My first week working with Jeepyah went really well. Much like any other first week at a job, there were introductions to co-workers, documents to read, and chats with supervisors about what to expect, along with a tour of the office.
What may have deviated from this ‘typical’ western first week of work was the work culture itself. We sit on the floor to work, we eat together sharing each others’ food, eating rice and curry with our hands. We also eat a group afternoon snack of (so far) fresh cut limes from the backyard with a sauce made of water, sugar and chili peppers. Now, I’ve never been a person who particularly likes sour fruit like limes (I don’t even use a lime as a chaser with my tequila shot), but after this week, I have to admit: limes are freaking delicious! Unfortunately, we ate all the limes in the backyard, I’ll have to wait to see what next week’s snack item will be!
As far as what I’m actually here in Myanmar to do, supporting the work of Jeepyah is the core of it. Jeepyah Civil Society Development Organization (JSCDO) is a local civil society organization that actively participates in empowering the skills and abilities of local people, vulnerable persons, youth, farmers and women in management and leadership skills in southern Myanmar. JCSDO also teaches concepts of democracy, good governance, and human right’s (particularly women’s and children’s rights). Jeepyah aims to encourage peoples’ participation in the process of good governance in order to build up a democratic society.
“Jeepyah” means ‘model’ or ‘ideal’ in the Mon language. JCSDO aims to support in creating a strong, participatory civil society in southern Myanmar by running the following projects:
- Capacity Development Project
- Community Mobilizing Project
- Women Empowerment Project
- Child Protection Project
- Conflict-affect Area Development Project
I will be mainly supporting the Women Empowerment Project (WEP), as a Gender Advisor. In 2010 the members of the Woman and Child Rights Project (WCRP) (a Mon committee) and the Jeepyah Education Service (JES) formed the Women Empowerment Project (WEP) to promote Mon women´s participation in decision-making and leadership in southern Myanmar. The project focuses on creating awareness about women’s rights among local communities and policymakers to build the confidence of local women in order to take on leadership roles.
Some of the activities of WEP include training and discussions around the topics of gender equality and violence against women. WEP also trains women in leadership, management, and advocacy skills. Leading up the 2015 presidential elections, WEP provided election education and public consultations for women candidates. In the 2014-2015 year alone, WEP trained and worked with more than 3000 women in southern Myanmar to be leaders in their villages and communities, plus an additional 2500+ men on topics of gender equality and VAW.
One really unique project of WEP from last year was a photography course for 15 youth. They were trained in photography concepts and storytelling, and each created a photo essay. One compilation won first place at the Yangon Photo Festival in March. It is titled ‘Monsoon Plastic Collector’ and I found it really moving. Check it out here. Please remember this is just ONE story of Myanmar, and cannot be taken as the ONLY story of this vast and diverse country.
While I am just starting to grasp the entirety of the work that Jeepyah does and the impact and reach of the staffs’ hard work, I am excited to delve deeper and learn from the strong women of Jeepyah and the brave women who are breaking social and cultural perceptions by becoming leaders in their community!