Women's Empowerment Program

Posted in Programs

  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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’: http://shanwomen.org/about-us/in-the-news/126-myanmar-s-feminist-bootcamp-graduate-elected-to-state-parliament

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.