The Karen Women Organisation was formed in 1949 and has a membership of over 64,100 women. KWO is a community-based organisation of Karen women working in development and relief in the refugee camps on the Thai border and with IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and women inside Burma. Since our formation in 1949 we have expanded our focus from one of purely social welfare to try to encourage an awareness of Women's Rights and to promote women’s participation in the community decision making and political processes.
The objectives of the KWO
To assist women in the endeavour to be free from all forms of oppression.
To promote and empower women in all spheres of life, including education and general living standards.
To encourage women to participate in the struggle for freedom, democracy and equality.
To develop women's knowledge, ability and skills, including political and organizational skills.
To achieve the rights of women and equal status with men.
To promote and maintain Karen culture and traditions.
To improve the well-being of women and children and to increase their access to adequate health, education and welfare services.
KWO aims to empower women through offering various capacity building trainings to teach skills, build confidence and create new opportunities so that women will be better able to solve problems. We are working hard to educate ourselves and our communities so that we can work more effectively and advocate for our struggle on the international stage.
We believe that women’s contribution is an essential factor in the peace-building and national reconciliation processes of Burma.
Statement in Support of the Karenni Students’ Protest Against Burmanization
12th February 2019
The Karen Women’s Organization calls on the NLD Government and the Burmese military-run police to show respect both for indigenous history and for peaceful protest. We believe that before we can have true peace in our beloved land we must have mutual respect for our differences and for those things that hold us together.
The Karenni youth have taken a courageous stand against the placement of General Aung San’s statue in the Karenni capital, Loikaw. We as fellow indigenous women understand that Burmese ethnic people hold the General as a hero of their people and the father of their independence. This is not how the indigenous people of Burma view him. He was a General in the Burmese Army. The same Army that attacks civilians, uses rape as a weapon of war and burns villages. The same Army that has forced millions to flee our homeland over the past 70 years. The same Army that causes many of our people to live in poverty and in refugee camps.
We have our own heroes who we would like to see in bronze in the center of our towns. We have been prohibited from honoring them in this way. We cannot have a country that continues to hold one ethnic group above all others, only honoring their history while suppressing ours. We need to respect each other every day. The Karenni youth have shown how divisive the aggressive actions of the NLD government and military are. They are not the first to object to honoring General Aung San in ethnic areas within Burma. There was the protest against naming a bridge in honor of the General. There have been objections raised to put up statues in other areas. It is time for the Burmanization of our country to end. We have many indigenous groups who have a right to a voice and have heroes worth honoring. We want peace to move forward not provocation by those who want to hold us back or make us disappear.
We call on the police to stop interfering with violence against peaceful protest. There have been 55 youth and students arrested and charged in the past 8 months for speaking their truth. They should be granted this basic right of assembly and protest. They face the prospect of long sentences and large fines. All charges should be dropped immediately.
We call on the NLD to listen to the local voices and remove the statues of General Aung San from ethnic areas. The NLD and the Burmese Military should act in the spirit of the Panglong Agreement General Aung San entered into. It promised autonomy for ethnic people in a federal democracy. The best way to honor him today is to grant those rights to the indigenous people of Burma. It is time to recognize the strength in our diversity and the wonderful country that diversity could build if we treated each other with basic human dignity.
We want peace to move forward. These actions would be an olive branch to the indigenous people of Burma.
For more information please contact the Karen Women’s Organization at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The IDPs return home with dignity and safety? “We do not dare to go back because of the landmines that are planted in the fields where we make our living. If we go back, we could lose our limbs at any moment.” Currently, the Burma Army’s operations in Mutraw District violates the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and has recently displaced more than 2,000 villagers from their homes. These displaced villagers, feel unsafe, have received threats, concerns and repression to return to their abandoned villages. They feel there is no guarantee for their safety and security and many political problems are unresolved. The displaced Karen people in Ei Tu Hta IDP camp are now facing a massive humanitarian crisis.
Please watch this video produced by KWO and Karen News about the current crisis
KWO sends our heartfelt condolences to the remaining members of Saw O Moo’s family in this very sad time after he was killed by Burma Army soldiers last month.
In his honor, we want to share his life story and achievements with our friends and colleagues all over the world. That we may learn from him and his desire to see real peace in our land.
We feel enormous gratitude to him for his work as a defender of Human Rights and Indigenous Rights, and as a protector of the environment and the Karen way of life.
Saw O Moo, you are not with us anymore but your work will be in our hearts forever. You will be always remembered as a Karen indigenous rights defender and we offer hope that your soul may rest in peace. We make a promise to you to carry on your work in defense of our lands, our identity, and our freedom.
