We women foundation

We women is a foundation that strives to achieve equality for various groups of people in the world. The foundation assists women, refugees, ethnic minorities, and disadvantaged groups with their questions, struggles and needs, as they are formulated within their own terms. Academic research is the first step in this process because it helps to gain insight into local beliefs, practices and ambitions. The key areas of We women's engagement include personal growth, social inclusion, (mental) health, education, and the encouragement of creative initiatives, with the ultimate goal of achieving equality for all. The We women foundation has been based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, since 2010, where we...
Aug 6, 2014

We women's new Gender Dialogue Program

Despite recent political developments in Burma, including the release of the iconic Aung San Suu Kyi, women everywhere in the country are still overwhelmingly excluded from decision-making processes at all levels of society. As part of our efforts to address this problem, We women foundation recently initiated a Gender Dialogue Program in the city of Taunggyi in Shan State, Burma.

Broadly speaking, the purpose of We women’s newest program is to raise awareness regarding gender equality issues in Burmese communities so that women will have more opportunities to assume leadership positions. Through guided conversations and seminars, participants will be empowered as advocates for gender equality and will have a deeper understanding of gender issues at a personal, community and national level so they can effectively communicate these issues in their own communities as they see fit. These participants will be chosen from local NGOs and CBOs who already have experience thinking about and working on gender issues.

The topics to be addressed are connected to the following two main questions: “What does it mean for men if more women become leaders?” and “What does it mean for women to become leaders?” In considering these questions, participants will hopefully become more mindful of their individual responsibilities in supporting gender equality.

These dialogues will be held in small, gender-balanced groups with a maximum of 10 participants each. The groups will be led by two knowledgeable facilitators; one male and one female. Over the course of six months, about 12 three-hour discussions will take place. Before the six months are over, participants will also design a project that will raise awareness about gender dynamics in their communities in tangible ways using creative, sustainable methods.

The gender program was initiated three months ago, and at this point the dialogue sessions for our first implementation of the program have finished and the participants have begun to think about how to implement their own gender equality programs. One of the ideas that came up for a campaign is to train teachers and students on gender equality issues in order to mold antiquated beliefs regarding women in positions of authority.

The participants were enthusiastic and eager to collaborate. The discussion focused particularly on common gender conflicts and leadership positions that can be seen in the classroom at school and in society. According to exit interviews with the participants, the first round of discussions was a success, as the participants not only have a deeper understanding of gender issues but they are also reconsidering and changing the perceptions of gender roles that they grew up with. Several of the women who participated noted that the discussions helped them to better analyze gender dynamics in their home communities. Interestingly, one of the male participants noted in his interview that he was quite disinterested in the topic of gender at the beginning of the program. However, by the end of the sessions, he said that he now understands why gender equality is an important issue that needs to be addressed, and that in the future he will actively support women in leadership positions and work to educate and empower young people regarding gender issues.

Motivated by the promise that the Gender Dialogue Program has already shown, We women foundation is excited to continue to develop this program with your support.

Apr 28, 2014

Congratulations to the Newest We women Graduate!

This year, Nang Hseng* will graduate from Rajabhat University with a Masters in Public Health, a crowning achievement on top of an already impressive career

During her studies, Nang Hseng was already at work applying her skills to areas most in need.  Even while completing her thesis, she was working in 20 rural villages in Shan state in Burma, collaborating with health workers on improving public health by collecting data, conducting needs assessments, and providing services needed in the communities. Over the past three years, Nang Hseng has conducted reproductive and child health care training for nearly 60 health care providers and social workers.

This work has proved immensely beneficial for both Nang Hseng and the providers she works with. One health worker Nang Hseng works closely with described her improved capacity saying, “For the past two years my friends and I have made family planning services more readily available in our communities. This has within a short time greatly reduced the high levels of maternal, infant, and early childhood mortality in our villages.”

Nang Hseng is also adamant about the personal benefits of her long-term thesis work. “I used to be very shy,” she says, “but now I am eager to ask questions at all times, and feel comfortable going before an audience of village leaders or community members to talk to them about their health problems and discuss ways we can work together to resolve some of the important health and other development issues in our community.”

Following graduation, Nang Hseng will continue working as Health Program Coordinator for a Shan women’s organization in addition to supporting the development of the rural communities she has long worked so closely with. Nang Hseng realizes the incredible position she is in as an advanced degree holder and plans to do immense good with her new qualifications. As she puts it, “I did not see women working in public health management in Burma. As I am a woman from a rural area, I want to take this opportunity to be able to work more effectively for community and all levels.”

Thank you for supporting Nang Hseng's dreams of higher education. Cheers to another women leader to shape the future of Burma!  

