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.
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
Nang Mawk* is completing her Master of Educational Administration at Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok. At the end of her final semester she looked back on and her studies and reflected on where her learnings will lead in the future.
Which subjects did you study this semester?
This semester, I did a research with the title of “Need analysis studying on linking primary education between Thailand and Myanmar”. The purpose of my study is to find out how many percentage of migrant families plan to return to Myanmar in the next five to ten years. If they do plan to return to Myanmar then what barriers might migrant children in transition period and what educational preparations are needed for this group of children? I mainly use qualitative method but a bit mix with quantitative method for this study. I conducted 100 surveys with migrant parents in Bangkhunthain district, Bangkok to find out the percentage of migrant parents who plan to return. I did some interview with migrant parents, Thai and Myanmar government workers, NGOs and CBOs workers in Bangkok and around Thai-Myanmar border such as Maesot-help without frontier, Phangnga-Foundation for Education and Development, Ranong-World education and Bangkok-Foundation for Rural youth, some Myanmar education experts from Thailand and Myanmar. The result was 75 percentage of migrant families plan to return to Myanmar if Myanmar is really change and develop. The rest still do not know and plan to live in Thailand the rest of their life. From interviews, the big barriers children might face when they return to Myanmar are language and culture shock. So, language class within weekends and holidays are needed for students as preparation, parents speak Myanmar and practice Myanmar culture at home, both governments come up together working on educational standard and linking education. NGOs and CBOs provide information to governments and support to migrant families for language classes and raise awareness among migrant parents.
What did you most like about your study so far? Are there any success stories or achievements that you would like to share with us? What are your plans for next semester?
This semester is my last semester. I have finished all the course work and field work for pursuing my degree. I like all the subjects I have learned from my university. I will be able to adjust and use them in my future work and my current life. However, where I am going to use what is still difficult to say because I have not started working yet. What I use in my everyday life is the knowledge from leadership course. It’s all about to develop and care ourselves first then to our partners, families, community and the whole society. What we need to develop every day is our physical-try to do exercise every day, mental-try to forgive and being sufficient with what we have, cognitive- read book/books every day and think critically before make any single decision and spiritual- pray or mediation 15-30 minutes a day. One phrase I really love is “Try to understand then to be understood” means behave to people as we want them to behave to us.
My plan for the future is seeking a job that related to my field and being to make benefit to the community and my people.
Thank you for helping Nang Mawk gain the skills and confidence to pursue her dream!
*Name has been changed to preserve the anonymity of our students.
A huge thank you to all our supporters, far and wide, around the world, standing closely beside our students and the cause.
Thank you supporters!
Also, congratulations! We’ve had a successful quarter and will continue to push for more, with your help.
*** Mi Win Thida has GRADUATED from Chulalongkorn University (one of the top universities in Southeast Asia)! She is now a specialist on Health and Economics issues, and has already been recruited to work with the government in forming Health Policies. Congratulations Mi Win Thida! ***
Our student Ying Kawn Tai has achieved First Class Honors at Payap University in her first semester by achieving a 3.5+ GPA while volunteering teaching Shan construction workers. We can’t wait to update you with her continued progress.
“In university, I can decide who I should learn from and be exposed to different skills and ideas. This is very important for me and my community. Nowadays, I also use some of my new knowledge and skills when volunteering as a teacher at a construction site.”
On October 12th, We women held a Charity Walk in the Netherlands and Chiang Mai in order to raise enough funds to continue to support YingLong in her second year Masters of Education Administration at Assumption University.
“Decision making skills and the importance of communication skills will help me to create a better education environment as well. In addition, I have studied curriculum development and implementation. This course helped me to understand about curriculum definition and approaches. I discovered new methods of teaching which I will be able to take to Myanmar and use to improve the management in schools. Moreover, I have learnt the importance of analyzing and improving teaching. This has given me a better understanding on what can be done by teachers and has made my motivation stronger to improve our school system.”- Ying Long talking about her learning at Assumption University
The Charity Walk fundraiser was able to raise 3000Euro and 14,000THB; just enough to continue to pay for her tuition and expenses. Over 45 people came together to walk along the Old City in Chiang Mai (2 hours)- this included staff, volunteers, tutors, students from BEAM our partner organization, and new supporters. The Charity Walk proved there is a community who can come together to support the movement for women leadership and women’s higher education in Burma.
“I loved the Charity Walk in Chiang Mai! I was able to meet so many people who are involved and who are benefitting from We women foundation’s programs. I was able to hold the We women banner proud and walk in front with a volunteer from the Netherlands. I felt like I belonged and had a support system.”- Min, our office assistant and Pre- Uni student from Bago Region
“At the end, after we had spent hours together walking side by side for Ying Long and We women foundation. Everyone came together as a community with a sense of belongingness. Through donations, many people were able to participate actively and connect directly with students. I think we should engage online donors in a more active way; for example, we can live stream events from now on and bring them closer to the students and foundation.”- San, our Program Coordinator from Bago Region
For more student and program updates, visit our website at: www.wewomenfoundation.org or “like” our facebook page at www.facebook.com/wewomenfoundation. Also, follow us on Twitter at “Wewomenfound.”
Mi Aye is on her third semester completing her Masters in Health Economics and Health Care Management at Chulalongkorn University (2012 – 2014). At the end of this semester she shared her thoughts about her studies, the progress of her thesis and her experience of university life.
Please tell us about this past semester and update us on your studies?
My program is a one year program at Chulalongkorn University; the third semester is for Thesis Writing. My Thesis topic is “Determinants of Health Care Utilization among Workers from Private Sector in Yangon, Myanmar”. In my study, I concentrate on one location, the Hlaing Tharyar Township which is one of the largest industrial zones in Myanmar.
In my thesis, I focus on the Social Health Insurance of Myanmar under the administration of Social Security Board, Ministry of Labor and Employment.
During the first two months of this semester, I have spent my time doing data collection in Myanmar. I came back to Thailand after finishing and now I am working on the data analysis part.
I’m continuing to collect more information in the field, so I am extending my studies one semester to finish my Thesis.
What new ideas, concepts and insights did you gain from working on your Thesis project? How will you apply this understanding in your future career or in your daily life?
The Thesis is a very important component in my study. It is a very good experience to learn all the necessary skills to conduct research. It also helped me gain a lot of knowledge as it required to me to read many works of previous studies and imperial studies from around the world which are related with my topic.
My Thesis also gave me practical work experience on conducting research. It is an invaluable experience for my career as I am interested in research and planning to work in my future career. I have gained experience on how to write a research proposal, develop a questionnaire, and collect data as well as how to analyze and discuss data results.
How is your university life apart from study? Please also mention any challenges you face in different social settings and with university culture.
University life is a mixture of stress and enjoyment at the same time. As my program is one year and a bit intensive, I have spent most of my time in the lecture room and also commuting from my apartment to the university. Even though, it is stressful because of heavy assignments and tasks, it is a very good opportunity to meet people from different regions and from different cultures.
It is a great experience that I not only have a chance to study but also have the chance to attend the academic seminars and conferences which are organized by Chulalongkorn University. Apart from academic activities, the faculty also arranges some extracurricular workshops for the students to explore Thai culture and traditions.
Personally, I feel lucky as a Myanmar citizen to have the opportunity to study at the very best university in Thailand where most of the culture is similar to our country. So I didn’t have challenges for different social setting except a little challenge on language.
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