Mobilizing Myanmar is working to empower women to lift themselves out of poverty using the smartphones already in their hands.
Though Myanmar is the poorest country in Southeast Asia with the least developed financial system, it has leapfrogged most nations around the globe in mobile phone and internet usage.
Myanmar took only four years to jump to smartphones, whereas other places have taken a decade or more. In Myanmar,
- 94% of the population can access 3G/4G networks, and
- 85% of households have at least one mobile phone
As digital finance rolls out in Myanmar, many women risk being exploited by the digital economy or excluded from it.
Even though they are hard at work in fields, fish markets, construction, factories, brothels and homes– only 0.01 percent of women can access credit with a formal financial institution.
Most women don’t know their own passwords or how to recognize and avoid scams. Very few understand how to search the Internet. Fewer than 16% know how to download an app.
MM is looking to change that.
The organization is led by Pwint Htun, an engineer and U.S. telecom executive who served on Partners Asia’s Board of Directors from 2012 to spring 2019. Ms. Htun grew up in rural Myanmar.
Next up: a large-scale pilot project to train 5,000+ women in the Irrawaddy Delta and five other regions.
In fresh markets, bamboo homes and village gatherings, women are already training women to:
- Register for digital wallets (securely) and transact using QR codes
- Use smartphones to learn how to make and sell new products
- Understand how to become neighborhood mobile money agents (earning commissions and gaining a foothold in the formal economy)
MM is also working with key government ministries to promote digitization for social welfare payments and to train pregnant women and nursing mothers to receive the digital payment transfers.
In addition, they will soon launch pop-up Education Gazebos in outdoor markets run by tech-savvy Girl Geek Squads, to do free 1-1 training using digital wallets and QR scan-and-pay.
Mobile money has the potential to transform society. As women escape poverty by earning in new ways, saving money, and gaining power, social norms can shift.
Yes, this initiative is about technology and apps—but so much more.
To read the full report, click here.