About SWAN

Mission Statement
We commit ourselves to work for gender equality and justice for Shan women in the struggle for social and political change in Burma through community-based actions, research and advocacy.

What is SWAN?

SWAN is a network of Shan women active in Shan State and Thailand. It was founded on 28 March 1999. Its mission is to work on gender equality and justice for Shan women in the struggle for social and political change in Burma through community based actions, research and advocacy.

SWAN is a founding member of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), an umbrella women’s organization comprising 13 women’s groups from Burma.

SWAN's objectives:

  • Promoting women’s rights and the rights of children;
  • Opposing exploitation of and violence against women and children;
  • Working together for peace and freedom
  • Empowering women for a better life;
  • Raising awareness to preserve natural resources and the environment.

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Background of SWAN
SWAN was set up on 28 March 1999 by a group of Shan women active in Thailand, inside Shan State and along the Thai- Burma border seeking to address the needs of Shan women. In fact, before the formation of SWAN, Shan women in various locations had already been active in a number of projects to assist women. Even though informal networks were in place, it was felt that more could be achieved, in addressing both practical and strategic needs of Shan women, if a more concrete network among the various women could be formed.

This Shan women's network would also be able to coordinate with other women's organizations from Burma, as well as GOs and NGOs working with women locally, nationally and internationally.

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General Background
The Shan State is over 64,000 square kilometers in size and forms the eastern part of the Union of Burma bordering China, Laos and Thailand. The people of the Shan State, like in other areas of Burma, suffer from abuse inflicted by the Burmese military regime, which according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Asia is amongst the worst in the world. Many people have fled for their lives to Thailand.

The Thai government, however, does not recognize the Shan people as refugees and unlike the Karen and Karenni refugees, has not allowed them to set up refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. Consequently the Shans are forced to enter Thailand's unskilled labour market as migrant workers doing 3 D jobs – Dirty, Difficult and Dangerous  for their own survuival as well as to support their family members, from very young to very old. Many lack  legal status in Thailand, and are thus extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Despite this, Shan people are still coming to take refuge in Thailand to escape the regime's systematic human rights abuses and repressive policies towards the people in Shan State.  There are estimated to be hundreds of thousands of Shan refugees working as migrant workers throughout Thailand, particularly in the north.

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SWAN’s Structure 

Nature of SWAN

  • independent
  • feminist
  • community-based
  • team-based
  • non-profit
  • non- governmental

Criteria for  SWAN members

  • Shan women
  • Independent with no influence by any individuals or organizations.
  • Interest in human rights or women human rights work or in development work
  • Willing  to support the aims of SWAN and human rights principles in general
  • Willing to commit time