Giving: We Women Foundation Strives Toward Higher Education for Burmese Women

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

– Nelson Mandela

 

Over the holiday season, we’ve been featuring incredible charities that are creating positive waves of change throughout the world. Inspiring work is being done by so many admirable people and projects: the partnership between Soma and charity: water is helping to bring safe water to three Cambodian villages; my friend Matt is cycling around India to brighten the futures of children living in slums; and Urban Light is illuminating the lives of boys who are victims of sex trafficking by giving them a safe haven of support and opportunity. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way — making a difference is always possible when we listen to our intuition and follow what our hearts are saying.

‘Boys cannot be Baht’ is a slogan from Urban Light. These stickers are plastered along the streets, showing everyone that the time has come to end sex trafficking and prostitution — for both genders.

Photo by Kimberly Bryant.

Another INGO (international non profit organization) that is making substantial progress in the face of myriad challenges is We women foundation. An organization devoted to helping Burmese women living in Thailand attain higher education, We women has many hurdles to overcome: the Burmese women they support are forced to cope with numerous obstacles, many of which are due to their status as refugees. This means that they have far fewer rights, must make do with extremely limited salaries, endure uncomfortably cramped living quarters, and deal with severely limited opportunities for education, or any betterment of their situation in general.

And yet, in spite of these difficulties, these women are beacons of positive energy. They move through their challenging circumstances with grace, heads held high with equal parts dignity and determination. We women provides both financial and emotional support for the women to seek higher education. The goal is for the women who achieve higher education to use their newfound knowledge and experience to bring about change in their home country, and empower other women.

To provide further insight, We women‘s general manager Cindy Wilkinson shares with us a glimpse into the story of We women foundation.

A group of supporters rally at a fundraising walk to raise money for one of the We women to go to school. Community-building activities like these have a positive effect on everyone, as both givers and receivers benefit from the shared forward momentum.

Photo by Kimberly Bryant.

K: What does We women do?

CW: We women foundation is a Chiang Mai, Thailand based organization dedicated to empowering women from marginalized communities in Burma by providing professional support and educational opportunities. The foundation builds women’s capacity to make and influence policy decisions within their communities that would otherwise be made by outsiders.

We women foundation has created a nurturing environment where the women can find emotional support, in addition to tutors, resources, and consultation for their futures. Founder Ursula Cats stands here with two of the key members of her team, carrying her newborn baby.

Photo by Kimberly Bryant.

K: Can you explain the importance of helping Burmese women gain access to higher education?

CW: Many women in Burma want to take part in the push for social change, but without higher education they are often relegated to traditional roles that do not allow them the freedom, or give them the skills, to contribute. As change in Burma evolves, the emergence of women’s rights has reached a critical moment and the only way to ensure that an equitable transition takes place is to have women as part of the process. The potential for positive social change is enormous.

These incredible women are part of Myanmar’s positive future. They support each other through thick and thin, laughing and smiling along the way.

Photo by Kimberly Bryant.

K: How can people help?

CW: By providing a scholarship to enable a student to study. Our programs include full scholarships for undergraduate and graduate degree study, student coaching, university preparation, English tutoring, professional coaching and development, job placement assistance, and more.

Or, you can also support our latest awareness and fundraising campaign – Emerging Women of Burma: Support Change, Develop Leaders. From now until January 17, 2014, we will be working to reach our fundraising goal of $10,000.  As part of the campaign, We women is profiling seven emerging women leaders of Burma, the difficulties they face and how they overcome them to access education, develop a career, give back to the community, and become part of the decision-making process in Burma. All donations will assist We women to continue to support the women of Burma to achieve their dreams.

 

 

K: With Burma opening up, do you have plans to offer help from inside the country in the future?

CW: We will continue to offer our programs to the migrant community from Burma resident here in Thailand, but from 2014 we will also offer our programs inside Burma, beginning in Taunggyi, Shan States.

K: What inspires you and the team at We women to keep going?

CW: Our amazing students. Their stories, their courage, and their determination are truly inspirational.

Thank you to Cindy for telling us more about this wonderful organization. The Burmese women that We women has the honor of supporting are overflowing with potential, motivation, and desire to live their best lives. They are working so hard to move forward with their own education in order to be able to give back to their community — a country in transition. May we all have the privilege to be able to assist them in their courageous efforts to change their home country for the better.

 

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.

– Victor Hugo