This past quarter was filled with disasters, of both the natural and man-made kind. We witnessed the devastation of floods in South Asia, Hurricane Irma, and an earthquake in central Mexico – as well as the Rohingya crisis in Burma/Myanmar and the ongoing free-for-all killing spree that is the Philippines drug war.
Amidst the resulting horror, grief, despair, and anger, beautiful things miraculously arise. One of those is the coming together of communities, whether in the wake of a treacherous storm or murderous government policy.
The forming of a community acts as a balm and leads to new action, the linkages forming a powerful web of resistance and resilience. This is what Asia Catalyst is all about: supporting grassroots gathering to create stronger communities and a more just world.
Most recently, we were able to set the stage for amazing activists in Burma/Myanmar, where we launched our country programming with a workshop of diverse advocates with bold political and social justice ideas for making their country better for the most marginalized, such as sex workers and people with HIV. We love to support them, and we hope you will, too! Please read below to learn more.
Gareth Durrant, Director of Programs and Partnerships, reflects on Asia Catalyst’s newest country program in Myanmar, launched this quarter.
The recent political transformation in Myanmar and the willingness of the new government to engage with civil society groups in reviewing of archaic laws and drafting new bills have presented opportunities for community based organizations (CBOs) to make lasting changes. Supporting CBOs to maintain the momentum of their advocacy work is crucial at this time.
In 2017, Asia Catalyst (AC) secured partial funding from Viiv Healthcare and Foundation for a Just Society to invest further resources into our work there, which is led by Khine Su Win, our Myanmar Program Officer. Through our networks, we identified four new CBOs representing sex workers (across the gender spectrum), people who use drugs, women living with HIV, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals to take part in three capacity-building workshops in Yangon.
The first workshop was held in August. Six CBOs participated, including Aye Myanmar’s Association/Sex Workers’ Association (AMA) and Myanmar Positive Group National Network of PLHIV (MPG) — previous program graduates who have returned as mentors and trainers. Content included organizational management and human rights. Khine Su Win, with Jebli Shrestha, AC’s Regional Documentation and Advocacy Manager, and Shen Tingting, Director of Advocacy, Research, and Policy, jointly delivered the training, illustrating Asia Catalyst’s commitment to staff integration and collaboration across geographies, experiences, and political environments. The second workshop took place this month.
In addition to receiving AC’s hallmark tailored, in-depth documentation and advocacy training with the grassroots groups, each will be eligible to apply for funding (small grants of between US $3,000 to $4,000) to document rights violations they identify, and develop advocacy plans based on research findings.
We have already seen tremendous willingness for participants to identify and take on important issues in their communities, such as:
- Lobbying Parliament members to support a current draft of an HIV bill.
- Advocating to healthcare workers in 13 townships to improve their service delivery standards and interactions with sex workers, to eliminate stigma and discrimination.
- Delivering workshops to help local community members document barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services for sex workers.
- Engaging district-level law enforcement officials to raise awareness and understanding of the officials on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity issues.
- Collecting evidence of discrimination faced when accessing prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission services at local clinics.
Our final workshop will be delivered early 2018. We are looking forward to graduating our first group of advocates. But we need your help to continue this work. We need to raise US $16,000 to fund the six subgrants. Please make as generous a donation as possible today at asiacatalyst.org/donate. To learn more about the Myanmar program, please contact Jebli Shrestha, Regional Documentation and Advocacy Manager, at: firstname.lastname@example.org