Wai Wai Hlaing @ Patricia is ICCO’s Country Director in Myanmar.
1. Why is it important to adopt a gender lens in development projects?
“It’s crucial to adopt a gender lens in development projects. In Myanmar, we try to include women in business development. Mostly, women have to take care of their children and therefore we see that they are less active in business activities. Besides, most husbands do not encourage their women to take part in for example capacity building trainings. What we do is making women aware of their rights and involve them in for example the marketing of products. We include women in business activities”.
2. What is a great example of a project in Myanmar which focuses on women?
“In Myanmar we have two projects which specifically focus on women. One is Pulses, People, Planet, Profit (P4) in which we improve the income of smallholder mungbean farmers, of which 20% are landless female farmers. We encourage them in teaming up in cooperatives so that they can together better access markets.
Furthermore, we have the project READ, which takes place in Rakhine, a political sensitive region. In this project we focus solely on women to create market linkages for their weaving and handicrafts products. However, due the political sensitive situation, it is really difficult to reach women, as they have very limited access to trainings. But we make progress step by step”.
3. Which constraints do women in Myanmar face?
“In general we see that women have less access to fair resources as they often have to stay in their village and cannot travel easily. Therefore they are dependent on the buyers which come to their villages, and therefore they cannot access a fair price for their produce. This also accounts for the suppliers who also have to come to their villages, therefore the women don’t have access to high quality inputs - such as raw material (cotton) for their work.
What ICCO does is giving trainings to these women to make them aware of the market, for example on what fair prices are. And we show them the importance of improving the quality of their produce, also in order to compete with other markets in for example Yangon. Whenever possible, we talk to the government about certificates for qualified products, which can also increase the price of the women’s produce. And at the same time, we negotiate with suppliers and buyers to give a fair price for the women. In short, we create market linkages.”
4. What is the most inspiring woman you met during your work and why?
“I cannot really mention one individual person, but what really inspires me are the groups of women who decided to work together. Together, women can reach more. For example, when women team up in a cooperative, they can together extend their business and sell their produce to buyers. In a group, they can also get better access to technical support. And in a group they can better negotiate with other partners such as the government and the private sector. Women groups can really become small enterprises. I’m inspired by this collective effort to compete the market”.
5. What is your wish for the future of women?
“I hope that in the future all women live in a safe environment and receive a fair income. Furthermore, I hope that more women will have a leadership role and that they participate in decision making”.
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