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Welcome all to Women Can, Women Do Blog!

Friday, June 27, 2008

In recent years there are millions of blogs, being designated to spread out information to the world. But always little information about women are raised and there are very few women blogs world-wide.

We are a group of young women from Burma who have desire to raise the voices of ethnic women from Burma and committed to spread information among us, women.


We believe......

Raising women voices, Promoting freedom of expression

Women Voices are Nation's Strength

No Women, No Peace

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

One of the Democratic Leaders of Burma

Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours,” Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of one of Burma's most cherished heroes, the martyred General Aung San, who led his country's fight for independence from Great Britain in the 1940s and was killed for his beliefs in 1947. Suu Kyi has equaled her father's heroics with her calm but passionate advocacy of freedom and democracy in the country now called Myanmar, a name chosen by one of the most insensitive and brutal military dictatorships in the world.

The ruling junta "political party" would be too generous a concession goes by the Orwellian name of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Burma, or Myanmar, has a population of 45 million and is Southeast Asia's second largest country (in area) after Indonesia.

The news event that brought Suu Kyi back into prominence in May 2002 was her release from 19 months of house arrest in her barricaded villa in Yangon, formerly Rangoon. The United Nations helped to negotiate her release this time.

There was outrage around the world in 2000 when Suu Kyi tried to leave Yangon, only to be thwarted by authorities. In August of that year Suu Kyi, her driver and 14 members of her pro-democracy party were confined in two cars on the side of the road outside of Yangon. She endured a similar roadside standoff for 13 days in 1998, during which time she suffered severe dehydration and had to be returned to her home by ambulance.

Suu Kyi (pronounced Soo Chee) was two years old when her father the de facto prime minister of newly independent Burma was assassinated. Though a Buddhist the predominant religion of Burma she was educated at Catholic schools and left for India in her mid-teens with her mother, who became the Burmese ambassador to India. Suu Kyi went to England where she studied at Oxford University. There she met Michael Aris, the Tibetan scholar whom she married. They had two sons, Alexander and Kim.

A watershed in her life was 1988, when Suu Kyi received a call from Burma that her mother had suffered a stroke and did not have long to live. Suu Kyi returned to Burma, leaving her husband and two children behind in England, having cautioned them years earlier that duty may one day call her back to her homeland.

She arrived back in Burma to nurse her mother at a time of a burgeoning pro-democracy movement, fueled by the energy and idealism among the country's young people. There were demonstrations against the repressive, one-party socialist government. Suu Kyi was drawn into the pro-democracy movement, which was snuffed out by SLORC, which seized power on September 18, 1988. Thousands of pro-democracy advocates were killed.

Next came a general election in 1990, which political parties were allowed to contest. Suu Kyi headed the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a landslide victory, with 80 per cent support. This was not be tolerated by the SLORC leaders, who refused to recognize the election results. Worse, SLORC put the elected pro-democracy leaders under house arrest, including Suu Kyi.

Despite the restrictions of house arrest, Suu Kyi continued to campaign for democracy, and for this she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

One of Suu Kyi's most dramatic speeches was in 1995, soon after she was released from nearly six years of house arrest, when she spoke to a global women's conference in Beijing. She didn't appear at the conference, but spoke to the international gathering by means of a video smuggled out of Burma. Suu Kyi always expresses herself with calm conviction and calm passion, which reflects her Buddhist upbringing. She is Gandhian in her synergistic mixture of force and restraint.

In her speech, she said, "to the best of my knowledge, no war was ever started by women. But it is women and children who have always suffered the most in situations of conflict." She mentioned "the war toys of grown men." Without specifically targeting her SLORC opponents, but her words dripping with gentle sarcasm, Suu Kyi went on to say:

"There is an outmoded Burmese proverb still recited by men, who wish to deny that women too can play a part in bringing necessary change and progress to their society: 'The dawn rises only when the rooster crows.' But Burmese people today are well aware of the scientific reason behind the rising of dawn and the falling of dusk. And the intelligent rooster surely realizes that it is because dawn comes that it crows and not the other way around.

"It crows to welcome the light that has come to relieve the darkness of night. It is not the prerogative of men alone to bring light to the world: women with their capacity for compassion and self-sacrifice, their courage and perseverance, have done much to dissipate the darkness of intolerance and hate, suffering and despair."

It was a powerful speech, subtly crafted for the targeted audience in her homeland.

In 1999, Michael Aris, was dying of prostate cancer in England, where he lived with their two sons. He had repeatedly requested permission to visit his wife one last time before he died, but the SLORC authorities denied him entry, arguing that there are no proper facilities in the country to tend to a dying man. They suggested instead that Suu Kyi visit him in England. She refused, fearing if she ever left the country she would never be allowed to return.

