Education Program

  • In 2016, operating 9 schools (six schools providing basic literacy skills and 3 nurseries) with the collaboration of the Shan community along the Thai-Shan border; including providing teachers’ salaries
  • Provided 163 scholarships in the 2015-16 school year for children and youths to attend secondary schools and universities in Thailand
  • Assistance targeted towards the education of children whose lives have been directly affected by HIV/AIDS by either having parents with the infection, or being infected themselves
  • Creating and distributing Shan language text books to refugee and displaced children
  • Organising professional development training and networking meetings for our teachers
  • Holding annual Shan Summer Literacy Classes: language and culture for children, increasing cultural connections, building social capital
  • Operating 3 boarding houses on both sides of the border to facilitate the children of parents made single by war, illness or domestic violence to attend school so the parent can work, and return home in the holidays: we feed the children, clothe and house, provide them with everything they need for school and their personal lives, and their transport. This is also where we provide support to a small number of legitimate orphans to ensure they remain in the education system and are not exploited or homeless.
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Shan refugees fleeing from civil war and ongoing human rights abuses are not recognised as “refugees” in Thailand. They are thus being denied safe refuge and assistance from international aid agencies. Most vulnerable in this situation are the children. As their parents are forced to find work as migrant labourers, often illegally, many of the children end up receiving no schooling whatsoever.

Technically, all children in Thailand have the right to attend Thai schools. However, there are many difficulties people from Shan State are experiencing when trying to access them. Parents doing the “3Ds” jobs (Dirty, Difficult and Dangerous) are paid so little that sending children to Thai schools is beyond their means. Parents are often on the move due to the irregularity of work. Also, having illegal status, and confined to the workplace, parents are afraid to leave their work-sites to arrange schooling, fearing arrest. Even if children manage to attend schools, there is a risk to young girls whilst travelling to and from school of being abducted and trafficked. In addition to all these factors, Thai schools teach in Thai only, which Shan children usually do not speak. The Shan refugee community has strongly expressed wishes to preserve their language and identity for when all Shan people return home to Shan State once peace and justice has been achieved. In response to this, the Shan community along the Thai-Shan State border originally organised basic literacy classes to meet the needs of displaced children. SWAN has since set up educational programs to strengthen the capacity of existing informal educational activities and in partnership with communities there. We employ Thai schooling curriculum and have become part of the Thai education system for recognised accreditation for our students.

Up until the end of 2015, SWAN’s Education Program also extended into Shan State however these 2 nursery schools are no longer able to be budgeted for until. This is a loss for these students and their families and we would like very much to rectify this but it is a matter of funding. Our data shows that when a child attends nursery school they are much more likely to continue on past primary school and gain at least a partial secondary education. For this reason we are committed to re-opening theses schools if we can secure a funding partnership which will allow us to do so.

We also aspire to expand SWAN’s scholarship program. In the last school year we have aided 163 enrolments at the secondary and university level for students in extenuating circumstances, including those from families affected by HIV/AIDS; but there are more than we can currently help. SWAN’s Education Program scholarships are currently more limited than we intend; we seek more funding to ensure that all young people from Shan State can access secondary and higher education to fulfil their potential, regardless of their families’ means.

Income Generation Program


  • Selling paper dolls
  • Making conference bags to order
  • Producing traditional Shan fabrics and garment

Information & Documentation Department

  • Production of Shan and English magazines, booklets, posters and leaflets on gender issues and human rights
  • Documentation of violence against women
  • Publication of reports on the situation of women inside Shan State and Thailand
  • “Girl’s Power” Radio
  • Audio-video production
  • Website in four languages ( English, Thai, Burmese & Shan)

The Information and Documentation Department oversees all of SWAN’s media output including website, social media, community radio, magazines and film productions, and works to document cases of human rights abuses and violence against women. ID also documents all SWAN meetings and maintains all photo and film archives. When called upon by our other departments, programs and projects, or for a campaign, ID will also make posters and leaflets; these have tended to all be on gender issues and human rights.

