Fact finding trip to Burma

Two months ago, two PWU staff members went back to Burma. The reason for their trip was: to conduct trainings in the villages; to meet with the graduates from last year’s School for Pa-O Women class, along with their parents; and to observe the situation in a monastery school which the PWU supports.

As soon as they arrived, the PWU women met with former School for Pa-O Women students who are working with their communities and conducting trainings in their villages. They talked with them about what they have been doing and gave them suggestions. They also met with their families, and their parents said that they wanted their children to further study the subjects which they had studied in the School for Pa-O Women.

Then they went to observe the living conditions in the monastery. The children are living in close proximity to each other, leading to a problem with ringworm. The monks said that they need more money in order to buy medicine for the ringworm, as well as to buy more food.

Training inside Burma on violence against womenWhile the PWU representatives were there, they conducted a training on violence against women. Young high-school and university women attended the training, and enjoyed it so much that they asked for it to be conducted again at the monastery.

Conducting the training and sharing experiences with the training participants were very interesting and exciting for our representatives.  They really enjoyed the moment, and they hope to meet with these women again in the future.

Training in the Camp

The PWU staff wanted to find out about the situation in the refugee camp near Mae Hong Son. They wanted to know how the refugees were living and surviving.

When two PUW staff members tried to enter the camp, there was a checkpoint at the entrance. People who do not live in the camp can’t come into the camp unless they have a Thai ID card. Therefore, they had to walk on a small road around a mountain and go into the camp through the back way.

They discovered that life in the camp has been very difficult this year. Because of the economic crisis during the past year, there has not been enough food like rice or salt, or basic necessities like blankets. However, because of a new water tank, this year there was good fresh water.

Some people have been weaving cloth and making clothes to sell to other people in the camp and in other places like Mae Hong Son or Chiang Mai. Some people have land in the camp to grow their own vegetables or animals, such as pigs or chickens, which they can sell to merchants in town.

During the rainy season, the trees fell on many of the homes, and many people lost their homes and their livestock. The people in the camp have to stay in the camp where there are no jobs. Some families applied to go to a third country. Some people were accepted, while others were not. Unfortunately, some of the people who were not accepted had already sold their homes, furnishings and other belongings.

Without jobs, many people became depressed and started drinking a lot of alcohol. Fortunately, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) organization has come to the camp, and is counseling them and helping them to recover from their depression. In addition, the PWU is partnering with the Karenni National Women’s Organization to conduct  trainings in peace building and preventing violence against women.

Pa-O Women’s School Dormitory Sustains Flood Damage

At the time the Pa-Women’s School was constructed, there were only enough funds for a grass roof on the student dormitory. This year’s unusually wet rainy season was more than the roof could bear, resulting in considerable flood damage to the floor and support beams.

One very generous donor agreed to help fund repair costs. However, there will only be sufficient funds to bring the building back to where it was prior to the flood. Without a tin roof, which is considerably more expensive than grass, we fear that another bad flood year will take us back to square one.

If you know of any organization that would be willing to help pay for a tin roof, please send us a message on our Contact Us page. Or if you would like to help out as an individual, please see our Donors page for a link to our Pay Pal account.

Many thanks for your concern.

The School for Pa-O Women’s first graduating class is already having an impact.

The Pa-O Scool for WomenThe Pa-O School for Women graduated its first class in May, 2011. Already the women, who have returned to their villages in the Shan region of Myanmar, are having a positive impact in their communities.

Several of the women are doing training and organizing in their communities. One graduate is teaching English in her village school, and has introduced her students to human and women’s rights issues, subjects her students would never have learned before. She’s currently partnering with the Kaung Wrei Social Network, an organization that works in the villages to improve Pa-O communities.

Before the first class began, it took a lot of convincing of parents and village elders to let the young women break with tribal tradition and leave their homes to go to school. Now that the first graduates have returned to their villages, their parents are anxious for them to continue learning and village elders appreciate their contribution. This change in attitude made recruiting new students for this year’s term that much easier.

After the women have spent a year working in their villages, they will become eligible to apply for internships with the Pa-O women’s union, and to engage in advanced studies.

School for Pa-O Women

The School for Pa-O Women opened in August 2010 with twelve students. The young women, all members of the Pa-O tribe, study subjects that they would not have the opportunity to study in Burma. These include Human and Women’s Rights, Democracy, Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Burmese History and Politics, Environment, and English. Upon completion of the ten-month school year, students return to Burma to work as educators in their communities. PWU will assist them with this transition.