Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been closed to the outside world for many years, but now is beginning to open its doors. Democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is this countryâ€™s most famous woman leader, yet there are other courageous women like her, following in her footsteps. Many women in this part of the world have spent years stifled under a military regime, where they have been trapped in traditional roles, with little access to education, limiting their freedom.
TheÂ We Women foundationÂ that provides educational opportunities to Burmese women from marginalised communities is empowering these upcoming women leaders through a documentary,Â Emerging Women in Burma. The film highlights the difficulties these female leaders face, how they have overcome obstacles to access education, developed a career, have given back to the community and become part of the decision making process in Burmaâ€™s politics. The film follows women who at the risk of their own personal safety are pioneering work on major social issues within their communities.
Some of the inspiring stories include:Â Nang Wah Nu, Member of Parliament, who overcame the opposition of her mother and husband to enter politics and is one of the few women from minority ethnic background to be elected.Â Kay Thi Win, Founder of Aids Myanmar, who supports the health and human rights of sex workers, a highly stigmatised group in a harsh political environment.Â Mary Tawm, Founder of Life Vision Foundation, who has conducted extensive reporting and advocacy on the impacts of gold-mining by Chinese and domestic companies. Mary is a spokesperson for Kachin people, human-rights abuses, the plight of internally-displaced persons and refugees.
Over 50 years of military dictatorship in Burma has meant a once strong education system falling into ruin. In the cities and in rural areas, parents keep their boys in school, taking the girls out, especially if income is limited. Additionally, women have to gain higher marks than men to be offered a place for further education and even then, are not able to choose their area of study. Women from ethnic minorities in rural areas have even less chance to study further, as ethnicity affects their opportunities to go to university. Most women from Burma want to take part in the struggle to bring about positive change for their people. However, they feel that without an education they are pushed back into traditional roles that do not allow them the freedom to participate.
Recent reports from the World Bank and the World Economic Forum point to the key economic role played byÂ womenÂ as they become more productive through education. As the more educated women are, the more they contribute to the economy and eventually will improve the well-being of their households and communities.Â Burma needs to support womenÂ who want to gain an education. It will mean there will be more chances for women to play a part in the changes taking place and to have a voice . . . to be heard.
Photo Credit:Â We women foundation
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