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, wher...
Feb 1, 2017

Our inspiring student, Si Htong

Si Htong awarded as one outstanding student.
Si Htong awarded as one outstanding student.

Thanks to your donation during our campaign Educate One Empower Thousands, we will be able to continue to support Si Htong who is currently doing her last year of MBA in China. Her motto is “Always believe in yourself. Even if your chances are thin, be open to life's surprises and possibilities.”

Si Htong grew up in a small town of Keng Tung in Shan state, Burma. She was born in a humble family, but due to some domestic problems she had to leave her home when she was ten. She was left in the hands of other people without proper love and affection. She adds, during her primary school days, she learned less as there was no need for a real understanding of the teaching material, as long as you could memorize what the teacher taught you in class and copy that for the exam. Later, she joined monastery school and started to comprehend some basics of life. Then at sixteen, she moved to Chiang Mai in Thailand where she got involved with a community based organizations and acquired some essential skills. Here she interacted with Burmese migrants and provided help and support. She learned that many of the migrants want to return back to Burma if the situation in Burma was better.

After she got in touch with the We Women foundation she received a scholarship to study in Bangkok, Thailand. She successfully completed her Bachelor honours program in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. “With all the help and support I have received from We Women Foundation, I have been able to start to take control of my life and I am a lot more confident girl.”

After that she worked as a social compliance auditor for factories. While checking on labour safety and working conditions, she got to know many migrant workers and learned about the vulnerable position this group takes in Thai society. While working, she felt, she could make a difference and learned more about the situations and dreams of other Burmese migrants in Thailand. However, she realized that as an employee, you have no voice, people don’t hear you. But if you have a good job and a strong network with business people, people will listen to you. Thus, she felt it was necessary to further her education to have more understanding of business psychology, its influence and ultimately respect.

With the help from the We Women foundation she started her Master program in Business Administration in China. The program is very intense, with eleven courses at the same time and classes for more than twelve hours a day. However, Si Htong is highly motivated to do the best she can and to finish her degree.

Moreover, she is determined to learn Chinese, because there are so many Chinese investments in Burma at the moment. She intends to use her education to find a good job and create a network with the right contacts, so she can persuade others to do something good. “I want to encourage people to invest in the country and be responsible, start organizations and create more opportunities for young people to build up the country.”

In ten years, she sees herself opening her own business or language institute. She was inspired by an organization that gave loans to students, so that the money will circulate to help other students. “That’s so inspiring, I want to do that myself. I could start a foundation for example and have influence. I want to encourage people to help other people, be an advocate.”

Jan 6, 2017

End of the year report 2016

WAC participants receive their certificates
WAC participants receive their certificates

Women: Agents of Change

We are proud that we successfully organised two Women: Agents of Change trainings; our business entrepreneurship training for women from disadvantaged communities of Myanmar who have proven business instinct. A third training was scheduled in October, but unfortunately we had to move it to February 2017 because our trainer got sick. Your generous donation at the beginning of this year mainly went to training 30 women empowering them with key business, finance and social entrepreneurship training, enabling them to set up social enterprises, thereby bringing about sustainable economic growth for themselves and their communities. We organised our first training in Yangon, Myanmar’s main city, and invited women from different parts of the country to participate. Our second training was held in April in Dawei in Southern Myanmar in collaboration with the local Chamber of Commerce. As one of our participants said at the end of the training: “Now I know how to make a business plan and to know what to be aware of and how to overcome some challenges.” She was further inspired to connect to other successful business women in Myanmar, which is something we find extremely important as one of our most important goals at We women is for women leaders to connect as to raise one shared voice, but also to inspire and learn from each other.

As we move towards the end of the year we are working closely together with a local NGO in Shan State, Myanmar, so they can take over the implementation of our business entrepreneurship training. It has always been our vision to hand over our projects to the local community and we are exited that grassroots initiatives in the ethnic areas are ensuring local ownership and sustainability. 

 

Women Leadership Network

In addition, we organised monthly leadership network meetings in Yangon and Taunggyi. Currently women in professional and leadership roles have few options for networking. Our professional women’s network therefore enables women from all sectors to share skills and experiences, thereby developing their own roles, while inspiring and facilitating more women to enter into leadership roles. Our monthly network meetings were attended by both students, emerging leaders as well as women who are in established leadership roles. In the second half of 2016 we expended our leadership network to Taunggyi in Eastern Myanmar were we also organised monthly meetings in collaboration with local organisation KSAN.

