For 20 years, Myint has lived in Myanmar’s Dala Township. Her home is cobbled together with now torn tarpaulins, rusted corrugated iron and old bamboo – materials which unsurprisingly do not offer sufficient protection from the elements. During the wet season, Myint’s home floods, bringing water in through the roof, and floor, soaking her family and what little possessions they have.
The high cost of building materials means the urban poor often build housing with cheaper materials which are not durable, making them even more vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters. These materials also need to be regularly replaced. However, in Myint’s case, and that of many others in her community, she cannot afford to repair her home and so uses tarpaulins to cover the gaping holes in the roof.
To add to this, things have become increasingly difficult over the last few years since Myint’s husband passed away. She now supports four children on a single, unsteady income which she earns from her laundry business.
Despite the hardships she has experienced, Myint continues to dream of a brighter future. Myint has always hoped to take out a loan to expand her business. However, she like many others in developing communities are unbanked – meaning they do not have access to formal financial institution and are without credit. With no other options, they must seek the assistance of money lenders who charge high interest. Myint is, however, afraid to pursue this option as she fears she will be unable to afford the interest and suffer the consequences.
Habitat for Humanity Australia is working in the Dala Township improve the resilience of community by supporting families by improving housing conditions, access to water and sanitation and increasing access to essential services.
As part of this, Habitat has established savings groups which Myint has joined. The creation of female-led self-reliance groups with functioning savings and loan schemes aims to reduce dependency on outside money lenders. These groups play a critical role in organising the community, and ensuring women are well represented. Members contribute to the savings group and can access loans with low interest to invest in their livelihoods or repair a home.
The project has also established community driven water and sanitation groups. These groups are facilitated by Habitat and led by community members who mobilise others to identify and address issues faced regarding water and sanitation. Myint who seen the impact of poor water quality on her children’s health first hand, hopes the program will give her family awareness and knowledge to address the issues their community faces proactively.
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