Women Inspire: Han Su Myat

At age 14, Han Su Myat moved from Myanmar to sunny California with her mother and younger brother.  Her father had moved to America when she was 3 years old.  Since Myanmar was closed to the world at that time, Han Su and her family received no mail or phone calls from him for those 11 years of separation.

Han Su spoke little English when she arrived in America.  She couldn’t even ask questions or directions.  Kids in her new school laughed at her accent.  After a girl in her home economics class threw needles at her, she felt scared and isolated. She missed her Burmese friends. There was no diversity in her American school.

Education became Han Su’s refuge and hope.  She studied hard to get into honors classes. She believed she would be safe there and find new friends with common goals. Every night after finishing her homework, she helped her brother with his.  Through hard work and perseverance, Han Su graduated last year from UCLA. She speaks English well, and has a close circle of friends.

Now at age 24, her goal is to attend medical school, become a doctor, and return to Myanmar to help her people and her family achieve a better life.

Han Su’s early life in Myanmar was not easy.  Her family was poor, and caretaking of her elderly grandparents was difficult.  There was no electricity – only candles.  She attended government school where teachers frequently didn’t even come into the classrooms.  They just gave assignments to copy from books.  Discipline (beating or removal from school) was harsh.

Han Su learned that life in America, the land of opportunity, wasn’t easy either – there was just a different set of problems.

Han Su teaching English in Yae Kyaw Toe Village Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Han Su teaching English in Yae Kyaw Toe Village
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

When I first met Han Su in January in the Ayeyarwady Delta, she had returned to Myanmar for the first time for a visit. She volunteered with one of Educational Empowerment’s partners, Helping the Burmese Delta.  When Han Su met high school girls in the Delta, they were eager to practice English with her.  They looked up to her. She realized that once she had been like them. Because she had an education, she could now help them. It made her feel really good.

When I asked Han Su what advice she would share with Burmese girls, she said:

“Believe in yourself.  Don’t be afraid of failure. Try anything you want.  Even if you fail and make mistakes, try again. You might be successful!” Han Su Myat

Han Su’s story is an inspiration and yet another example of the power of education. If you want to empower girls to follow their dreams,

  • join Girls Globe conversations on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights
  • donate to Educational Empowerment, and
  • let your voice be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

Women Inspire: Self Reliance through Education

Written by Melody Mociulski, Founder, Educational Empowerment

Having just returned from 3+ weeks in Myanmar, I am struck by the numerous instances I witnessed of girls and women empowered by education – all resulting in their increased independence, self-confidence, and self-reliance.

In today’s world of injustices, human rights abuses, and violence, it was uplifting to learn of positive outcomes and the power of the human spirit.  During my visits with Educational Empowerment’s (EE) partners, I interviewed numerous women and girls to learn of their life struggles, dreams, and thoughts on education. It was saddening to hear their stories of trauma created by poverty, sexual assault, natural disasters, and violence.  Yet, it was extremely inspiring to see how education has helped them to overcome these tragedies and to prevail.

Naw Cynthia, one of EE’s partners, told me of the physical and sexual abuse she endured during her childhood.  She always knew that education would be her liberator.  Cynthia is now a well-educated and respected proponent of quality education and literacy in Myanmar.  She shares her story with adolescent girls to give them a voice and to encourage them to pursue their dreams through education.

Cho Cho, a Burmese friend, told me about the impacts of poverty on her childhood and how she escaped from it.  She was taught by her parents that education was the most important way to escape poverty. Every June when school started in Myanmar, her family skipped meals. They only ate broken rice which is cheaper than regular rice or boiled water grass leaves if they couldn’t afford the broken rice. This was their way to save money for school fees for seven children. Cho Cho and her sister only had one pair of shoes between them.  Her sister (in the seventh standard and now a doctor) would wear the shoes to school in the evening. Cho Cho (in the fourth standard and now a finance supervisor) would wear the shoes to school in the afternoon.   Now, all are seven siblings are successful professionals who work full-time jobs and dedicate their remaining time and income to supporting education for less fortunate Burmese. Like their parents said, they escaped poverty through education. Cho Cho values education because it enabled her to change her whole life.  She wishes that all people, especially youth, learn the value of education.

Daw Khin Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Daw Khin
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

Daw Khin Nwe Oo, a tall, statuesque mom of six, sells sticky rice snacks in her village.  As part of our microfinance project, she receives financial and business management training.  Quick to smile and laugh, her business does extremely well, enabling her two youngest daughters to remain in school.  Education is important to Daw Khin.  Because of health problems when she was a child, she wasn’t able to finish primary school.  She wants her children to have good jobs, success, and respect.  Daw Khin emanates pride in her business accomplishments and enthusiasm to become even more successful.

Girls attending high school in the remote Yay Kyaw Toe village in the southern Delta all survived the devastating destruction of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.  They board at the high school and dedicate long days and nights to achieving high scores on their annual exams, learning critical thinking, mastering the English language, and actively practicing their Buddhism.  They know that their future dreams and lives outside the Delta depend on education.

