June 2015—Nguyen Thi Hang, a mother of two school-aged children, lives in Vinh Long province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where high poverty rates are prevalent among ethnic minority groups. For the last 14 years, Hang has earned a living for her family by making baskets and carpets from water hyacinth.
During this time, she struggled to make enough money for her family and hoped to earn more money to give her children a better education.
Then Hang heard about the Mekong Vitality Project in March 2014, which was running a savings-led microfinance program in a nearby village. The project gathered women into empowerment groups to help them save money, take revolving loans and develop small businesses. She was very interested and became a member of a nearby community banking group where she received training on financial literacy, community banking and microenterprise development.
Inspired, Hang wanted other women in her neighborhood to benefit from the project. She mobilized a group of women and formed a new village bank called Tam Dac, or Self-Assurance. The group elected her chairperson, a position she had never thought of for herself before.
With training from the project, members of her group are now able to do simple financial reading, writing and calculations, and they study materials on small businesses distributed by the project. Group meetings provide an opportunity to share their experiences and successes in business, health care and raising animals.
Hang shared her own handicraft skills and encouraged the women to improve their business skills and get part-time jobs to earn more money. She later began coaching other members in the group to make baskets and carpets from water hyacinth.
“I am proud and happy when seeing group members do the job more skillfully each day, and they are able to earn more money for their family,” Hang said.
In April 2014, Hang took a $96 loan from her village bank and bought 50 kilograms of water hyacinth to make more baskets and carpets. Now she can make around 120 hyacinth baskets a week. She makes additional income selling water hyacinth in her village.
In the past, Hang earned around $5 a day. She now can earn $28-$47 per day, enough for her to feed her children and pay for their extra school lessons.
“I hope the project will stay with us for a long time so that our women will have opportunities to meet, support one another and have access to the loans and develop sustainable business to earn our living,” Hang said.
The Mekong Vitality Project, which ran from 2013 to 2014, is the predecessor of the Mekong Vitality Expanded Alliance, a two-year savings-led microfinance project supported by USAID and Coca-Cola Foundation and implemented by Pact until September 2016. The Alliance aims to assist approximately 6,000 women in Vinh Long by expanding Pact’s work in women’s empowerment and livelihood training.
Last updated: November 28, 2016