SHINING STARS In their own words
Myanmar has a host of women breaking ground and having success in a variety of fields. The following are some examples who discuss their lives in their own words.
Mi Sue Pwint is a woman of the pen. She doesn’t like injustice. She doesn’t like it either when the strong bully the weak. She started to write under the pen name ‘Mi Sue Pwint’ in times of anger over oppressions. After she witnessed the brutalities of the 1988 uprising and heard the chairman of the Myanmar Socialist Programme Party, U Ne Win, say, ‘The gun is not used to shoot upward at the sky’, the writer Mi Sue Pwint took up weapons. From some of her life sketches, you will come to realize that she is someone who has been leading her life from two opposite sides: looking for a way to peace while taking up arms as a revolutionary.
The life of a revolutionary
I was born in Loikaw in Kayah State. I finished my high school education there. I arrived at the Yangon University Hlaing Campus in 1985. The universities closed in 1988 due to the public movement for democracy. So, I didn’t complete my studies at university. Instead, I entered the armed insurgency. My parents didn't want their daughter to be like this because I was a university student who was about to be a graduate. They were worried about me. Finally, they unwillingly let me go. I served as a member of ABSDF for more than 20 years. I gathered the women members of the ABSDF in 1995 and founded the Burmese Women’s Union. I tried hard so that women could get involved in political life. I was selected as one of the Executive Committee members of the ABSDF at a 2014 conference.
Jungle revolutionary or school teacher
I was first posted in the jungle to a Red Kayin armed insurgency group. When I arrived there, the school could teach the students only up to 7th standard. They didn’t teach Myanmar at all. So, I met with the responsible personnel for education and urged them to teach Myanmar in addition to their own language and literature. I told them that the students might face difficulty in the future if they didn't learn Myanmar. Finally, they permitted the teaching of Myanmar at their school. Next year, we established a high school by gathering university graduates and university students who were about to be graduates. I focused on the education of the children. And I also served as the editor of the ABSDF news letter ‘Dawn-Oh-Way’ or ‘Peacock’s call’.
I got married in1994-1995. My husband is a former student exile from Myeik and Dawei. We were from different camps. We met when we were transferred to carry out our duties at the central office. He was in charge of the army office while I was responsible for information. We met each other there and got married. We have one daughter. I gave birth to my daughter in the jungle. I was 30years old at that time. Some former comrades from the country told me to give birth in town. They said that they would support me. But, I was a Central Committee member at that time. There were many other pregnant women in our camp. It was not possible for me to give birth alone in town. But, unfortunately, the responsible medical assistant who helped me during delivery was inexperienced. And it was a difficult delivery as well. By the time other medical assistants arrived to help us, too much time had passed. The baby got infected when her umbilical cord was cut. Two or three days later, she suffered from jaundice and a traumatic brain injury. She never became a normal child. Now, she can neither speak nor hear.”
Her attitudes as a leader
What I’ve done is not wrong. To lead my life as an armed insurgent has been one of the biggest decisions in my life. There are so many younger comrades in our group. There are new ones as well. Some people in the refugee camps have to suffer more than I do. There are many people who are more unfortunate than my daughter. I feel that I am responsible for them. In this way, I have to motivate myself.
Revolutionary and peacemaker
The government has decided to go for a change. They have decided to work for peace as well. They started to approach ethnic groups. They invited our ABSDF to hold discussions with them. At the same time, there were discussions within our group. We are armed insurgents. But, we have done that in order to reach apolitical solution. We didn’t do it as an aimless rebellion. Our aim is to meet and discuss. So, we have participated in the peace process. We are getting deeply involved in the process, starting from the ceasefire to the path of political dialogue. We are trying our best.
Daw Than Myint Aung
A writer who has changed herself to be a part in the country’s transformation process
Writer Daw Than Myint Aung, a philanthropist, is now working in the civil service for the development of Yangon city. She is carrying out her duty to the best of her ability to make Yangon a beautiful and pleasant city with well-disciplined people and make good use of waste material. On the other hand, she is still carrying out philanthropy which she has been doing for a long time.
Accepting the task assigned by the government
I have never thought of carrying out the duty as a member of City Development Committee under the government department. And I have never been a civil servant before. Even a civil servant has to retire from work at the age of 60. Now, the government assigned this duty to me at the age of 63. So, this is unexpected work for me. I couldn’t refuse it as it’s an assignment of the government.
Since before I became a member of Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), I have already established the Aung Foundation Social Environment and Philanthropy Training School. There, I have been teaching organizational management skills to the young people who want to be charity workers. They have to learn the attitudes, disciplines and goodwill that they must have to carry out philanthropy work. They also learn what to do and how to do systematically for education, environmental conservation, food and consumer goods security, consumer protection, consumer rights, financial loans, poverty reduction and much more. I have been teaching these things at the training school since I was a philanthropist.
‘No change will happen in the country if you just sit and talk about it. If you want a change, you yourself must get involved in that change.’ I used to say it in every literary talk. Now, I have been caught by my own words.
Leadership skills of a woman
The historic Government Technical Institute (GTI) in Myanmar had been under YCDC since 2007. We managed to transfer it back to the Department of Education. That’s a milestone of the new government. As a member of YCDC, I went to Australia. There, I met with the mayors and observed their systematic garbage disposal. I have carefully learn how they generate energy out of garbage and produce natural fertilizer from waste material.
Actually, Yangon is a city with modern buildings and hotels among garbage piles. It seems as if we were living in the massive garbage pile. As for YCDC, they will clean the streets and roads. They will trim and cut trees where necessary. And they will also take care of the parks. As for the public, they will be most responsible for the back lanes of their residence, I think.
I am not saying that YCDC is not responsible for that at all. As a government department, they are responsible to some extent. But, the residents are more responsible as they are the ones who have to suffer the disadvantages directly. It’s quite frightening when we started to clean the back lanes. They all were messy and dirty with filthy waste. People throw down their garbage onto the back lanes. But, it will go up to the buildings as mice, mosquitos and flies. In such case, the elderly, the children and the public have to suffer from diseases. Some people don’t notice that.
Some tasks can be done in a short period of time, but some cannot. It takes only 20 days to clean the back lanes in a township. But the tasks like squatter-related projects, proper sewerage system and roadside shops are the longterm ones. Even though we cannot do them overnight, I hope that we will make it within a period of time. We are trying our best to make it happen within the five-year term of this government even though it can’t be fully perfect.
Attitudes as a leader
It doesn’t matter what you are. There is only one difference between men and women in terms of physical strength. Everyone has their own determination, qualification and capability. If you are a woman, you must do all you can as a woman. If you are a man, you must do all you can as a man. Our State Counsellor Daw Aung San Su Kyi is still working actively even at the age of over 70. She is an inspiration to me. So, I dare not complain. I am carrying out my duty to the best of my ability. Myanmar and Myanmar people must not be for me. I am trying my best so that I myself can be for my country and its people.
It doesn’t matter what you are. There is only one difference between men and women in terms of physical strength.