All of these girls and women touched my heart.  They impressed me with their positive, hopeful attitudes, their resilience in the face of adversity, their confidence, and their self-reliance.  They embody the belief that teaching a girl can change the world.

Stay tuned for more news of Naw Cynthia, Cho Cho, Daw Khin, and other amazing Burmese girls and women in my upcoming series in Women Inspire.

Join me in the campaign to ensure all girls receive quality education and develop self-reliance.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

 

Education: Girls’ Beacon of Hope

Delta Students Read EE's Folktale Books  Photo Credit: Helping The Burmese Delta
Delta Students Read EE’s Folktale Books
Photo Credit: Helping The Burmese Delta

Written by Melody Mociulski, Chair and Founder of Educational Empowerment

Girls around the world today are struggling to achieve their basic human rights – protection from forced labor, early marriage, conflict, and sex slavery; access to education; prevention of needless death from pregnancy and childbirth; freedom to determine for themselves their life path.

In the face of these ongoing and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, natural disasters add yet one more barrier for them to overcome.

On Friday May 2nd, 2008, Cyclone Nargis, the 8th worst cyclone ever recorded, hit the Ayeyarwady Delta in Myanmar.  Approximately 150,000 people were killed, and 20,000 girls and boys were orphaned.

Villagers were starting their day as usual when all of a sudden the wind whipped up the river and the water began to rise.  Trees and houses crashed down and floated away.  Families were separated.  Darkness came.  Although crying of children and animals could be heard, no one could see anything.  The water kept creeping up.  In the morning, all was mud and destruction. Children tried to find their families and make sense of this nightmare.

Nargis destroyed 60% of the schools in the Delta.  And those left standing had no usable sanitation facilities, furniture, or classroom materials. Rebuilding schools and restoring the formal education system in the aftermath of a disaster are crucial to help girls in disaster-stricken communities regain a sense of normalcy and security, and obtain the psychosocial support needed to overcome such a traumatic experience.

Since 2008 post-cyclone reconstruction has been slow, hampered by near impossible logistical access and lack of electricity and fresh water.  Parents in the Delta understand the importance of education, and they readily relocate to a village that has a school.  The most effective way to address society’s costs for future hazards is to invest in expanding the knowledge of girls and boys. Without an education, girls in the Delta are doomed to a continued life of extreme poverty.

In partnership with a local non-profit organization, Educational Empowerment is building a primary school in the Delta to empower Burmese girls through education. During a trip to Myanmar in January, I will attend the school’s dedication celebration.  I am excited to hear stories first hand from girls who survived the cyclone and now have a chance to learn to read and receive an education – their beacon of hope for the future.

Educational Empowerment fulfills that hope for Burmese girls by providing access to schools and books, incentives to stay in school, and support for teachers.

Let’s join together to ensure all girls and boys have hope for education and for a better life.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls’ Globe in the conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at.
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and Instagram.

Conflict and Displacement: Impact on Girls’ Education

Halockhani IDP Camp  Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Halockhani IDP Camp
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

Can you imagine living as a refugee – or as a stateless person with no nationality?  Camps overflow with cramped quarters, no privacy, insufficient latrines, and scarce school options.  Girls are tasked with gathering firewood. They easily become prey for assault when venturing out at dawn to gather wood.

The number of refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced and stateless people worldwide has, for the first time since World War II, exceeded 50 million people.  80% are women and children.

Failure to resolve and prevent conflict is the number one cause of this displacement.  And it’s the primary barrier preventing children – especially girls – from realizing their right to education.

Myanmar has been immersed in civil wars and conflict since the 1960’s. At that time the military junta enacted the Four Cuts policy, consisting of “attacking villages, forcing ethnic villagers to move into heavily controlled relocation sites, destroying their homes and crops, and planting landmines in their former villages and farms to prevent their return”.

Impacts on displaced children are severe – increased risk of human rights abuses, instability, detachment, chronic health and emotional problems, and lack of access to education.  To reach schools, children are forced to cross potential land mined areas.  Girls are at high risk of sexual assault, and twice as likely as boys to drop out of school.

Loi Lai Leng IDP Camp Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Loi Lai Leng IDP Camp
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

Education is essential to fostering peace, reducing poverty, and increasing gender equality. Schools can provide life-saving information, such as landmine awareness and HIV and pregnancy prevention guidance.

Education instills hope – hope for safety – hope for food – hope for school.  Hope is the little voice you hear whisper maybe – when it seems the entire world is shouting no.

Educational Empowerment fulfills that hope for Burmese girls by providing access to schools and books, incentives to stay in school, and support for teachers.

Let’s join together to ensure all girls and boys, especially those living in conflict areas, have hope for education and for a better life.