On March 4th, the Burma Army began the largest and most coordinated deployment of troops into Karen State’s Mutraw (Hpapun) district since 2008, breaching the terms of the NCA and provoking multiple clashes with the Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA)5th Brigade. Burma Army soldiers have indiscriminately targeted civilians while more than 2,400 villagers have been forced to flee their land and homes. The majority of those displaced by the Burma Army’s current operations had only recently returned to rebuild their villages, farms, and livelihoods following decades attacks by the Burma Army and displacement in the area.
The KNU and Burma Army are both signatories to the 2015 NCA, which prohibits the expansion of military infrastructure and troop reinforcements in ceasefire areas. However, since March 4th, at least eight Burma Army battalionshave entered Luthaw, without the required prior agreement from the KNLA, and begun constructing a military operations road to connect their military bases. If the road is built, Indigenous Karen villagers may be permanently displaced from their homes and ancestral village territories.
On the occasion of KWO’s 33rd anniversary, April 5, 2018, we celebrate our successes while also looking at our challenges ahead and how to overcome them. KWO will have it’s largest celebration of the anniversary in the Taw Oo District of Karen State led by the KWO Central leadership. The celebration includes a sport competition, a concert showing Karen culture, songs, and dancing. KWO will also present information on KWO’s work, the peace process and gender equality. KWO will particularly honor KWO leaders and staff who have worked full time for 10 years, 15 years, 20 years and 25 years respectively. KWO is the strong vibrant organization we have become because of their commitment and hard work.
It is our honor to recognize Nan Paw Gay as well for her leadership and contribution to our community and to Burma. She is a member of the KWO Standing Committee and has worked in community media. Due to her talent and hard work she rose to Chief Editor of the Karen Information Center in 2008. She was also Burma News International (BNI) Executive Director.
Additionally, we honor a KWO young leader, Naw Hser Hser, a KWO Standing Committee member and Joint General Secretary of the Women’s League of Burma. Naw Hser Hser won the P’doh Mahn Sha Young Leadership Award this year which she will receive on KWO day. KWO congratulates Naw Hser Hser on her award. Naw Hser Hser is a role model for younger women in our community through her hard work for KWO, the Karen community, and the entire ethnic community in Burma.
Both these women show the strength, vision, and hard work of Karen women and inspire all of us through their work.
In addition to all these women we also want to recognize the 80 Traditional Birth Attendants who work with KWO for their incredible contribution to the health and well being of women and children in our community.
KWO will honor 151 women and 2 men today for their positive contribution the Karen community. The list of those being recognized follows:
Women’s Champion in Social Work: Nan Paw Gay, Chief Editor of Karen Information Center and Executive Director of Burma News International
Women with over 25 years of service: P’doh Myaing Poe, P’doh Paw Day Toe, Tharmu Shwe Paw, Thramu Baw Nyaw, P’doh Naw Dah Dah, and Naw Khin Yin
Women with over 10 years of service: 31 women
Women with over 15 years of service: 30 women
Women with over 5 years of service: 5 women
Traditional Birth Attendants: 80 people (78 women and 2 men)
KWO is excited to announce the formation of a new a new “Karen Grassroots Women’s Network” which will strengthen the voice of Karen women in advocacy efforts. KWO gathered women from a wide variety of Karen civil society organisations for the third Karen Women’s Seminar at the end of March 2018.
The women discussed issues for two days and decided to form the new Grassroots Women’s Network. At the conclusion of the seminar the attendees jointly endorsed the following resolutions:
We call on the Burma Army to stop their military operations in all ethnic areas.
We want the 2008 constitution to be abolished and call on the Burma Government to begin a process whereby a genuine federal constitution can be drawn up.
We also call on all stakeholders to stop mega development projects in all ethnic areas until there is genuine peace and a political settlement.
There must be no forced repatriation of refugees.
We also call on the international community and donors to continue to support
humanitarian aid to refugees and IDPs according to international standards until peace is restored in the country
KWO was awarded a Women of Change award by the United States Embassy in Rangoon. The Women of Change Award is a U.S.Embassy initiative “to recognize Myanmar women who have made significant and lasting contributions to their communities…”
On the 23rd of November, KWO members and leaders were excited to launch our 16 day International Days for the Elimination of Violence against Women Campaign. The KWO campaign focus this year, is “Stop Domestic Violence Against Women and Children”. We will have activities in 7 Karen Refugees Camps and 7 districts in Karen State for members of our community to participate in. Below are photos from the launch.