In Dien Bien Province, a group of Thai ethnic minority women run a small bank that fills a huge credit gap in Vietnam’s economy. “I’d like to borrow VND7 million [$314] to buy pigs,” said Diep, a farmer and member of Vietnam’s Thai ethnic minority group in her early forties. “Does anyone have any objections?” asked the chair of a meeting of 32 women sitting cross-legged along the floor of the wooden stilt home, dressed in the group’s traditional attire: a long tight skirt and blouse that, taken together, resembles the Vietnamese ‘ao dai’. The assembly didn’t hesitate to approve the loan application, unanimously. Diep, or 12 as indicated by her name tag, got the money she needed within 10 minutes. Starting August 24, the group gave her six months to repay the sum at 1.5 percent monthly interest. “The current balance is VND1.7 million,” the two treasurers announced, before placing the bank’s total holdings into a box sealed by three locks – an act signalling the end of the meeting. While a hair knot on top of their heads indicates that they’re all married, over the last four years, they’ve formed a family of their own, formally known as… Read full this story
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