able to borrow a much larger loan directly from DAWN, instead of having to ask my family for money, even though my family doesn’t charge me any interest.
“My biggest hope is that I can keep growing this business and hire more staff. It makes me happy to have so many people relying on my business for their income, for them to be able to take care of their families because of this work.”
Interview conducted by Jason Loughnane for Accion