BURMA: The WISE women of Burma 

Link to the film ‘Looking for the Light’ by the WISE participants in Mae Sot:


WISE travelled to Mae Sot, on the Thai border with Burma and worked with ten women from 4th September — 17th. Mae Sot is a small town, which holds around 200,000 people. 50,000 of those people are Thai and the rest are refugees or migrant workers from Burma — escaping the tyranny and economic mismanagement of the military junta in power in their homeland.

The film they produced starts with a dramatic piece about a girl tricked into going to Thailand by an agent and progresses into telling real stories about what happens to women after they travel across and the issues they face.

The film has been distributed on DVD and will be shown amongst the communities in Mae Sot and surrounding areas — but we also hope, that there might be some way of getting this film into Burma for women to see the dangers of trusting agents for themselves.

The viewing was filmed by TV station The Democratic Voice of Burma and this will be put on youtube as soon as we get the translation.

Speaking of translators — our male translator, Ko Myo, wrote about his experiences during the programme, which you can see below. I hope you enjoy reading about this and that you share the video with as many people as possible. It is incredibly important that these women’s voices are heard and you help by sharing their voices over the Internet.

My Experience at the WISE project in Thailand as a translator

First of all, I would like to thank SAW (Social Action for Women) for choosing me as the primary translator and WISE (Women International Shared Experience) for the opportunity to work on a meaningful project for twelve days. I believe the ten women who participated benefited greatly from the training. They all came from different backgrounds, ethnicities and places in Burma. Most of them were unable to use camera, edit video, or use the internet; some had never even touched a computer before. But all of them were happy to learn and enthusiastic about putting these skills into practice with the help of Danielle (the WISE project Coordinator). Not only did they learn about making films but they also learnt about team building, trust building and personal development of other kinds.

Afterward, the women practiced by conducting some interviews in order to be able to create their own ten minute movies about the conditions facing Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. The training was not always easy however; currently the Thai police have been arresting larger amounts of Burmese migrant workers. This is a result of a political deal between the SPDC (Burmese government) and the Thai Prime Minister Arbisit, to crack down on undocumented Burmese workers in Thailand. Therefore, as many of our participants fall into the ‘undocumented’ category, we were always wary of the police presence during our commute to and from training. Luckily we made it through our sessions without any serious security hang-ups.

In the ten minutes movies the women produced, they focused on shooting topical issues that have been affecting women in the area. These issues include: domestic violence, abortion, trafficking, and HIV. I believe these issues are particularly important to teach in our communities as women are currently unaware of the details and intricacies of these problems. Furthermore, it’s important that the international community knows the situations of Burmese women while they are working in Thailand, as it is within this community that we have found many of our strongest partnerships.

I strongly believe that all the women participating received a lot of technique in production, shooting methods, social networking and editing. Subsequently, they showed off their talents during a movie-night designed to reach target communities. As the sole translator for the program I couldn’t help but learn alongside the women. I may have even come away with a greater understanding because of how often I had to repeat the concepts to the women, seeing as the material was so new to everyone.

Particularly effective for Burmese culture was the use of team-building and ice-breaker exercises; this relates to a culture of shyness and set the stage for later success. I have determined that the training is useful for effective advocacy (both locally and internationally), but also as a means of social networking and community awareness. All this is not to leave out the obvious creative outlet we’ve created for our participants.

Keep up to date with WISE via:


These pages are updated regularly and we like to encourage the women to interact with our fans on facebook. Leaving questions and comments shows these women that you care and are listening. There are also extra videos posted on these sites taken from the learning process. Early interviews with the public on the subject the group are interested in.

About WISE

In 1999 The World Bank conducted a survey with people living on less than a dollar a day. They asked what was the most important thing to them. The majority answered, above food and water, that access to a voice was the most important thing to them. We are living in a time when this access is possible.

WISE is a programme with an aim to be the catalyst for change via communication — at a grassroots level, through viewing and discussions in local communities; and globally via the Internet.

About SAW

WISE Thailand/Burma was conducted in partnership with SAW — Social Action for Women. SAW helps the displaced, immigrants and vulnerable women, who left Burma to find jobs in Thailand. They face adversity and become the victims of human trafficking or are lured in to the sex trade due to poverty. The women are sometimes domestically abused, raped and or harassed.

Members of staff provide psycho-social support through counselling and rehabilitation; they provide practical support through vocational training – giving the women a real way out of poverty.

These women’s stories have never being publicized due to concern over their security and general lack of resources.

This lack of resources and not having ICT training has meant that the women’s voices are only known by the staff member’s of SAW and they are spread by word of mouth. SAW believes this is not enough.


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bout AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-108-2010
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Women's rights,