30 indigenous women from eight countries in Asia gathered in Yangon, Myanmar for AIPP’s 3rd Exchange Visit with the theme: Building and Strengthening Women’s Networks in the Mekong Region and South Asia last November 30, 2016.
Supported by local host Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), the indigenous women participants from Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Mainland and Northeast India, Nepal and Cambodia actively engaged, shared and collaborated over the course of the four-day event, particularly on their experiences of climate change within their respective contexts. At the end of the event, these women left with a strong and progressive statement to be disseminated to policy makers at COP22 in Morocco, broader networks and new friendships that span the region.
One of the highlights of the exchange was the field visit to the Mon community in Bago, approximately 2.5 hours outside of Yangon. The action-packed second day of the exchange, started with a dialogue between the Mon Literature and Culture Committee, a voluntary-based organization comprising 26 male and female community members, which is actively working towards the preservation of Mon traditional knowledge, including through the publication of a local language newspaper and the transference of local musical instrument skills to the youth. This initial meeting provided a dynamic forum for exchange and the participants were inspired by the techniques employed by the committee to preserve the Mon culture.
After an entertaining musical performance over a traditional lunch, it was the visit with the Karen Ethnic Affairs Minister of Bago Region, Ms. Naw Pway Say that really captivated the participants’ attention. As the only woman in the regional government, Ms. Say shared her experiences in overcoming the challenges of being an indigenous woman in her first seven months holding the position. She shared her successes in overcoming severe budget limitations and marginalization for being the only woman minister, and humbly explained her plans for public consultation mechanisms in the future. Her objective for 2017 is to focus on improving transport and infrastructure in the region, whilst rebuilding schools which have been affected by severe flooding in the area. The indigenous women participants were proud to see their indigenous sister taking a leadership position in the face of such adversity, and even more impressed when she softly shared that each day, she is motivated to work harder than the day before, for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in her region. Indeed, it was a sentiment that was reflected upon throughout the rest of the exchange.
The remaining two and a half days of the exchange were filled with interactive panel discussions on the participants’ experiences in building and strengthening indigenous women’s alliances in their respective countries; the role of indigenous women in addressing violence against women; and country-level presentations on challenges, lessons learned and recommendations on Climate Change, which was facilitated by AIPP Environment Programme Coordinator, Mr. Lhakpa Nuri Sherpa. The participants were also given time to reflect and build upon the outcomes of the 2015 Regional Exchange, where they had strategized the formalization of an Indigenous Women’s Network in the Mekong sub-region by 2018.
The 3rd Exchange Visit was once again a fruitful, dynamic and informative collaboration among the indigenous women participants from the region. The participants were satisfied with the outcomes of the event and are now even more bonded in solidarity across their common struggles and aspirations. The annual event is surely one that should continue well into the future, as a means to galvanize the strengths of the indigenous women in the region to successfully advocate for their rights at the regional and national levels.
To see the recommendations on Climate Change made by the participants for Policy Makers at COP22, please click here.