Entrepreneurship is a term that has been tossed around to signify economic growth in Western cultures, but in Myanmar, it has become a symbol of survival.
In May 2008, Myanmar was struck by Nargis, a cyclone that affected much of the country, changing its economic landscape. The devastation forced people, especially women, to find work in order to provide for their families. For Cathy Win, a young entrepreneur from Myanmar, creating a business that would benefit poverty-stricken areas became a reality when she partnered with Helen Gunthorpe, an infectious disease specialist from California.
Their goal was to create a business that could aid women in providing for themselves and did so by creating “Business Kind”, a non-profit women’s organization. Business Kind is unusual in that it is comprised of three sections that work with each other: Good Sleep (provides mosquito nets), Good Night (making insect repellent from citronella candles) and Good Job (sewing training center).
Each of these components make it possible for those affected to get past the disaster and focus on getting back on economic stability. Good Sleep hires many women who have HIV/AIDS. These women, while faced with adversity, are able to give back to their community by selling mosquito nets to shopping centres, supermarkets and the profits are used to sell nets to villagers at a lower price.
In addition, a recent step towards improving work conditions for women in the garment industry involve creating a co-operative to educate them on how to negotiate for their labour rights.
For these women, each component of this organization empowers them to make decisions that affect their way of living and the future of their communities. Today, Myanmar as a country has its challenges, including gender issues, but it is amazing to see how a natural disaster resulted in enabling those affected, especially women, to build back their communities and continue to grow. That’s my view on this, what’s yours?
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