To take immediate action:

  • Advocate for inclusion of women in conflict resolution and reconstruction efforts.
  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at donate.
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Hidden Price of a Girl’s Education

Fifteen year old Aye Sander lives in the Buddhist nunnery, Chanthar Aung Nunnery School, in the poor outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar.  An avid reader, she is receiving a quality education.  Unlike girls her age attending government schools which teach rote memorization, Aye Sander is learning critical thinking – how to identify, assess, and solve problems – an immeasurable life skill.

350 girls attend Chanthar Aung Nunnery School and forty orphans, like Aye Sander, live there.  With seven classrooms and eleven teachers, the school is overcrowded.  A new building stands nearby, half finished, without funding to complete the roof and flooring.  All their food is cooked over wood fires. Only one of the buildings has electricity.

The school depends primarily on donations.  Novices walk through the village twice a month asking for rice and donations.  It is always a struggle to make ends meet and is made more frustrating by the fact that monks are allowed to ask for food on a daily basis.

The head nun, a lovely and gracious woman, cares deeply for all the girls in her care.  When asked what her greatest challenge is, she said it is to feed the 40 girls who live there.

Aye Sander and her two younger sisters have lived at Chanthar Aung Nunnery School since she was three years old.  Unfortunately, her story is not unusual.  Born in the ethnic Shan state, Aye Sander’s parents divorced when their small business failed.  Unable to support the 3 girls on her own, her mother sent them away to Yangon to live and receive an education. This is the hidden cost of Aye Sander’s education.

However, Aye Sander is fortunate to be receiving an education.  Only half of Burmese girls complete primary school, and the majority of those girls do not learn critical thinking.

Education is critical to escape chronic poverty, which is wide spread in Myanmar. For some, poverty is transitory. However, the more vulnerable remain poor for long periods – even all their lives – passing on their poverty to their children.

The United Nations General Assembly convened last month in New York to create Sustainable Development Goals that will “pick up where the Millennium Development Goals left off, fill in the gaps and take us to the next level”.  Whether the goals target poverty reduction, gender equality, health, the environment, or other sustainable issues facing today’s world, education is the common denominator to the goal’s success.  The world is starting to acknowledge the power of education – especially the impact created by educated women and girls.  Yet, there is often a hidden price for that education, as experienced by Aye Sander.

Help girls attain their right to education. To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at donate.
  • Organize an event for International Day of the Girl, October 11th, to create awareness for girls’ right to education
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Join us in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and Instagram.

Growing Dreams: Help Educate Girls In Myanmar

Here in the United States, ask a girl what she wants to be when she grows up and her answer may be nurse, teacher, astronaut, senator or even president. The possibilities are limitless.  In Myanmar, a country steeped in extreme poverty, where people lack even the most basic human rights, you will hear no such answer. Girls in Myanmar typically imagine a job that takes them no further than the family farm or the local fish market.

Why the disparity?

In addition to the oppressive government, ongoing conflicts, natural disasters and displacement that have plagued the country, education is simply not attainable for many – most of all girls.

Only half of Burmese girls complete primary education.  For most, the quality of the education is inadequate and typically based on rote memorization.  One in every four girls who has attended primary school is still unable to read simple sentences about everyday life.

Although government schools are free, parents still need to pay for uniforms, supplies, and in some cases bribes to teachers to ensure their children receive attention.

When parents choose which child they can afford to educate, it is always the boys.  Girls, victims of gender disparity, are pulled out of school to work.

Girls who are educated dream big.  Education opens up endless opportunities. Education builds girls’ dreams and transforms lives.

Educational Empowerment helps ensure Burmese girls realize their dreams.

Some girls, unable to afford government schools, attend schools established in Buddhist monasteries – schools which truly are free. Many girls in these schools have been sent by their families from remote ethnic areas to be educated and safe. These girls, often as young as 4, must cope with the trauma of family separation.

One of these schools, located in a poor township outside Yangon, is Maw Kyun, attended by 582 children, half of whom are girls. These girls are learning critical thinking skills, which give them the ability to identify and solve problems.  Since their township does not  have electricity or fresh water, solving problems is essential to their existence.

Photo Credit: Edu Empowerment
Photo Credit: Edu Empowerment

Wint Yi, like 25% of other girls in Myanmar, lives below the poverty line, with a family income of less than $1.25 per day. Fifty percent of her peers will only go to school through the fifth grade.

Unlike, many other girls, Wint Yi has a dream. She knows there is a world beyond her village.  She goes to a school supported by Educational Empowerment.  Wint Yi is one of the fortunate girls in Myanmar.

Girls’ access to quality education should be a basic human right.  Investing in girls’ education bolsters their dignity, saves mother’s and children’s lives, and improves the socio-economic status of the entire community.

Help girls attain their right to education.  Empower others, like Wint Yi, to dream BIG.

Want to take action?

  • Donate to Educational Empowerment
  • Organize an event for International Day of the Girl, October 11th, to create awareness for girls’ right to education
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Meet Wint Yi


 

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org

Follow @EEmpower, on FacebookInstagram

Educational Empowerment (EE) was created by women for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities in Myanmar severely affected by poverty and injustice. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women Myanmar to attain their equal rights.