Within Burma, there is limited access to news and internet, particularly in rural areas, so printed media is still very much needed. Our magazines are important to people living both in Thailand and those still in Burma; be it in their own communities or having already fled into Internally Displaced Peoples’ (IDP) Camps. In 2015, we began to write our magazines in Burmese; this is due to the Shan written language having been suppressed and many Shan people being educated to read and write only in Burmese. We will continue however to provide 3-4 magazines per year in Shan language while our Education Department ensures they work with thousands of children per year in Shan language skills in the Shan Summer Literacy Courses, and our Women’s Empowerment Program  provide Shan women with Literacy Training.

Due to the lack of communication infrastructure in Shan State, daily radio remains the favoured platform for news and information. SWAN’s radio program, “Heng Jai Ying” (which translates from Shan as Girl’s Power) takes women’s rights and issues as its focus, ensuring women’s voices are heard through this important medium. There are three stations that Girl's Power radio program can be heard on. Live-streaming on two websites, four days per week ensures that people that live around the world but come originally from Shan State can hear issues from the ground and link with others listening to and discussing women’s issues. We are currently working on broadening our geographical range by organising a partnership that would see Girl’s Power being played on radios much further into Shan State than the border areas and expect this to be operational by the end of 2016. Girl’s Power Radio can be heard online four days per week, and listeners are encouraged to phone-in during broadcasting. Tune in each Monday and Tuesday 13:00pm – 14:00pm, Bangkok time, to, and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 13:00pm – 15:00pm to

ID’s latest audio-video production was made in response to continuous requests from women in Shan State to provide drug education to local people in an accessible format. Our Documentary, 'Its Time To Shatter The Silence' was launched at SWAN's 16th Anniversary and Annual General Meeting in May, 2015. It covers the widespread misuse of opium, heroin and methamphetamines, and how husband’s addictions’ or those of another close family member can overburden women further, and emotionally and financially affect whole families. It also highlights how Shan children and youths are at a heightened risk due to exposure to such widespread addiction. It follows that the work of SWAN’s programs is having an impact by both maintaining Shan culture, and providing education and capacity building. SWAN’s Information and Documentation Department is currently working on our 2016 production: an education video about both males and females being involved in family planning and keeping girls and young women engaged in their education.

To see more and follow the work of the ID Department visit our Facebook community ‘Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN)’, follow us on Twitter @Shanwomen, and subscribe to our Youtube channel ‘Swan Kenneri' to see older video productions made by the ID Department.

Women's Empowerment Program

  • Offering internship programs for Shan women to build their capacity levels to run community-based programs along the border, inside Shan State and in other areas of Burma also; 60 interns have graduated since program began in 1999
  • Organising and supporting Women’s Exchange Meetings at numerous locations on the Thai-Shan border and inside Shan State
  • Building the capacity of women in political parties and in civil society organisations from different parts of Shan State; particularly on gender issues, women’s rights, leadership skills, community mobilisation, and political science in our Emerging Women’s Leadership Training
  • Running 3 month-long training for aspiring young leaders: Young Women’s Leadership Training
  • Hosting events to keep women’s issues, gender equality and justice on the agenda at the community, regional, national levels: International Women’s Day, International Day of Elimination of Stop Violence against Women, etc.

 IMG 3811

SWAN’s Women’s Empowerment Program seeks to challenge and disrupt entrenched patriarchal systems. Women participants in SWAN’s empowerment activities gain the tools and confidence to seek decision-making positions and have their voices heard. WEP reaches thousands of women, young and old, each year by running a number of activities designed to give women the tools and confidence to empower themselves to seek decision-making positions and have their voices heard. This program relies on the outstanding work of our dedicated team of community focal points, who implemented activities all over Shan State, as well as in Sagaing and Mandalay Divisions. SWAN’s staff members and focal points work in communities where gender inequality is often deeply entrenched. It is challenging to shift long-held views about women and their role in society, and often, SWAN members face resistance, particularly from male community leaders.

Internship Program

In order to fulfil the need for capacity development of women to run SWAN's programs along the border and inside Shan State, SWAN started an internship program in 1999. Since inception until 2016, 60 young women have been or are currently in the process of being trained as interns with SWAN in our offices in Chiang Mai and now also in our communication centre in Taunggyi. Most of the internship graduates are now working full-time at SWAN or at other community-based organisations; their career paths having been strengthened by their internships at SWAN and are the new generation of humanitarian and development workers.


