“Advocacy is not confrontational but collaborative. Advocacy work includes many activities such as research, analyzing root causes, mobilization, educating, networking and lobbying. Understanding politics and power is an integral part of advocacy.”
This is what I learned from Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program in Ottawa. Although Nobel Women’s Initiatives calls it a Mentorship Program, I felt it was more of an intensive course, plus an internship. During the six weeks, we were taught many concepts and Nobel Women’s Initiative created a space for us to practice the skills and theories we learned.
Nobel Women’s Initiative also arranged several meetings with decision makers including a Senator, Ambassadors and activists. I really appreciated this experience — it inspired me. During almost every meeting, officials were interested in the armed and communal conflicts happening in ethnic areas in Burma. Right now their focus is on ethnic areas and conflict areas in Burma, as these areas are less developed in comparison to Central Burma. But everyone was surprised when I told them that there are no women’s rights groups in Central Burma—while there are so many women groups in ethnic areas along the border. It was then that I realized that the voices of women, students and activists from Central Burma need to be amplified more in order for the international community to hear them.
People from central Burma are Burmese, they are the majority, yet they also do not have opportunities to get information or education. They are like a frog in a small well. They do not know about human rights, equality and freedom. This situation led people to be ultranationalist and led the community to be a strong patriarchy. This is what led to the communal conflict between the Buddhists and Muslims in 2012.
I joined the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship program in Ottawa because I wanted to learn how to advocate for the local community in Burma. Nobel Women’s Initiative gave us so many advocacy strategies and tips. Aside from this, another lesson I gained through several meetings and panel discussions in Ottawa is what information I need to pass to the international community. I learned what information the international community is missing. This is an added bonus for me from this program. Another added bonus is networking. I gained a broad international network with other INGOs, the European Union, Embassies, Ministries and activists. I really thank Nobel Women’s Initiative for all these experiences and skills.
For sure, the skills and knowledge I learned in Ottawa will be very helpful when amplifying the missing information about women from Central Burma.
Htet Htet joined us in Ottawa for the 2015 Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. She completed six weeks of communications and advocacy training alongside two young women activists from South Sudan and Honduras. Htet Htet is now continuing her work to defend women’s rights in Burma.