April 2017—Pham Ngoc Yen’s life in Vietnam’s southern province of Vinh Long was difficult. With her husband’s limited income, the family struggled to pay its expenses, especially after Yen underwent a Caesarean section with her third child that exhausted the family’s savings. To bring in more income, a few months after the birth of her child, Yen returned to her work as a seamstress and dealer of handicraft materials.
While the couple tried to be frugal to save money for their children, they were unable to raise themselves out of poverty.
Yen learned of an opportunity to participate in USAID’s Mekong Vitality Expanded Alliance activity in June 2015 that had started in her community. The activity, a savings-led microfinance program for women, allowed Yen to take loans up to $650 for business purposes. Using the loans, Yen bought more materials to expand her inventory of handicrafts for sale. In addition to making the crafts herself, she now fulfills large orders from a local export company by contracting out the production to about 120 women, including those from her savings group.
The project also provided her with a smartphone and enabled her to participate in a series of advanced business trainings. During the trainings, Yen learned how to use her smartphone to search information on the internet, network and use e-learning materials to improve her business. She now uses Zalo, a messaging application, to communicate with her customers by sending them pictures of new clothes and receives orders from them for tailoring. She also searches for fashionable clothes on the internet so she can offer a broader range of garment styles and reach more customers, not only from her village, but from surrounding communities as well.
“I now earn about $225 to $270 per month thanks to the handicraft and tailoring work,” says Yen. “This has improved my family’s quality of life because I am able to sleep more at night and have time to take good care of my children. My kids are happy now because they now can have the food they like and they all can go to school.”
Since 2014, the Mekong Vitality Expanded Alliance has partnered with the private sector to provide women entrepreneurs over $1.2 million in microfinance loans and access to smartphones to take business training courses. In 2016, 15 percent of loan beneficiaries started a new business and 54 percent expanded their existing business, 77 percent of whom use the USAID smartphone technology to support business operations.
Last updated: April 05, 2017