 

Pre-university- and Scholarship Program

In 2016 we also were able to support 5 of our students who are currently studying at different Asianuniversities. In addition, we provided coaching sessions for 12 women who are in university or busy preparing to study. We are proud to announce that one of our students Nang Si Thong graduated early 2016 with an Honours BA degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Her success and ambition to protect the rights of Myanmar migrant workers made her determined to pursue a master degree. She started an MBA in China in September of this year as she felt it was necessary to “further my education to have more understanding of business psychology, its influence and ultimately respect.”

Sep 1, 2016

Women leadership; the path to meaningful education

Class Fieldtrip
Class Fieldtrip

As part of our work in Myanmar is to get more women from ethnic areas into higher education, so that they can access leadership positions, Annelies Christiani, our longterm volunteer, went to conduct a reaseach from April till August. The reasearch focused on access for women from rural areas to higher education. These are her first findings:

A young community worker from Lashio, a town in Eastern Myanmar, tells me about her sister who will be going to the US soon to study a Master in Education Management. Four times before she applied for a scholarship, and finally the fifth time paid off. It are only those from Yangon and Mandalay - Myanmar’s main cities - who get scholarships complains the second. I am sitting in the office of a local CBO for a group interview with community workers. I have heard before during my travels around the country, how people from ethnic areas feel selection committees are largely biased in favour of students from central Myanmar, while they argue, they should get the opportunity to study abroad, because their involvement in their communities means they will be more likely to come back to Myanmar and serve their community. A few days later I sit in an interview with a lady who turns out to be the sister that finally got a scholarship to study in the US. She tells me how although she was not the only ethnic woman to get a scholarship from the American Embassy, she was the only person who had currently been living and working in an ethnic area. I learn how years of following different courses aimed at learning academic- and English skills, working for projects, joining clubs and networks mostly in Yangon finally got her to where she is now.”

These focus groups were part of a research that aimed to find out what barriers women from ethnic areas face to be able to access higher education abroad. With the help of Marjan Rens Stichting I conducted fieldwork for We women foundation. We women helps prepare aspiring women leaders from ethnic areas in Myanmar to study abroad. The outcomes of this study will help We women redesign their university preparation program in Myanmar after they moved from assisting women migrants from Myanmar to assisting women in Myanmar.

For people in Myanmar going abroad to study is not just about gaining international experience. It is essential for those who want to enjoy quality education. Myanmar’s higher education system has suffered decades of disinvestment, and the governments strategy to prevent its citizens from becoming critical citizens has led to an education system that is centred around memorising facts in order to pass exams, instead of a teaching-style that encourages students to apply, analyse and think about what they have learned. This is especially the case for women who aspire to become leaders. In a country were women are largely held back by traditional gender prescribed roles, and women have little voice in decisions-making process, women need a foreign degree not just to gain meaningful skills and knowledge, but also to be taken seriously. In addition women from ethnic areas face double challenges because of the marginalised position people from ethnic areas hold in Myanmar society.

I travelled across the country as part of a 2,5 months fieldwork period, and spoke to a wide range of actors in Yangon and in Myanmar’s major ethnic area cities. I spoke to many women ranging from young university students whose dream of once being able to study abroad seemed no more than a dream, to women who were preparing for their IELTS or TOEFL exam or those busy applying for scholarships and whose dream to study abroad seemed somewhat more reachable, to those who had already studied abroad.

The second group of interviewees were organisations who offer university preparation training, or general training that teaches students skills they would need if they would apply for a foreign university. I was also able to speak to a number of women’s organisation who could shed light on the situation of women from Myanmar’s ethnic areas.

As I found out very soon doing practise based research is not just about speaking to people and organisations to obtain data for this project. It was also about the chance to increase We women’s network. As such I also found myself giving presentations to English language students about We women’s activities and giving them tips on how to apply for scholarships. I was also able to establish many meaningful contacts with organisation and individuals who could possibly partner with We women in the future.

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