Text/ Yi-Lan Photo/ Thet Oo Maung
In the past two years, Myanmar has experienced drastic tourism boom: the number of tourists doubled from about one million to two million in 2013.
Bagan, the city of pagodas, has been one of the most popular touristic destinations in Myanmar; people are attracted by its beauty as well as the history of this ancient city.
Apart from the breath-taking pagodas, now there’s a new option for tourists in Bagan to spend their day- the SEDN emporium (Social Economic Development Network). The products they have include cushion, clothes, bags, carpets and beautiful material for decoration, which are all made by women living in rural Magwe region where access to sustainable income and social support is relatively poor.
However, the emporium is more than a souvenir shop; it’s also part of wider social protection network that aims to create a multi-sectoral referral system to link up local communities and government services providing institutes, such as health, education, agriculture etc.
Being one of the poorest and least developed regions in Myanmar, the Dry Zone is characterised for its relatively high proportion of female-headed households (18 %) because of the out-migration of male family members. Women, especially in rural area, often have less access to education, property and employment opportunities due to gender inequality between women and men.
Initiated by ActionAid and with the support of LIFT (Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund), SEDN was started in 2013 and the opening of this emporium provide an opportunity for women producers to be self-reliant and to have a more sustainable livelihood.
“Previously I could only make clothes, but now I can create new things because the training we received.” “We become closer and start to share the difficulties in our lives…” said Maw Maw Lwin (age 32).
Running with the concept of social enterprise, what SEDN does is more than vocational training on weaving and sewing; informal education in literacy, numeracy as well as HIV prevention are also provided. The formation of Craft Producers Network with the involvement of government departments, cooperatives and Women Producer Support Groups enhance interaction and communication between different actors and the women producers can thus know better about who to ask for what services.
It is expected that the outreach of SEDN products doesn’t only expand in Myanmar, it will also reach an export market in the near future.
Still don’t know where to buy souvenir in Bagan? SEDN emporium is a place that won’t let you down.
VIDEO CLIP : Women's Business- The Social Economic Development Network (LIFT)
 World Food Programme, “Food Security Assessment in the Dry Zone, Myanmar,” February 2011