Testimony : Before Mercy Outreach opened the centre here, I would sit at home and cook and clean for the family. I was sad, because I had lost my parents when I was little and I felt like all of the responsibility was on me. When the women’s groups started, I was a little confused as to what these would bring, but now I have found the family that I never had. I have learned to sew and now I can make clothes for my daughters and my neighbours. I am so happy to come here and see all of my new friends now and share my problems.

Women’s groups in Myanmar are extremely important. Women are the caregivers and the homemakers and quite often have to be creative to use the money in the household wisely.

In the slum areas, there is usually not enough money for the family to eat day by day. Families resort to borrowing money from one another and this can cause big problems. If loans from family are not available, women will go to a loan shark in order to buy food for their family to eat.

Our women’s groups bring together a peer support network. Our local staff are very much part of these groups and encourage discussion and community centred living. This has been the strength and the backbone of the programme and it is growing.

In areas of the slums, there are little chances of employment and usually women are looking after large extended families and children. Their daily life is pretty hard and there’s not usually a space for women to share their feelings and discuss their problems or to gain new skills to improve their lives and those of their families.

Each centre has a women’s programme which includes:

  • Vocational training – to teach skills so women can start their own small businesses. This includes sewing, soap making and knitting so far.
  • Anti-trafficking awareness.
  • Health education, to improve the health of the family and to prevent disease through hygiene training.
  • Women’s health education.
  • Anti-violence awareness.
  • Self Esteem sessions.

    Women naturally will cascade this information to their friends and family, so this investment in women has a wider reach into their communities.