*Names have been changed

Mar 19, 2014

Emerging Women of Burma: Final Report

We women founder launches the Documentary
We women founder launches the Documentary

March 14th, 2014 marked the end of We women foundation’s immensely successful Emerging Women of Burma campaign. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of the continuing struggles for women in Burma, to highlight the incredible work already being done inside Burma and to provide support for the work of We women  foundation. All together the campaign raised over US$ 11,800, attracted the attention of international media and engaged a wide range of stakeholders including We women students, local and foreign supporters, and rights advocates from Burma.

The campaign culminated in the launch of We women foundation’s first documentary project, Emerging Women of Burma, which chronicles the difficulties and triumphs of seven emerging women leaders in Burma. The aim of the documentary was to bring awareness to the international audience about the outstanding work of women who are rarely on the front pages of newspapers and also to inspire the next generation of women leaders.

The Documentary

In June 2013 We Women Foundation began the search for women community leaders within Burma. The call for nominations was sent out to a broad cross section of CBOs and BGOs both on the Thai/Burma border and inside Burma. They came back with great responses, 25 nominations in total. We women foundation then set out to contact the nominees. This proved difficult as many of the women work in remote areas and do not often have access to telephones, Internet or mail. After much deliberation, seven incredible women were selected to be showcased in the documentary.

The seven women chosen hold a range of positions: one a Member of Parliament, others NGO leaders and community activists. All of the women are beacons of hope for the future of Burma. Their stories, ranging from overcoming lack of support for educating girls to economic desperation that led to the difficult decision to become a sex worker, to becoming empowered women committed to doing work for the benefit of the community, are incredibly powerful.

The Dutch company Vamos Bien graciously funded the making of the documentary. With their funding, the small film crew was sent to Burma in November 2013, where they spent two weeks filming and conducting interviews. The raw footage was then edited, translated into English and finally completed in March 2014. The 45-minute documentary was launched in Chiang Mai as the highlight of the fundraising campaign, to help bring awareness and bolster support for rising women leaders. The documentary will be released in the Netherlands in Summer 2014.

Emerging Women of Burma Events

Throughout the course of the Emerging Women of Burma campaign, We women foundation staff, volunteers and friends collaborated to host awareness and fundraising events around the world.

Jenelle in New York City incorporated a creative We women donation sock into her New Year’s Eve party and a family in the Netherlands donated their Christmas card budget to the foundation.  Additionally, students at St. Swithun’s Winchester in the UK donated proceeds from their cake walk towards the campaign.

Melissa Waters, a We women fundraising volunteer based in North Queensland, Australia rallied the support of her community to put on an art auction supporting the foundation. The auction featured 85 works of art from North Queensland’s local artists, attracted attention from the community’s radio and newspaper outlets and interested over 50 donors in We women foundation’s work.

At the We women headquarters in Chiang Mai, we held a dinner and silent auction to introduce our local friends to the aspirations of the Emerging Women of Burma campaign. The night of the silent auction was great fun, with many of Chiang Mai’s luxury hotels, restaurants and shops generously donating their goods and a large number of supporters coming out to share in abundant food, prizes, and discussion about the campaign’s key issues.

Awareness Raising Successes

The Emerging Women of Burma documentary launch was the capstone to the whole campaign and a wonderful closing celebration. The documentary premiered to an audience of over 85 people at Chiang Mai’s dedicated documentary film center, Documentary Arts Asia. Following the screening, the packed house engaged We women founder, Ursula Cats, and filmmaker, Jai Jai, in a Q&A session about the women featured and issues raised in the film. We women foundation students also viewed the Emerging Women of Burma documentary at a special screening and shared their thoughts. It is clear from the discussions that followed in each case that the documentary is educational, thought provoking, and inspiring. Our students identified with the struggles that the women leaders retold and expatriate audience members were moved by the opportunity to put a face to the repression they have only abstractly heard about. As a whole, viewers of Emerging Women of Burma are convinced of the potential that the young women in Burma hold for creating a safer, more equitable and more prosperous future for their country.

We women foundation is incredibly excited to continue to share the documentary, spreading more insight and inspiring more support for women’s education and leadership in Burma along the way. Already we have seen a great response from the international community, due in large part to the media outlets that have championed the campaign’s mission. The Daily Beast touted “Burma’s Emerging Female Activists are Ready to Lead,” Yahoo Shine profiled two We women students hot on the path to becoming key social leaders in Burma, and Just Means and WINGS: Women’s International News Gathering Service linked We women foundation and the Emerging Women of Burma documentary to the global push for increased opportunities for women. Regional news outlets with particularly high influence in Myanmar and Southeast Asia, including Democratic Voice of Burma, the Irrawaddy, and Mizzima News, also published stories about We women and the documentary.

As the Emerging Women of Burma campaign comes to a close, We women foundation feels proud and encouraged by the increased enthusiasm and interest alertness that the campaign’s activities have garnered for women’s issues in Burma. Bolstered by the financial and intellectual support of the campaign, we will continue to support young women in their pursuit of meaningful educational and career objectives and enhance promotion of women’s leadership in this time of great opportunity for Burma.

We women staff and students view the documentary
We women staff and students view the documentary
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