Women in rural villages across Myanmar continue to face many barriers to claiming their rights. At ActionAid we’re working with local women to support them with the tools and knowledge they need to become community leaders.
The Change-Makers project is a collaboration between ActionAid and rural communities in the Chin and Kayin states of Myanmar. The project works with local communities to identify their issues and implement their own solutions for change.
In the Kawilam village, the local community is heavily reliant on shifting cultivation – a type of agriculture that requires constant relocation of communities to fresh soil. Men are tasked with farming while women hold religious and household responsibilities but are largely absent from decision-making and leadership positions.
To increase women’s participation, the Change-Makers program trained 60 Fellows and 120 youth volunteers to feed into the creation of the community ‘Village Book’, an alternative channel for all community members, including women, to communicate their challenges and make recommendations on how to solve existing or emerging issues.
The Village Book is a tool to assess the community’s current challenges and work together to develop solutions and plans to drive change. Kawilam community members identified their main issues as access to water sources, road improvements, and unreliable farming techniques among others. They then set up working groups, including specific women’s groups, to implement these changes. Over the course of three years, they have identified sustainable agricultural practices to improve crop growth and diversify their income such as selling goods in nearby markets and creating a community savings and loan system.
Women in the Kawilam village told ActionAid that the Village Book has built leadership skills. They now understand their rights and are emboldened to engage with their local government to advocate for increased support and services and to explore future development opportunities for their village.
Kawilam women are empowered to take on greater leadership roles in the community. They say they feel confident, bold and capable of taking on local leadership roles in their village. As one woman shared, “Whatever men can do, we can too.”
The village is making significant strides to recognise the value of women and their experiences. With support from the Change-Makers project, women are challenging the social barriers that perpetuate gender inequality and are stepping up to lead change.