Strengthening the power of refugee women to take on leadership roles

The Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO) Capacity Building project started in 2004 in refugee camps along the Thai-Burma Border, with the support of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA. It has now expanded to include seven districts inside Karen State (eastern Myanmar) and has been instrumental in supporting KWO’s organisational sustainability.

Building sustainable leadership skills among refugee women

The unstable social and political situation, resettlement programs and frequent leadership changes within the community result in a high turnover within the communities and among KWO. There is a constant need for training and support to maintain knowledgeable and skilled staff to deliver important community services. These include early childhood and development, women’s protection and support for refugee children with disabilities and their families.  Importantly, KWO plays a central role in building community understanding of, and capacity to claim, refugee or citizenship rights.

“Each year hundreds of women receive training and are then able to advocate for the interests of the members of their communities and provide more effective help directly to their communities. These women have made strong commitments to work to benefit their communities. They live in refugee camps or in conflict-affected areas in Karen State Burma where they would not otherwise have the opportunity to study and build up their skills.” Naw K’Nyaw Paw, General Secretary, KWO

Supporting and strengthening KWO’s capacity despite COVID-19

Despite the challenges posed by COVID 19, KWO was able to deliver its Capacity Building Training which strengthens and supports KWO’s capacity to provide essential services to the Karen refugee and village communities. KWO trained 1769 women and 432 men in the camps and in Karen State. The training raised awareness of KWO’s mission and values and included important skills for community leaders, such as management and administration, finance and public speaking skills. Participants also learned about Myanmar’s peace process and democracy, indigenous people’s rights, human rights, women’s leadership, women’s protection, women’s rights, democracy, child rights and child protection.

The year ahead

In the year to come, APHEDA will continue to support the work of KWO through the Capacity Building for Karen Women Training project. KWO will train an additional 2760 beneficiaries, and continue to build the capacity of KWO leaders and staff to support communities to understand and claim their rights.

Given recent withdrawal of international aid from the region, continued Australian solidarity and support to the Karen Women’s Organisation is vital to ensure they are able to confront the challenges of the future. Should peace prosper, Karen women will be able to take on community leadership roles in their home villages when safe and dignified refugee repatriation is guaranteed.

Union Aid Abroad supports the Capacity Building for Karen Women Project in partnership with the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).


Stand with Karen women

By becoming a member of Union Aid Abroad, you can show Karen women that the international community stands with them in their fight for peace, justice, and equality.

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