The EUs EUR5m Rapid Response support fund was launched to support the mostly female garment workers from across Myanmar

The EU's EUR5m 'Rapid Response' support fund was launched to support the mostly female garment workers from across Myanmar

Myanmar's garment workers have received the first MMK1.04bn (US$753,512) in payments through the EU funded Myan Ku 'Quick Assistance Fund'.

The European Union's EUR5m (US$5.5m) 'Rapid Response' support fund was launched in April to support the mostly female garment workers from across Myanmar who have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Since 1 May, the initiative has distributed payments to a growing number of recipients, now reaching 12,913 individuals and MMK1.04bn in payments. Recipients include more than 11,000 female factory workers from Yangon, Pathein, Mandalay, Bago, Magway region, and elsewhere across the country.

"The real strength of a society should be measured by how it treats the most vulnerable," says EU ambassador Kristian Schmidt. "Myan Ku has extended a safety net under those at risk of sliding into extreme poverty, with extra support to pregnant workers and women with young children. This success is also thanks to the strong support to Myan Ku from the social partners, including employer organizations, trade unions and the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population."

In total, over 20,000 workers from 122 factories in the garment, textile and footwear industries have applied for funding. Many applications have been submitted by the factories' human resources managers who are trying to coordinate support for recently terminated or suspended employees. Trade unions have also gathered applications from their members and hundreds of workers have applied directly to the hotline, which is operated from 8am to 8pm daily, Monday to Friday.

Although the majority of workers are resident in Yangon, over 3,000 have received support in Pathein and surrounding areas, and several hundred in the Mandalay and Magway regions. Workers who have returned to home villages in Rakhine State, Kayin State, Mon State, and elsewhere have also received emergency cash support.

The initiative is funded by the EU's NEXUS Response for Myanmar and implemented by the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) and Sequa's SMART Textile & Garments project staff.

Local stakeholders and organisations supporting the implementation of the project include the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar, the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA), the Centre for Economic and Social Development, Pyi Gyi Khin, Opportunities NOW and Thone Pan Hla.

Cash transfers are remitted to workers digitally using Wave Money. To support garment workers in need, and as part of their corporate social responsibility, Wave is providing services to the Myan Ku project without their regular transaction fees.

Factory worker, Moe Thandar Win, says: "As I have no other sources of income during this pandemic period, the support from Myan Ku helps me to cover my family's basic needs, especially to buy basic food."