On the Backs of Women is the award-winning documentary about three enterprising women living in poverty in Myanmar. It won "Best NZ Short" at the 2016 DocEdge film festival. The film follows the lives of three clients of ADC’s project partner in Myanmar and demonstrates the power of microfinance to change lives.
ADC has been running a campaign encouraging people to host viewings of the film with friends, family or colleagues. In 2017 there has been a larger focus on corporates and other groups having viewings with staff and other associates.
The interest and inspiration inherent in the stories the film portrays has encouraged a lot of support, raising almost $20,000 for ADC so far, with lots more to come! As well as in people's homes, viewings have been held in high schools, churches, workplaces, the Ice House Auckland (New Zealand entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs in Myanmar), the Australian/Myanmar Chamber of Commerce at their Women in Business conference, iProspect, and more to come. We are immensely grateful for all the support we have received!
We have also recently added the film to our website. It's free to watch, and we welcome donations of any size if you feel you got some value from it or would like to support more women lifting their families and communities. Every $200 raised through the #BackAWoman campaign enables us to support another woman in Myanmar and their dreams for a better future.
If you’d like to watch the film, host a viewing or help us share these amazing stories in any way then visit www.backawoman.com to sign up, or contact our campaign coordinator James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again for all your continued support!
Our Myanmar project has gone from strength to strength this year, and we're excited to update you on what's been happening. Demand for loans from ZMF is strong, and the repayment rate remains high (over 90% repayments on time). As loans are repaid, the funds are then able to be loaned out again to new (and repeat!) clients. We've now enabled an incredible 6,271 loans since inception (September 2008), totalling $1.258 million.
We have 1,371 current loans in circulation, and 86% of these are to women.
Thank you to everyone who has generously supported ADC to empower these people to access microfinance and build a better future for themselves.
Last month there was more flooding in Kalaymyo and surrounding areas, where ZMF Bank (our project partner) operates. This involved a few precautionary evacuations and interruption to some client businesses, but not on anything like the scale of the devastating floods of 2015. Floodwaters have now receded, and ZMF is working closely with those clients who are affected to ensure they have the necessary support (including re-structuring loans where necessary).
Many ADC supporters will no doubt be aware of the current conflict in Rakhine State in Myanmar, and consequent humanitarian crises. At this stage it looks unlikely that the unrest will directly affect the areas in which ZMF (ADC's Myanmar project partner) operates, as these are a few hundred kilometres to the north of Rakhine. However, our thoughts are with the thousands of innocent people affected by the ongoing violence and displacement.
30 September 2017 saw the 10th instalment of the hugely popular annual ADC Quiz night. This year saw a few changes - a different venue and a new, automated quiz format using hand-held remotes.
The quiz was hotly contested between sixteen teams, with team "Foregone Conclusion" edging out the competition to take out first place and a fantastic prize pack.
As usual we had both live and silent auctions with everything from baches to yoga passes, to pet photography, to a piece of traditional weaving from a client of the ZMF bank.
The best news from the night is that we were able to raise over $16,500 to support our microfinance partners. This is the equivalent to at least 80 new loans - helping entrepreneurs in poor communities kick-start a small business and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
A huge THANK YOU to all who came along and made the night such a success!
A big thanks to the hugely talented Anna Kennedy for being our MC and auctioneer for the night! And a special thanks also to Nevil and the team at Evolve for their generous support, and to everyone who donated prizes and auction items.
We look forward to seeing you all again next year!
ADC (which stands for Aotearoa Development Cooperative) was founded in 2007 by two university students from Auckland, New Zealand: Andrew Colgan and Geoff Cooper. This is their incredible story:
"Backpacking through Asia with friends during the long university summer break, we were young, idealistic and on a budget. Myanmar sounded interesting – an adventure off the usual backpacker track. The country was not in great shape in January 2007, after decades of military rule and economic mismanagement.
Severe poverty was entrenched, and political freedoms nearly non-existent. Yet many of the people we met in Kalaymyo (in northwest Myanmar) were talented, resourceful, business-savvy and ambitious. In spite of their circumstances, they seemed to have everything it might take to operate a successful small business. Well...almost everything. It soon became apparent that a huge barrier keeping many people in poverty was a lack of access to affordable start-up capital.
Conditions there were perfect for microfinance, but the political situation meant it simply hadn’t happened. We were naïve enough to give it a go. The ZMF Bank came into being, and we set up ADC back in New Zealand to support it.
Early on, funds to capitalise ZMF were spirited through Yangon airport and exchanged for large bundles of local currency by nameless strangers in musty underground rooms, before being hidden in our packs for the journey north to Kalaymyo. This journey was usually either on a run-down old government plane or on a 24-hour bus ride over seemingly impassable roads – both equally frightening.
During our early visits we were also shadowed by Military Intelligence and subjected to curfews, checkpoints and tight restrictions on where and how we could travel. We were not allowed to meet with more than five people at a time. However, the challenges and risks we encountered pale in comparison to those faced almost constantly in the early years by the incredible group of locals whose courage and determination drove the ZMF dream from the outset.
A decade on, ZMF is flourishing. To date over 6,000 loans have been provided, with a combined value of more than $1.2 million. ZMF’s clients (over 85% of whom are women) continue to thrive, pulling themselves and their families out of poverty through successful small businesses.
We have both been fortunate enough on a number of occasions over the years to witness first-hand the difference microfinance is making in the lives of ZMF’s clients. The bank’s success is a testament to the enormous passion and energy of the dedicated local staff, as well as the loyal support of the ADC community back here in New Zealand.
We feel hugely privileged to have been part of the ADC Microfinance journey so far. But the most exciting thing is that this feels like it’s still just the beginning.”
- Andy Colgan and Geoff Cooper