Women Empowerment and Development
Agape Women Network (AWN) is initiated by interested women for their self-development under social mobilization of Joseph Kung Za Hmung @ Win Hlaing Oo, founding director of CAD (Country Agency for Rural Development) in 2007. Today, AWN in villages is occurring inroads under the well understanding of women on their developments and empowerments for their environment.
We are newly set up Women based Network. We are deprived of rights to education by our parents and today we are illiterate and uneducated for having greater role in our empowerment and development. We would like to upgrade our living standard by equipping ourselves with better knowledge on capacities and vocational trainings. This project in general will achieve leadership, office management, organizational development, accounting, project management and vocational skills. The women’s groups are so-called Agape Women Network (AWN) since January 10, 2008.
We have mobilized our fellow women at chopping firewood, farming, worshiping and social events in relevant with our goal and objectives. Now it is already that we number about 185 groups of AWN (15 members per group) with 2775 members of women. CAD has provided us micro credit loans and other trainings. Besides, AWN is delegated by CAD to supervise all CAD projects in our respective villages too. This project is a priority because we are convinced that we are responsible for our development issues in the sense that no one will address our women affairs and problems. We are those who know the best of our needs. Except CAD, no NGO or civil society is existent to address our problems in our region. We have to create our empowerment and development by ourselves.
Uplifting women living standard
1. Uplifting capacity and vocational skills of women
2. Creation of women empowerment and rights
3. Creation of economic opportunities for women
4. Creation of women participation in regional development
5. Creation of women-led social networks
Women Development Strategy is done as follows;
– Food Processing Training
– Capacity Development
– Management Training
Women Empowerment Strategy is done as follows;
– Any proposal from a village must be duly signed by women groups.
– Women must be included in project committee, submitted by any village to CAD.
– Women are asked to see through any CAD program in any village.
– CAD supports financial loans to women groups affiliated to CAD programs.
According to our Chin tradition, women are inferior to men so much so that women have much less rights to education and rights to participation in making decisions in relevant with marriage, education, work and so on. We are totally supposed to be dependent on our husbands’ leadership and decision and management. We know we cannot go to school again but we would like to develop our skills, capabilities and our philosophy to have more empowerment in making decision and leadership on our self-development, our family food security and our better communities to signal that women are also important for building better families and communities in our society.
Each group has bi-weekly meetings in which administrative members (President, Vice President, Cashier, Accountant, and Members) are democratically elected with majority vote. The term of administrative members is 12 months only and whether former elected members can be re-elected are dependent on each respective group’s constitution which they draw themselves. Monthly contribution of each member is different from one group to another due to different constitution and weekly decisions. Some group decided to contribute Kyat 5,000 (US$ 5) per month but other groups make a basket of corn per month.
Financial Benefit System
All contributions a member makes to her group are saved for her and she could withdraw all her savings by her departure from her group but she might not claim the interest from her savings from her group dependent on her group’s constitution accordingly. All groups have saved some amount of money (at least US$ 600 from 1,000) from their monthly contribution and groups’ casual labours.
Our current activities
After seeing one year experience of financial and business management capacities and capabilities of Agape Women Network, CAD has granted financial loans (US $ 200 per group) to 65 groups of Agape women without interest for 12 months in order to achieve the said 5 objectives. They start running small businesses such as foodstuffs, groceries and medicines with cheaper price selling them prior to the members. Additionally, they make financial loans among members with 3% of interest. They clean their villages every Friday. They make prayers with fasting for CAD and donors of CAD and other proposed purpose too. They are first group in burying the dead and helping the sick and entertaining important guests to their villages.
The impacts of the Project
1. Prices of groceries and foodstuffs are plummeted.
2. Interest rate of money loans is decreased from 20% to 5% in black market.
3. Villages become cleaner and inhabitants become healthier.
4. Members of Agape Women Networks are more united and have more voice in their families and villages.
5. They come to understand the value of being educated and uneducated that they said they should encourage their children to go to school.
6. They come to get loans with lowest interest rate.
7. They become more regionally networked.
8. They get high recognition of their contribution to their families and villages by their husbands and authorities.
9. They have better understanding on making businesses.
10. They become more cohesive in addressing environment protection such as easy cutting trees for firewood and for building and exploding dynamites or bombs in rivers or streams for catching fishes.
11. They become more productive and supportive in family food production.
12. They come to have more team spirit than group spirit in addressing regional economy.
13. They become more participatory
Weak point of the Project
1. They could not make account and write any sentence due to being illiterate.
2. They are threatened by their respective Religious leaders not to participate in this project because this project is translated as a strategy to convert all other Christian Protestants to Catholicism as the director and founder of CAD, Joseph Kung Za Hmung is a Catholic.
3. They are still dependent on their husbands on many issues.
4. Some members could not make monthly contributions to their respective groups.
5. Their financial capital is too small.
6. They are in need of more capacity buildings for their skills on managements.
Difficulties faced in this Program
1. Many husbands bar their wives to this program viewing unnecessary movement
2. Capacity Building programs could not be easily given to the women by both written Burmese and Chin languages because most of them are illiterate and uneducated. Trainings are mainly based on games and oral teaching.
3. Local market is totally non-existent in the region. Markets are located at 80 kilometers from them.