In order to truly build healthy communities there must be improvements in the fundamental status of women. As women are disproportionately responsible for child-rearing, community health and income generation, our Women’s Empowerment Program alleviates burdens and connects women to increased opportunities to stand up against violence and discrimination, enhancing women’s decision-making power.
A recent report by our partner, Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) exposes an alarming trend in ethnic Kachin communities of northern Burma. Failed government development policies have led to spiraling poverty causing young women and men to migrate in search of wage labor in increasing numbers. Throughout migration, young women are vulnerable to trafficking and have been sold as wives in China and coerced into the Chinese and Burmese sex-industry. Many have disappeared without a trace.
Together with KWAT, we have implemented a vocational training project along the Burma-China border to combat trafficking in women. In 2007 an inaugural group of 20 women were trained in sewing, weaving, small business planning, financial literacy and marketing. This year, we have increased the number of participants to 25. Women who have survived trafficking or are at extreme risk of exploitation are now learning the skills necessary to generate income to protect them. The in-depth training takes place over the course of an entire year and functions not only to develop skills, but to create networks of handicraft sales and distribution. Securing women’s income improves their status in turn raising health and education standards community-wide.