by Mitos Urgel, WEAVE Executive Director
The month of March is indeed a very busy time at WEAVE. Every March 8 on the occasion of International Women’s Day, we commemorate and celebrate women’s achievements and milestones as well as reaffirm our commitment to continue in the promotion,protection and preservation of girls and women’s rights. Moreover, the month of March is usually set to celebrate educational achievements through various graduation events around the world, including the refugees on the Thai-Burma/Myanmar border.
WEAVE, in partnership with local refugee organizations strives to advance young girls and women’s status by providing them access to safe learning and educational spaces. During the 2011-2012 school year, WEAVE worked alongside the Women Study Program (WSP) in Karenni Site 1 to build the capacity of 25 Karenni young girls and women to learn a 10 months course on Women Issues and Development, Peace Education and Conflict Transformation and Community Development. These WSP students then extend community education and economic self-sufficiency projects to over 1,500 women in the refugee camp. Thus, WEAVE also collaborates with the Karenni Further Studies Program (KnFSP), a youth led education program in Karenni Site2 that educates over 50 refugee students for 2 years. This year, on the occasion of KnFSP’s 4th graduation, we are proud to have 18 graduates, of which 50% are young girls.
“We have many courageous and inspirational women in WSP, including Mu Reh”. According to Naw Dina, WSP Officer: “Mu Reh, Kayah by ethnicity, never gave up her dream of completing her studies one day. She persisted and continued to persevere despite her many responsibilities as a mother, wife, daughter – making a living to support her family’s needs in the refugee camp. Last year, she approached me and said that she wanted to join the 10 months WSP course. She is one of the most active students and I am impressed with her determination to learn and to work for her community”. Mu Reh is 40 years old and did not manage to continue her high school because she got married. Taking care of her children and family placed a lot of strain on her. They were in constantly hiding and running while in Kayah State due to the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese military. They settled in Karenni refugee camp1 few years back but they have to struggle had to make a living and add to the food given to them in the refugee camp. After graduation, Mu Reh will join WSP’s Women’s Livelihood Project where she will become one of the Community Development staff.
Education opportunities are very scarce in the refugee camps, especially in availing higher education. The WSP and KnFSP serves as a safe learning and educational spaces for these refugee children. Despite the limitations in the refugee camps, both programs provide spaces for the students to be exposed and prepared to various possibilities once they graduate, such as pursuing an e-distance education or serve their respective communities as teachers, medics, community workers, to mention a few.
WEAVE supports WSP and KnFSP in the development of their educational systems and processes project/organizational development. These efforts were equally complemented by the financial assistance of our supportive donors: Empower, the Emerging Markets, Refugee International Japan, Global Fund for Children and Oxfam Novib.
WSP Officer translating for the representative of the Royal Thai government|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE2VuFgaSKk
KnFSP graduation colors and symbolism|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaJNTq5ro5w
KnFSP graduation song|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMlbrcYHyiE