Responsible mass-market branding with a social twist

Providing non-formal education to young workers in Telenor teashops with myME

Press Release:

(Yangon, 27.11.2014)When Telenor launched mobile services in Myanmar in September, a unique branding concept appeared in local neighbourhoods around Mandalay and Yangon. For a pilot period, the mobile company has created over 50 distinctive Telenor teashops, which carry interior and exterior branding and serve as a Telenor point of sale for SIM card and top-ups.

Telenor Myanmar CEO Petter Furberg and myME founder Tim Aye-Hardy signing the partnership agreement for providing non-formal education to children working in Telenor-branded tea shops.

As the teashops in Myanmar traditionally have children who have entered the workforce at a young age at the cost of continued education, Telenor decided that a proactive step towards addressing underage labour in these branded teashops had to be taken.

Consequently, Telenor has drawn on the expertise, local insight and enthusiasm of Myanmar Mobile Education project, myMe. Together the two companies will provide non-formal education to children between the ages of 13-16 who work in the Telenor-branded teashops.

Petter Furberg, CEO of Telenor Myanmar, says: “We are very proud of our unique marketing concept here in Myanmar. By being present in the social hubs were the local communities gather for Sagarwine, we can increase our brand awareness and affiliation in the mass market across the country. Early on in our branding exercise we identified the prevalent issue of underage labour in these teashops. Telenor alone cannot change this but we are pleased to have found a partner in myMe which is aligned with Telenor’s values and that allows us to contribute towards providing education to these young workers who for one reason or another have entered the workforce shortly after reaching the legal age.”

Teashops are not a direct part of the supply chain, however, Telenor makes no exception from following the ILO conventions for child labour, dictating a minimum of 18 years of age for hazardous work, 15 years as minimum age and 13 years for light work, so long as it neither threatens health and safety nor hinders education or vocational training. In Myanmar, the law allows 13-year olds to enter the workforce.

Opportunity to scale up

myME’s mobile classroom ensures that teachers, quality education and study materials are easily accessible to the young workers. Each child is offered six hours of lessons per week.

The myME bus teaching children working in the Telenor-branded teashops in Thamada

In addition to the opportunity to learn basic literacy, math and computer skills in a safe environment, the young students will also be taught life skills such as gaining self-confidence, developing analytical thinking skills through interactive instruction, as well basic knowledge of personal hygiene and understanding of preventable diseases.

Telenor will provide connectivity to the mobile classrooms and technological solutions to assist in increasing future vocational options, as this is the core business area of the company.

Tim Aye-Hardy, the founder of myME, says: “The issue of underage labour in Myanmar is quite complex and challenging, particularly as the practice is culturally accepted. The myME Project alone cannot eradicate the issue but through our partnership with Telenor and its support, we can together expand the existing program to enrol hundreds of new students from various teashops around the country. We need more partners and supporters like Telenor, whose own ethics and principles are comparable to ours, to effectively address the issue of underage labour and access to quality education for these children.”

Mobile classrooms

During the project’s pilot phase, which started on 2 November, the plan is to enrol over 200 children from the Telenor branded tea-shops. They will receive lessons in 10 different teashops in Yangon and in six Mandalay teashops.

Students at the Sait Taing Kya teashop listening to myMe’s Tim Aye-Hardy

Furberg says: “Based on our experience in other countries, Telenor has been diligently engaged in mitigating risk of underage labour in our supply chain both for the network rollout and in our daily operations from day one of entering Myanmar. We want to make a difference in the local society and working with myME to offer non-formal education to the young teashop workers creates a platform for them to grow and develop key skills. Our partnership enables a scaling up of the great work myME is already carrying out in Myanmar and we are excited to play a role in driving social change whilst also piloting responsible mass-market branding.”

Once the project expands, over 850 young workers will receive non-formal education in the areas where Telenor has mobile coverage and branded outlets. This would include youngsters from other surrounding communities who also want to join the lessons.

myME currently has 3 mobile classrooms which are old buses converted into a learning environment. One mobile classroom, along with the teachers, volunteers, and study materials, is capable of delivering lessons to 60 students at the same time: one class being held inside the bus, one outside the bus, and one class inside the teashop.

Teashop owners who carry the Telenor branding or sell SIM cards are obliged to sign a contractual agreement to commit to not hire workers under Myanmar’s legal employment age and to provide young workers from 13-16 with access to non-formal education. The contract also stipulates that random spot checks can be carried out to check working and living conditions of the young employees. In return, the teashop owners get a face-lift of their premises, workers with improved skills and ambition, and option to add to income by becoming a Telenor sales outlet.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Ms. Hanne Knudsen
Head of Communications
Telenor Myanmar
(95) 9 254 389897, (95) 9 790 301 152

Soe Thu Tun
Mango Media for Telenor Myanmar
(95) 1 512 884, (95) 9 450 001 087