Since 2012, The Coca‑Cola Foundation has supported the economic empowerment of more than 40,000 women in Myanmar in partnership with the NGO Pact Myanmar through the program “Swan Yi,” which means ‘competence’ in English. The initiative seeks to remove barriers towards the entrepreneurial success of Burmese women by providing them with access to business skills training, financial services, and support networks.
With funding support of $6 million USD from The Coca‑Cola Foundation, the Swan Yi program has enabled the economic success of Burmese women through various training initiatives and with the support of a network of likeminded individuals. The Swan Yi program women scholars learn the value of saving and reinvesting. Through training courses in financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and business management, Burmese women are equipped with the knowledge and tools that they need to start their own business and plan their financial futures. ‘Swan Yi’ also links these small-medium-enterprises (SME) with hands-on workshops to aid their transition from the informal business sector to the formal sector--ultimately, helping women support themselves and improve their families’ financial health.
Like so many people around the world, Swan Yi beneficiaries were affected in 2020 when the pandemic happened. However, the program pivoted its plans to ensure continued support to the women amidst the challenging situation. During the first wave of the pandemic, COVID-19 related updates and precautionary measures were shared via mobile messages and virtual mask sewing workshops were conducted for the Swan Yi program participants.
Ma Thin Thin Hlaing is one of the Swan Yi program’s women scholars who participated in the free mask sewing workshop conducted virtually. “My friends and I started making masks for our families and eventually started selling the masks. This helped me to sustain our income. I learnt how to sew the cloth masks from the workshop conducted by the Swan Yi program. I participated in learning sessions where I also shared my story of how to start a small business and sell the products I made. I’m proud that I can help my family earn more money,” said Ma Thin Thin Hlaing, a member of the Swan Yi program.
To celebrate International Women’s Day in Myanmar this March, a group of women empowered by the Swan Yi program and with the support of Coca‑Cola Pinya Beverages Myanmar, produced eight types of masks using the cloth patterns indigenous to Myanmar to reflect the resilience and bravery of Burmese women, especially in weathering the ongoing pandemic and political crisis in the country. The eight masks represent the eight main ethnic groups in Myanmar: Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Myanmar, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan.
The Coca‑Cola Foundation and Pact Myanmar have continued to support more Burmese communities by launching the “Swan Are” program. Swan Are, loosely translated as power or energy in English, aims to promote the economic resiliency, recovery, and empowerment of women, youth, people living with disabilities, and migrant workers and their families. The “Swan Are” program will also scale up community WASH and waste management activities to encourage safer, cleaner, more productive, and healthier communities in rural and vulnerable areas in Myanmar.