Women’s Exchanges

These are our grass-roots community workshops and where we explicitly build capacity in women at the village level within Shan State and along the border in temporary camps or villages established by displaces Shan women and their families. Our Women’s Exchanges are usually organised by SWAN’s focal points, volunteer representatives for SWAN that are often graduates of WEP trainings; each one speaks about the changes they see in the confidence and knowledge level of the Women’s Exchange participants. Often the women that attend these gatherings have never had an opportunity to meet solely with other women to discuss issues that directly affect their lives. Whilst the women are generally shy at the outset as they have seldom been encouraged to be assertive, they build confidence throughout the gathering, and the majority are confident speaking out by the end of the day. Women’s Exchanges prove to be a very cost effective way to help conflict-affected and marginalised women in ethnic areas to empower themselves.


Young Women’s Leadership Training

Our important youth training lasts 3 months and has been run annually since 2012. In fact we now recruit many of our interns from this training after identifying their passion, commitment and intelligence, and after they have a real taste for SWAN’s mission, objectives and programming. In 2015 we held the first YWLT inside Shan State; a historic achievement for SWAN. We hope to hold more in Shan State, but ongoing conflicts and instability do threaten this. YWLT participants are provided with intensive training designed to promote women’s leadership and political awareness. Trainees are schooled in topics including gender, human rights, politics, environmental sustainability, community development, advocacy, project management, computer literacy and English. External guest speakers address participants on topics related to their area of expertise and the trainees also participate in a number of networking activities. As of 2016, this training will be run by previous graduates of YWLT, some of whom have been employed in key organisations since they graduated; a testimony of the relevance of the training to these young women’s careers and to their skills.

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Emerging Women’s Leadership Training

SWAN’s WEP developed training essential for women emerging as politicians, community developers or advocacy workers and began the first series of workshops in 2013. A number of experts in gender, media and Burma’s peace process deliver training on topics including gender and feminism, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Burma’s 2008 constitution, international governance mechanisms, and Burma’s peace process and democratic transition. The trainees learn important skills including grassroots and international advocacy, data collection and documentation, media advocacy, including documentary making and news collection. Here is a news item by one of our partners, IWDA, about this training that they have termed ‘feminist bootcamp’:

Other important trainings regularly run by WEP are:

  • Alumni Exchange Meetings – past trainees and SWAN graduates get together annually to de-brief their year and to inspire and network for the future
  • Women’s Literacy Classes – often at night and with no electricity, each year we teach hundreds of rural Shan women to read and write
  • Capacity Building Workshops For Women From Conflict-areas – an extension from the Women’s Exchanges to further develop the skills of women that stood out or who expressed interest; 6 workshops per year are planned from 2016 onwards
  • Refresher Workshops for SWAN Facilitators – we support the trainers of all of our workshops by giving them 5 day refreshers each year, we also include our focal points (SWAN representatives at the village-level) in this training for them to increase their confidence in the face of patriarchy and to improve in their aim to empower more village women.

Women’s Wellbeing Program

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  • Training health workers and health volunteers living in villages in Shan State; so that where clinics and doctors don’t exist, local women trained in midwifery and curative care are on call for their communities
  • Community health surveys: collection and analysis of data from 66 village cluster in remote Shan State
  • Community awareness-raising and outreach on health issues, such as - Basic health care, with a focus on prevention - Reproductive health,
    - Maternal and child care
    - HIV/AIDS: support and counselling
    - School-aged specific nutrition, health and hygiene workshops
  • Regular de-worming for community members
  • Health services, through a community health centre on the Thai-Burma border, and through outreach in rural areas of Shan State
    - Providing basic health care, focusing on mothers and children


Women’s Crisis Support

  • Running accommodation centres for women and children in crisis: one on the border in Fang and one in Chiang Mai
  • Provision of emergency health assistance to women and children in crisis
  • Networking with other local organisations to provide legal and other support for emergency cases
  • Providing counselling and psychological healing

 SWAN’s Women’s Wellbeing Program has been providing women and children in remote and rural areas of Shan State with vital education and health services. The SWAN-supported health project is community managed and includes education and service delivery as well as a training course for Shan women. The training effectively expands and updates the knowledge and skills of the courageous young women, who are already actively working in their communities and are interested in becoming a part of the broader SWAN reproductive health service delivery network. Quite often SWAN’s health workers are the only health workers providing targeted services to women and children in rural and remote villages in Shan State. SWAN’s project has been successful in improving the maternal health status and wellbeing of women and children. SWAN will expand this project in 2017 and continue to build community capacity through participatory health interventions and empower communities through education and training in rural and remote Shan State.

