Located on Anawratha Road, the road connecting Old Bagan and Nyaung U, you will find a small, unassuming shop front with a hand painted signboard bearing the name ‘MBoutik’. Not only is this where you will find Bagan’s best selection of quality souvenirs, but it will also provide shoppers with the chance to support the economic and social development of vulnerable communities in the Magwe Region (the dry zone of central Myanmar).
As part of ActionAid International’s Socio-Economic Development Network (SEDN), the objective of this project is to build an effective socio economic development network to improve the income of poor rural women and increase poor and marginalised people’s access to essential services and social support in the Magwe Region.
As per MBoutik’s website, “Through creating a dynamic Socio-Economic Development Network this project will support existing community based groups and civil society organisations and link them with local level government departments and the private sector to create a multi-sectoral referral system enabling locally available resources to be accessed by the poorest community members (vulnerable families with low incomes, women-headed households, people with disabilities, older people, those affected by HIV/AIDS). This will improve livelihoods, fulfil the right to lead a dignified life, address stigma and discrimination and enable community based groups and organisations to organise and manage common resources more sustainably.”
“Crucial to this network approach is the inclusion of and engagement with a wide range of government departments (General Administration, Education, Health, Agriculture and Irrigation, Social Welfare, Home Affairs, Immigration, Commerce and Trade as well as the Myanmar Women’s Affairs Federation, Myanmar Maternal and Child Health Association and other “quasi government” entities). Bringing together these stakeholders and creating an enabling environment where they can share experiences and information and understand each other’s roles, responsibilities, needs and perspectives will result in improved relationships and enhanced coordination – breaking down existing barriers – to optimise the effectiveness of what were previously isolated and discrete efforts/activities.”
Most of the items on display in MBoutik have been lovingly handmade by the Women Producers Support Group (WPSG). Take the textiles for example, rather than just limiting their use to clothing, the weavers involved are taught to make cushions, handbags, bedspreads, cuddly toys and even cushioned game balls. By diversifying in this way, the weavers and seamstresses support each other’s work and bring a higher proportion of income to their respective communities.
One thing Tour Mandalay particularly liked about visiting MBoutik was the amount of information and interactive resources available to learn about the work these communities are doing. For example, there was an interesting DVD visitors could watch, colourful posters, leaflets, informative signage and members of friendly staff were available to answer any other questions. Furthermore, for anyone with an interest in arts, crafts and Myanmar’s textile industry, a trip to MBoutik would be sure to serve up a great educational experience.
In short, MBoutik is a must for anyone looking to get their hands on quality Myanmar-made souvenir items. It will also be a suitable recommendation for those with an interest in textiles, or travellers looking to support a worthwhile and extremely well developed community involvement project. The tasty Sanon training restaurant (another excellent Myanmar social business) is also located close by, making MBoutik a convenient stop before, or after lunch. Tour Mandalay would strongly recommend.
For more information, be sure to check out MBoutik’s official Facebook page by clicking here (please note the page is named Action Aid – Socio Economic Development Network).
Address: 560 U Paing, Thiripyitsayar Toechae 4th Ward, Anawratha Road, Nyaung Oo
Tel: +95 (0) 6 160 358