Because salary or wage-paying jobs are scarce in Myanmar's poor communities, most citizens are unemployed or self-employed operating a microenterprise. Gambling is also a major problem among the poor. Since business training or financial services typically do not exist in poor communities, the poor cannot create or grow their microenterprises into small businesses to escape poverty.
Why do we need Microfinance?
We are currently providing micro-loans to 37,600 women-owned businesses in the poorest neighborhoods in Myanmar. We ensure success through a structured business training program, active staff of field officers who visit our borrowers on a weekly basis, emphasis on savings, focus on community, encouragement of family love and commitment to their children's education.
The potential participants are required to first form a small group of five to six individuals. Then, they are required to attend six weeks of training sessions on basic financial and business management within a larger group - Cluster. At the end of the six weeks, a determination will be made by SLF's field officer for the readiness of the group for membership. At this time, the potential participants are required to present their business plans and make a commitment to collaboratively work together as a group.
Codes of Conduct
Our members must comply with our Codes of Conduct to remain a member. It is a way to coach and mentor them towards a better way of living. At each meeting, they must recite the following Codes of Conduct to reinforce the principles:
1. I promise to work hard and smart.
2. I promise not to gamble and will also ensure my immediate family members do not engage in gambling activities.
3. I promise not to take advantage of others, will live in harmony with my community, and will aid those who need help.
4. I promise to save money.
5. I promise to ensure my children regularly attend school.
6. I promise to take good care of my family.
If our members violate any of the codes, their membership is terminated.
Our members must put 5% of any micro-loan into compulsory (mandatory) savings. They may also deposit money into the voluntary savings program. While teaching the borrowers about the concept of savings, both compulsory and voluntary savings accounts earn 15% interest from SLF. Currently, many of our members are voluntarily donating half of their interest earned out of compulsory savings to fund Adopt-a-Student program so that their children may continue to receive a formal education.
We also offer Welfare Program, which consists of Funeral Insurance and Loan Insurance. For the poor, funeral services are often unaffordable and place them in debt which becomes a family burden. Our Funeral Insurance has been very popular among our members. In addition, our Loan Insurance augments the Funeral Insurance by ensuring that any unpaid loans are cancelled upon the death of the borrower. We keep the premiums at a low cost to guarantee affordability.