Guest blog post by Ursula Cats
“Some people would like to study to help themselves. Some people think they will study and then go to another country to work and make a lot of money. But for me I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to help my people. I know a lot of people who need help. I have a plan.” -Pao Naing, Unrecognized Refugee from Shan State , June 2010
We women from Burma project assists unrecognized refugee women from Burma.
I have always had the motivation to support people who have fewer opportunities than I do. To gain more knowledge on developmental work, I decided to enroll in the Master’s program in anthropology in September 2009. It was not complicated to find a focus for my fieldwork: the women who had fled from Burma to Thailand who did not obtain a refugee status. The anthropological agency based theories I used, however, did not correspond directly with what I actually saw and experienced. The women flee from a country ruled by a military regime, who make them leave their homes because of human rights violations. Upon arrival in Thailand they are forced to live illegality with no affordable acces to healthcare, education and other basic human rights. Living daily life in fear of police checks does not seem to give much room for agency to the people and so I met a lot of women who tried to survive within uncertain circumstances. The women felt they were oppressed by the state and their traditional positions as women. Through these stories I was eventually able to gain a perspective of the women themselves, which I used in my thesis to shed light on the situation of unrecognized refugee women from Burma.
The future aspirations these women had, as became apparent in my research, inspired me to keep taking part in the lives of my informants and their communities. I wanted to turn research into action and decided to start a new foundation: We Women. This foundation offers unrecognized refugee women from Burma the opportunity to become community leaders through obtaining higher education. The reason why We Women’s focus is on education, is that the women we work with told me during my fieldwork, that studying was an aspiration that helped them getting through the difficulties of their daily life existence and would give them the oppertunity to become active in the struggle for human rights for the people from Burma.
It is incredibly rewarding to work with unrecognized refugee women from Burma. The women are highly motivated: they know that there are few chances for them to study and put their souls into their work. They never complain about the long days and you can see their passion shine through their expressions and body language. They are proud women that want to work hard to attain equal rights for their people.
My experiences throughout my life, including my master study taught me to take on the perspective of the people I work with. Researching the background and needs of the target group is thus a very important aspect of the We Women foundation. It’s about the women themselves; they are getting the opportunity to realize their dreams and ideals: they make the difference, not me!
I hope that after reading this blog more people get enthusiastic about working with unrecognized refugee women, because we need volunteers around the world and in Thailand to help the women to achieve their future dreams.
- Fund-raising and networking assistant
- English teacher
- Social media employee
- All-round employee
Job descriptions can be found here.
Founded by Ursula Cats, an anthropologist and drama therapist, the We women foundation was established after Cats’ work and research in Burma and Northern Thailand. For many years she has been active in human rights. Working as a lobbyist, campaign organizer and action coordinator for Burma her passion for the people of Burma deepened. She is dedicated to supporting those who live without the liberties and freedom too often taken for granted in many parts of the world. She is motivated by her passion for her work and research. The we women foundation is based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.