Women at sewing machine used to make shoes for the military in Myanmar

Shoeing a Nation

Miyon Kautz is Director of Marketing and Engagement at VisionFund. On International Women’s Day she shares the story of Thida Tun whom she met when she was recently in Myanmar.

After an early start, it took me around 50 minutes to reach Hlegu Township which lies north east of Yangon, in Myanmar. I’m here to meet Thida Tun, a 43-year-old cobbler. She is married with two daughters aged 15 and 18 and told me that she learned her skills from her parents. She runs all aspects of the business from shoe creation to managing the finances.

Thida Tun approached VisionFund and received an individual loan with better rates than she was able to obtain from other microfinance institutions that she had previously borrowed from. Her VisionFund loan officer advises her on her finances and provides advice on market conditions and when the value of the dollar increases, she can charge more for her shoes.

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Thida Tun and her employees work long days, from 7am to 6pm. They are an industrious group making 30-40 pairs of shoes each day. They make 1,000 pairs of shoes each month of seven different designs. Most of her stock is sold to the military.

Operations are split between the veranda of her home and a rough built structure next to it. The space is open to the elements and very hot with barely a breeze to keep them cool. Thida Tun and her workers sit surrounded by bags of leather and supplies. Quality control is important to Thida Tun so she regularly checks on her employees’ progress, taking time to give advice on where improvements are needed to maintain quality.

Thida Tun charges a slightly higher price than her competitors and she is proud to say, “I always get the order because my product is better. I focus on quality, so even though my competitors use the same materials, my quality is better, so I am able to sell at a higher price and people want to buy my shoes.”

https://i0.wp.com/blog.visionfund.org/wp-content/uploads/Thida1-640x422.jpg?resize=640%2C422Thida working with her staff

When supported with the right financial services and business training, entrepreneurial women like Thida Tun are able to build small businesses that create ripples of positive change that extends to whole communities. At VisionFund, over 70% of the over 1.2 million clients we serve globally are women, and we are proud to empower them as they conquer their dreams.