Written by Zunetta Herbert
Partners Asia Senior Advisor
For many years Partners Asia has supported organizations quietly working to give women and girls education and other opportunities to break out of the cycle of poverty and isolation into which they were born. These organizations, often run by women or including many women in the staff, worked with quiet determination, and did not call themselves feminists, or women activists, but were working with the communities, leading by example and alert to the needs and challenges in their communities. (1)
As the political space in Myanmar continues to grow, groups like this are now joining up with their sister organizations that have for many years campaigned for ethnic and women’s rights from bases across the border in Thailand and India. In June 2014, some of them traveled to London to join the voices of millions of women around the world in the movement to end to sexual violence during conflict. (2)
Partners Asia fully supports the view of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) that supporting local women, including the rehabilitation and care of victims, in order to amplify their voices is essential. (3) We also share the WLB concern that as ever larger and more top-down aid programs get off the ground in Myanmar, these voices will be drowned out. And we have the privilege of working with donors who also understand this.
Having worked with Foundation for A Just Society (FJS) for the past two years, we are proud to have been awarded a second grant. This new grant will include funding for a new staff person in Yangon who will direct this new program. This new staff person will work with all existing partners to assess and improve their gender awareness and biases. Seeking out new grantees that are working to directly impact the lives of marginalized women, as well as lesbian, gay and transgender groups. Two new grantees that are benefiting from this funding are Women for the World and Rays of Rainbow, an LGBT group working in Myanmar’s southern-most town, Kawthaung. Support from FJS also brings with it their immense network of women’s rights organizations, and opportunities for increased regional linkages for Myanmar groups.