News

Cultivating women’s potential: “All I needed was a chance”

7 March 2018
UNFPA enables Nang Sai and young women in Myanmar realizing their potential by building their skills in financial management, problem solving, decision making, and communication.
UNFPA enables Nang Sai and young women in Myanmar realizing their potential by building their skills in financial management, problem solving, decision making, and communication.

Growing up in a small village in Myanmar’s conflict ridden Shan State, the life of Nang Sai Hein Kham, 23, has not been easy. Like many people in Myanmar, and in Shan in particular, she gave up her education at an early age.

“I started working on our family’s small plot of land after I dropped out of school when I was 12 to help my mother and my sister. There’s just the three of us, and since I am the oldest sibling I am responsible for helping to support the family, and to make sure my little sister can stay in school and not drop out early like I had to ”, says Nang Sai.

Her life was changed when she joined the village savings and loan program in her village Pang Sone outside Lashio. Through the UNFPA and CARE supported programme, Nang Sai trained to manage the savings and loans accounts and quickly advanced to become one of the programme leads in her village.

“I used to be so weak and insecure about myself. I was overlooked in the village. I did not have much hopes for my future”.

“Now my little sister looks up to me”

Young women in rural Myanmar have limited access to higher education and to professional opportunities. Traditional gender roles limit their choices and mobility. To build their capacity and capture their potential, UNFPA began to support a village saving and loan program for women in 2017. Covering 22 villages, the programme reaches 3248 women.

Nang Sai: “I never knew that I could actually be a leader and help my village’s development.” 

The program includes training in financial management, problem solving, decision making, and communication skills to young rural women. Some that do particularly well, like Nang Sai, take up key administrative positions within the programme. Others use their new skills to find jobs in local businesses.

“In the past, I had no confidence in my ability. I never knew that I could actually be a leader, build networks with young people from other villages, manage finance, and help my village’s development. Now my little sister looks up to me.”

Towards financial stability and representation

Vocational training enables young women to navigate their lives towards decent jobs and financial stability. Part of the journey is earning respect, gaining representation in decision-making processes, and becoming role models in their families and communities.

Regardless of being a woman with a disability in Pang Sone, Nang Sai grabbed the chance and made a difference. “It’s been two years since I joined life skills and financial management training. I know how to post entries in the ledger and to audit savings for the villagers. And I believe I am better every day. I was so proud when I was selected to represent my village and to be our voice in another project too.”

“All I needed was a chance. Now I am creating my own destiny and I am helping the young generation in my village.”