The day Aris died, on his 53rd birthday on March 27, 1999, Suu Kyi honoured the occasion at her home in Rangoon, with 1,000 friends and supporters, including high-ranking diplomats from Europe and the United States. As part of a ceremony, she offered food and saffron robes to 53 Buddhist monks, one for each year of her husband's life. The monks recited prayers and chanted sutras. Instead of wearing her usual bright flowers and wreathes of jasmine, Suu Kyi chose instead a traditional black lungi with a white jacket. She cried only when one of the monks reminded the audience that the essence of Buddhism is to treat suffering with equanimity.

The police did not stop the supporters from visiting Suu Kyi in her time of grief. But they took the names and addresses of all those who attended at the service to honour the husband from whom she had been separated since she left England to tend to her dying mother.

(Updated: May 6, 2002)

Author: Martin O'Malley & Owen Wood (CBC News Online)

Charm Tong, A human rights defender from Burma

How's this for an intimidating experience? You're about to address a 200-strong meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. Your topic is the long-standing campaign of terror by Burma's military regime against unarmed civilians in Shan state, the childhood home you fled. Your audience includes members of that same military regime. Also, you're 17 years old.

"My voice was shaking," says Charm Tong, now 24, and already a seasoned and celebrated campaigner for Shan State's embattled people. "But I thought, 'You have to do this. You don't get so many opportunities to tell the world.'" So she made an impassioned speech the presence of Burmese officials only emboldening her. "They were forced to listen to what I had to say," she says. Three years later, aged 20, Charm Tong set up a unique school for young Shan in northern Thailand, which is now training a new generation of human rights activists. She is also a founding member of the widely respected Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN), whose meticulous reports have documented the rape of hundreds of women and girls by Burmese soldiers.

Charm Tong's political education started early. She was born in Burma's central Shan state, home to the country's biggest ethnic minority, and where killings and mass relocations of civilians were and still are shockingly common. Charm Tong was about six when her parents sent her to a Catholic orphanage on the Thai-Burma border, where she was brought up with 30 other children by a Shan nun. She saw her parents once a year. "I cried a lot," she remembers. "I was young and didn't understand why my parents had sent me away. Now I appreciate it. They thought I'd be safe and get an education."

She was a voracious learner. Charm Tong rose just after dawn for English lessons, attended Thai high school during the day, and took Chinese classes in the evenings. Weekends were reserved for studying her mother tongue, Shan. She was also schooled in the suffering of refugees who poured across the nearby border into Thailand to escape persecution or poverty. Unlike Burma's other ethnic minorities, the Shan have no refugee status in Thailand, and therefore no official protection or support. Many risk arrest and ill-treatment as illegal manual laborers, while women are often trafficked into the sex industry.

At age 16, Charm Tong began working with human rights groups, interviewing sex workers, illegal migrants, HIV patients and rape victims. The following year, she spoke in Geneva on their behalf and still speaks, in four languages, with the poise and confidence of a mature woman.

In 2001 she set up the School for Shan State Nationalities Youth. Mostly funded by private donations, the school is located in a modest rented house in northern Thailand. Not only Shan students attend, but also Burma's other ethnic minorities, such as the Palaung, Akha and Pa-O. Due to the Shan's shadowy legal status, the school's exact location is secret. The young students, who sleep on the floor in spartan dorms, cannot leave the grounds unescorted during their nine-month term. "They're all under house arrest," jokes Charm Tong. Each year more than 150 young people apply; the school can accommodate only 24.

Survival comes first for many Shan, says Charm Tong, learning only a distant second. Even outside the conflict zones, Burma's education system is a shambles; untutored, even the brightest youths end up in menial jobs. "I was very lucky to get nine years' education," says Charm Tong, whose school is an attempt to rescue some of Burma's so-called "lost generation." Students study English and computing, and receive training in human rights action, such as how to collect testimonies and write reports, from Charm Tong and other local activists. Most of the school's 90 or so graduates now work for youth or women's organizations as teachers, human rights defenders, health workers and community radio broadcasters. "The idea is that they use their education to promote other people's rights," says Charm Tong.

When not at the school, Charm Tong lends her energy to SWAN, a small but vocal women's group whose "License To Rape" report enraged the junta. "Rape is still widespread and very systematic," says Charm Tong, who co-authored the report. "It's used to terrorize communities." Burma's generals, who dismissed the report as "fabrications," regard SWAN as an enemy of the state. Charm Tong is unfazed. "The generals are the enemy of the people," she shrugs.

