To mark International Women’s Day 2018, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the fourth in our “Press for Progress” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
This is an important day for me, my first time to celebrate International Women’s Day in Myanmar since I came in June 2017. I have been in development work for more than 25 years and been working on women-focused development projects in different countries – from Philippines, Bosnia, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ghana and now here in Myanmar.
I am so blessed that through my work, I have seen women’s challenges in different forms and cultures. Just like men, women will always be women and their needs will always be the same as a wife, mother, daughter in their families, at work and in their community. There are differences in the way they look and dress but they will always be the same.
I am so inspired and motivated to be working with another women-focused project in Myanmar - Improving Marking Opportunities for Women (IMOW). The project is being supported by the Canadian government through Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and our private supporters. We are implementing this project in Kayin and Southern Shan States.
Just like the previous MEDA projects that I have implemented in Afghanistan and Ghana, this project supports women to form groups so they can get support from other women within their group, teach the value of savings so they can have money to invest in farming, and provide technical support in agriculture and marketing.
The project wants to provide these opportunities to women so they can support their husbands in their family affairs and contribute to decision making. The project support is focused on women so they will get enough confidence to contribute to the local economy. The project also wants the help the private sector to be woman-sensitive, thinking of what products will be helpful to women and how they can access them. Can you just imagine how progressive our communities will be if both men and women are engaged in economic activities – from production, marketing and accessing products and services? I want to wake up one day seeing this realized in the communities we have supported.
Being in Myanmar is a dream come true for me! I am nearer now to home and being Asian, I feel like I am just one of them. Having been in more conservative and challenging countries, I thought Myanmar would be an easier place for me to reach out to women. Being here only for a short time so far, I realized that what the women lack here is access to information. They do things from what they see and hear from their families and neighbours. Even the men that we work with – our colleagues and partners - didn’t have enough information to convince them that we can implement such a project until they heard my stories of the work we did in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ghana. There, we showed that if women are provided with opportunities and linked to the markets, they can be active participants in the market systems.
We still have many things to do here. But I am hopeful that this will be happening soon in Myanmar. We really need to bring and #pressforprogress through our women. Happy International Women’s Day!
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