The Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) was formed in 1949 and re-organised in 1985. Currently KWO has a membership of more than 60,000 women living in Karen State, Burma and in refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. KWO is a leading indigenous women’s organization working towards cultural preservation and protection, and our programs directly serve women, girls, children, and the most vulnerable people in our community. We promote women’s leadership, gender sensitivity, and community ownership in all aspects of our work. KWO is active in four main sectors: Organising and Information Sharing Program, Education Program, Health Program and Social Welfare Program.
Our work focuses on four program areas:
Organizing and Information Program: KWO does a wide variety of information gathering and sharing, advocacy, women’s empowerment, and community mobilization. We conduct activities about women’s rights and peace building in the camps and in Karen State and advocate on behalf of vulnerable groups in the community.
Education Program: KWO runs short-term training and longer-term education projects designed to afford better opportunities for Karen women and children and assist them in realizing their full potential. Projects include education opportunities for children with special needs, nursery schools, support for unaccompanied children, expanding the capacity of our leaders and staff, and leadership training programs for future young women leaders.
Health Program: KWO provides assistance where it recognizes gaps in existing healthcare services in the camps and IDP areas. Karen women in IDP areas have little to no access to healthcare, and the maternal and infant mortality rate there is one of the highest in the world today. KWO collaborates with community-based health agencies to support local health workers and gives material assistance to new mothers in those areas, by providing them with Baby Kits. We support traditional birth attendants in some of the refugee camps to assist women with safe home births. KWO advocates on a variety of issues surrounding women’s, maternal, and child health with health agencies working both in IDP areas and in the camps. KWO raises awareness about a range of health issues for the better health of the whole community.
Social Welfare Program: KWO provides direct assistance to community members and works to solve social problems in the community. We run safe houses, provide counseling and practical assistance for women and girls who have suffered sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and support them through the justice systems. We provide care to the elderly, sick, or families in trouble. We arrange activities and ceremonies to maintain traditional Karen culture and identity. We coordinate an income generation project, supporting women through the sale of traditional Karen handicrafts and goods from small shops in our Resource Centres.