So who are her own heroes? Her father, who died last year, was a commander with the Shan State Army, an insurgent group still battling Burmese government troops. Her heroine is "Teacher Mary," the Catholic nun who raised and educated her, and who gave her the strength and self-esteem she now imparts to her own students. Charm Tong is like "a candle in the darkness," says May, 19, a girl from Burma's northerly Kachin state. "She never behaves like she's superior or better. She is like our sister, and the school is our family."

Authored by Andrew Marshall. Published in Time Magazine on Monday, Oct. 03, 2005.


Naw Zipporah Sein, A Dream of a Life without War

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I grew up in Burma, so-called Myanmar, a country ruled by one of the world's cruelest and longest–lasting dictatorships. I am Karen, the second largest ethnic nationality in Burma with a population of about 8 to 10 million. Like other ethnic nationalities in Burma, the Karen have been fighting for their rights, freedom, self-determination, and democracy for more than fifty years.

The Karen live mostly in the mountainous eastern border region of Burma and the central delta areas. We are simple people, with strong families, who place a high value on hospitality and desire to live peacefully. But we have suffered systematic persecution, torture, exploitation, displacement, and death, including the death of our culture, the most vital part of our daily lives. Our Karen schools have been taken from us, controlled by force and destroyed, and we are not allowed to learn our own language in Burmese schools, because of the national policy of "Burmanisation."

The Burmese army is present throughout our land and controls our people though forced labor, forced relocation, rape, torture, killing, looting, and destruction of property. Our fields, crops, and rice barns are burned down and our villages as well. Our villagers are deliberately starved and regularly beaten, and the women raped and killed with impunity. Rape by the Burmese army, or SPDC (State Peace and Development council) officers and troops is such a popular weapon in these violent encounters that, as women, we have become the target of the war.

We Karen women have lost all our rights—the right to an education, the right to health and food, even the right to live. Our children are born under attack; small babies do not have the right to cry, because they might reveal the whereabouts of their family.

I grew up in a rural area, a war zone, and I have never felt secure. All my life I have been an internally displaced person; even now, living in a refugee camp, I still don’t feel safe. My family had to move from place to place all the time; we could not settle anywhere for more than two years .We had to keep moving until finally we got to the refugee camp on the Thai–Burma border in February 1995.

My mother was responsible for the survival of her eight children, while my father traveled in the struggle for freedom. My mother is a strong woman. She kept us alive through her knowledge of traditional herbal medicines, because we had no clinic or hospital, health workers, doctors or nurses, even medicines. We were lucky that my mother knew so much, for her skill prevented us from dying; many other children did die.

My mother always explained why we had to live a life of terror and fear. She said the day would come when" Peace and Justice" would be achieved and we would live peacefully and happily ever after. We children strongly believed this; we waited for the day when "Peace and Justice" would come to our country. And we are still longing and waiting for it.

I was born in the area of the widest and most serious armed conflicts, an area where thousands of women still suffer everyday. I was a schoolteacher in this war zone for twenty years. As a schoolteacher, what I found most difficult to talk about with my students was peace and security. It sounded unrealistic to them as well as to me, when war was all we knew. In the middle of almost every academic term, we had to close down the school when the Burmese government sent its troops to attack our areas. My schoolboys had to go to the front lines to defend the women, children, and elderly in the villages. Not only have I witnessed war against civilians, but, as a teacher, I lost many students to it.

All these years I have dreamed about a life without war, a life that would be secure and safe. I think this must be very pleasant. I have already tried to bury many wounds inside me and I now look forward only to what may happen next. It is my sincere and heartfelt wish that my people and I will be able to live a life without war, a life of peace and security. I feel we have a long way to go; peace is still a very distant dream for us.

Women’s definition of peace goes beyond the mere end of war and fighting. We want a genuine peace, a peace with justice, a peace where there is no violence or domestic violence. Even if there is no war, if there is still domestic violence, women cannot be happy with this kind of peace.

I believe that unless we can increase the participation of our women in the current political movement at the decision making level, we will not be able to contribute our best capabilities toward our peace building process. Because during all these long years of civil war, we have been vulnerable, we have suffered, and we have never been the cause of war. We women have the skills to work with men for peace and to make plans to bring it about.

I personally believe that all parties involved are responsible to bring the terror in to an end through forgiveness. I strongly support the words of Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1984, who said there can be "No future without forgiveness." Power, pride, and hatred will never create a world or a country that lives in peace and justice. We need solidarity from all our sisters in the world; we need support for our women’s efforts at co-operation, reconciliation, and peace building.

Naw Zipporah Sein has lived in a Thai refugee camp since 1995, where she now works for the Karen Women's Organization as General Secretary.

Women's World - June 11, 2003