My name is Su Thet San and I’m from Myanmar. I work for Edunet, a local Community-Based Organization, which aims to promote the educational opportunities for children of poor and marginalized families. I have been working in this organization for 3 years as a facilitator of the post literacy activities in 16 religious schools in Myanmar. For me, education is the only key to open the world and create a better future for the girls from Myanmar.
Starting in my second year of undergraduate studies in social studies, I studied gender issues. Since then, I’ve been actively involved in group work, discussions and presentations. I found out that in Myanmar women have been resisting domination and struggling for their rights for a long time. In 2005, I participated in an anthropology survey in the Inlay Lake Region and I had a chance to speak with the young girls who were selling candy to earn money. They told me that they only wanted to learn to read and write and education is not a priority for them. For this reason, the rate of uneducated girls is getting higher and higher. They can’t escape the deep poverty cycle to improve their living standard. I told myself that I had to do something for young girls to be able to access education. After finishing my bachelor degree, I started working with Edunet.
My first project was the Banyan Tree Reading Center, a non-profit children library in Yangon that aims to provide community access to English and Myanmar children books and to facilitate literacy skills to encourage a love of reading and investigation among children in Yangon. In September 2010, we initiated the Reading Promotion program in order to develop school libraries and promote reading skills of the poorest children in rural areas. From 2010-11 and 2012-13, BTRC could implement their programs in 16 religious schools.
Apart from this, we have started participatory action research on child protection issues since September 2012. I’ve been doing research in rural areas documenting the livelihood of girls who are not in school . I had a chance to do field research gaining insight into the lives of twenty women in three of our project areas. From this research, I found out that many girls are not able to attend public school. They cannot afford to pay for school uniforms and others fees. Moreover, many girls of poor families face sexual abuse and family violence by their family members and neighbors. They have few job opportunities and they only receive jobs which are not desired by other educated people. The sad thing is that women and girls from these families cannot get out of the poverty cycle and they have little choice but to live with these problems.
When I found out about their situation, I thought to myself that the lack of education is contributing to deep rooted poverty and affecting the stability of the country as a whole. People who do not have good education are trapped in poverty and cannot get out of the poverty trap. It saddens me and I want to help improve their lives. That is what motivates me to work for these children.
I personally think it is important to bring the voices of the children, and especially girls, to policy makers to create opportunities to empower them—such as formal education but also through informal channels such as vocational training and basic life skills. I hope there will be more options for the children to have better lives.
I am committed to learn eagerly form this mentorship program as I would like to apply the knowledge gained from this program in order to create more opportunities for women and girls from the poor families so that they can have a better life. I am grateful to Partner Asia for giving me the opportunity to attend this mentorship program and to bring the voices of women and girls from poor families to a wider international audience. I believe that I can use the knowledge and experiences from this program to raise awareness of the situation of women and girls in Myanmar and to promote solutions that will provide better opportunities for them. All together we can make a difference in their lives.