KWO Message on Karen’s Whist Tying Day Celebration in Karen Language
KWO is pleased to provide our 2011/12-update report including programs currently running in the community, challenges and successes, financial reports, KWO special activities and a Call to Action. One thing that remains true throughout KWO’s 28 years of service is our commitment to the Empowerment, Equality, and Freedom of all Karen women. Thank you to KWO staff, leaders, members, volunteers, community members, partner organizations and funders who help make KWO successful!
Goal: to encourage women of different backgrounds to share their concerns and exchange information and ideas.
About the Project:
The Women s Exchange with MAP started in 2001 and many women took part in a number of sites along the border area. Now, KWO runs regular Women’s Exchange meetings in Mae La Oo and Mae Ra Moe camps.
The meetings involve women from different ethnic and religious groups, to encourage open dialogue and cooperation. Participants have included Burmese women from the Burmese Women s Union (from Mae La Oo camp) and Karen women from KWO and KYO. They also included individuals representing NGOs and other CBOs.
The KWO Women s Exchange program is run in conjunction with the BWU. The monthly meetings were hosted by each organisation on an alternating basis and took place one month in Ma Ra Mo and the next month in Mae La Oon. At the meetings, the women exchanged information about their communities, raised concerns about issues in their sections in camp and shared information about their respective organisations.
The women also discussed specific topics identified at previous meetings like:
- young people and development
- young people and health education
- women s health
- women s vocational skills for income generation
- personal care & hygiene
- exploitation and human trafficking
KWO’s advocacy team raises awareness of the human rights violations of women and children in Karen State, and promotes action to bring about peaceful and democratic reform in Burma. KWO takes every opportunity to advocate for women’s rights in Burma by working with Burma’s democracy groups, attending workshops and consulting with regional and international actors. This involves numerous international and regional advocacy trips, meetings and media appearances. Our preferred method of advocacy is to join with other organisations in order to more effectively represent the situation in context, and as a whole. Therefore, our presentations are usually made in conjunction with other organisations and necessarily merged their perspective with ours. We feel that by operating in conjunction with these other groups we are gathering strength through unity, and have a higher chance of bringing change to Burma.
International and Regional Advocacy Trips: At an international level, we have met with various sectors of the United Nations, including the Human Rights Council and the Commission on the Status of Women. We also travelled to New York on a trip organized by the Burma Fund- UN office, which is under the National Coalition of the Union of Burma. On this occasion we spoke at the UN General Assembly, and met with 15 States’ representatives to the UN, for the purpose of persuading the UN to adopt the Commission of Inquiry (COI) as a UNGA resolution. As well as making presentations to the UN, we did further advocacy work at an international level. We have travelled to Canada to meet with the Canadian government representative for Cross Border Humanitarian Assistance in eastern Burma. We also travelled to Australia to engage in advocacy work and participate in a Diplomacy Training Program workshop with representatives from the Australian government, NGOs and resettled Karen groups.
In conjunction with the Burma Civil Society Group in Exile, KWO travelled to Phuket for an ASEAN Human Rights Body consultation, and spoke at a parallel panel while the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting was held Later in that same year, together with members of the Democracy Movement in Exile, KWO also travelled to Jakarta for the launch of A Proposal for National Reconciliation. Together with other allies, KWO attended a meeting with the Bangkok-based embassies, to whom we presented the situation in ethnic areas.
After the 2010 elections and the resulting influx of refugees, KWO took part in meetings with the Thai National Human Rights Council regarding the forced repatriation of refugees, to present alternative forms of action, and to advocate on behalf of the people. As a result of this, a representative of the TNHRC visited the border and other affected areas to further investigate the human consequences that such forced repatriation would have.
Networking with Women’s Groups: As part of our networking with women’s groups, both regional and international, we met in 2009 with the US Ambassador-at- large for Gender Issues, Melanne Verveer. In 2010 we travelled to New York for the International Women’s Tribunal on Crimes Against Women of Burma, where KWO’s advocate presented testimony on behalf of a KWO member who could not get a visa in time. This was organized by the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) together with the Nobel Women Initiative (NWI). We met with the UN Special Reporter on Violence Against Women for the purpose of discussing violence against women in Burma and within the refugee camps.
Although clinics are available in all the refugee camps, many women prefer the comfort of a home birth. Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) assist with these births to ensure that the mother and child are safe. KWO encourages and advocates for TBAs in all 7 Karen camps and throughout Karen State. In Mae La Oon and Mae Ra Moe camps, KWO also provides direct material assistance and training to practising TBAs. Newly arrived TBAs from Karen State were given training as necessary to familiarise them with the use of all hygiene items.
TBA Committees: KWO helped to establish and organise regular meetings of TBA Committees in the two camps. The committees consisted of a TBA representative from each section. They met regularly to organise training, share information, solve problems and advocate for their role in the community.
Health awareness sessions: The project staff, collaborating with KWO, TBAs, TBA trainers and other health agency staff, ran health awareness sessions for women in the community. In 2009 – 2010, these were run once every two months throughout all sections in both camps (total 66 sessions) so as to reach the maximum number of women.
Record Keeping: In 2009 – 2010, KWO encouraged and assisted TBAs to increase record keeping of TBA assisted births in the camps.
Do the Kits help?
Naw Noe Noe, mother of three daughters and 2 two sons said:
“After I delivered my baby, I got a Baby Kit and it was invaluable for me and my child. The Baby Kit fulfilled my needs and really helped my family. In the past I never saw this kind of Kit. It contained many items and even included candles. I was so delighted and I even cried when I saw the Kits because I was so happy. I would like to thank everyone for providing us with a Baby Kit and hope that this process will continue in the future.”
Naw Hsa Wah, mother of three daughters and three sons said:
“I was given a Baby Kit after delivering my child. I was very pleased because the kit was very valuable to me. In the past I never cleaned my babies with soap after they were born. I cleaned them with leaves that I found in the forest that had foam which I used as soap. This is my first time I have been able to clean my baby with soap. I can see my baby is healthy. I really appreciate receiving the Kit and I would like to thank everyone for their kind support and I hope the project will continue in the future to help other mothers and babies too.”
Goal: To improve the health and wellbeing of mothers and newborn babies in Karen State KWO has supplied new mothers and babies with baby kits that comprise basic material needs for the mother and child within the first few months after birth. KWO also provides them with information on family and reproductive health issues.
In IDP areas: The Baby Kit project started being implemented in Karen State in June 2009. It is now in 6 districts: Mu Traw, Kler Lwee Htu, Du Ther Tu, Pa’an, Du Pla Ya and Tavoy. In IDP areas, the Baby Kits contain: 3 cotton nappies, 2 long bars of laundry soap,1 sarong, 2 bars of body soap, a health message pamphlet. For IDP areas, the district KWO staff source the materials and organise the kits themselves from local suppliers.
In Ei Tu Hta camp: The Baby Kit Project restarted in November 2010 after a period of suspension. The Baby Kits contain: 6 nappies, 5 kilos of laundry powder, 2 sets of baby clothes,1 sarong,4 bars of baby body soap, 5 bars of body soap for mothers, nail clippers, 12 packs of candles, a health message pamphlet.