Ma San Htwe sells fish at the Maung Ngan Market in Mawlamyaing, the capital city of Mon State in Myanmar, a six-hour drive southeast of Yangon. Shes 39, has three children, and has been a fishmonger for 20 years. Her daily routine seems exhausting: she rises at 3:00 a.m., takes a horse-drawn carriage to the harbor for 1,000 kyat (about 80 cents), buys the fish, and transports it back to the market, where she sets up and starts selling by 6:00 a.m. You have to get there early if you want the best fish, she says.
Ma San Htwe belongs to a solidarity group of 20 women borrowers with Dawn Microfinance. She has borrowed five times, using her loans to purchase larger quantities of fish in greater variety. She even sells prawns and river lobsters items I did not see being offered by other fishmongers at the market. Her income has increased, as have her profits. She wants to open her own fish market one day and buy a fishing boat.