Reproductive Health Awareness and Data Collection Training Course 2016

SWAN has been running the reproductive health awareness and data collection training course annually since 2011 and in September 2016 we held our sixth consecutive course. This important and modern training course is targeted toward young women who have had some form of prior health worker training or experience and need to expand or update their knowledge and skills. The content of the course primarily focuses on reproductive health, family planning, maternal and child health. The course also consisted of a special segment on Maternal and Child Health Care conducted by a public health specialist and a training team from the Chiang Mai Rajabhat University Department of Public Health; the team has frequently delivered special segments in SWAN’s reproductive health training courses since 2011. SWAN aims to provide young women with the skills they need so that they may reach more communities in rural and remote areas of Shan State, where there is a severe lack of women’s health services which has resulted in extremely low health outcomes, especially for women.

Summary of Village Household Demographic-Family Planning-Vital Events Surveys (2015)

As mentioned above, SWAN-sponsored health workers routinely collect demographic, vital events and health related data in their villages to ensure that the health status of their communities is kept up to date. The health workers also itemise and organise the information into report format to make it available to the program staff to easily assess and monitor. The Annual Village Household Demographic-Family Planning-Vital Events Survey was conducted in January 2016, which covers the period from 1 January-31 December 2015. The vital events, collected for this survey exercise, cover the catchment area Mong Hsu, Kesi, and Kunhing Townships in northern Shan State; 61 villages in total.

The surveys found that overall the total number of women, married and unmarried of reproductive age in these 61 villages is 26.7% which is slightly higher than average in Burma (22-25%) and the family planning acceptance is very high in most of the 61 villages with a Contraception Prevalence Rate (CPR) at 78.1%. The high CPR is unusual for women to be using a modern family planning method in remote areas where there is a lack of state government health service provision. The rate is more than double that of the whole of Burma. This is an outcome of SWAN’s health workers, who have been actively working in these catchment areas for between 5 to 10 years, providing women with vital reproductive education as well as some direct services.

The vital events surveys were administered by the SWAN health team in Mong Hsu, Kesi and Kunhing to record all births, deaths and foetal events including natural abortions/miscarriages, induced abortions and stillborns. The results from these vital events surveys will be discussed below.

The overall crude birth rate was low at 15.0, which was expected considering the high contraceptive prevalence rate of these rural and remote communities. The SWAN health team performed at least 55 of the 148 (37.2%) deliveries that took place in the calendar year of 2015. 70 deaths were recorded in 2015, and therefore the CDR was 7.1, which is in the moderate range and what is expected in rural/remote areas of Burma. It is similar to the rest of Burma, which is 8.1, as well as other neighbouring countries including Thailand, where the CDR is 7.4. Similarly, in a region with low CBR and moderate CDR, the overall population growth rate is classified as in the low range at 0.79%. Some villages had more deaths than births and others had an equal number of births and deaths.

There was one natural abortion/miscarriage, 5 induced abortions and 0 stillbirths, which is a small percentage compared to all possible births (3.9%). In total there were 5 infant deaths, resulting in a moderate-high IMR. One of the reasons why the IMR is relatively high is that the total number of live births was much lower than one would expect to find. As such, the percentage of newborn infants dying within the first year of life (5 of 148 or 3.4%) was high and results in an IMR of 33.8 per 1,000 live births. There was only 1 early childhood death, and thus the overall Early Childhood Mortality Rate (CMR) for these 61 villages was very low (6.8), which is somewhat unusual for remote/rural communities in Burma.

There was one maternal death in the 61 villages during 2015. This resulted in a high MMR rate at 676. The reason it was so high was due to the relatively few births and a lack of emergency obstetric care in rural and remote communities. This means that if a woman has complications during her pregnancy it is a very long distance to travel to the hospital to access emergency care. During a special workshop in July 2015 SWAN provided a review of the recommendations for health workers regarding maternal deaths and how to reduce and prevent them from occurring.

Please refer to the tables below for detailed household demographic- family planning and vital events information.