KWO advocates for social change within our community, among Karen leaders, and within the Burmese government. We also work to build stronger networks among Karen women, ethnic women and community-based organizations in Karen state and further across Burma. We advocate for ethnic mother-tongue education, environmental protection, indigenous rights, inclusive and just peace processes, and justice and accountability for human rights violations. We conduct International advocacy with the aim that the international community can provide aid to refugees, IDPs, and cross border. We also advocate to hold perpetrators to account, and encourage targeted sanctions against the Burma Army. We work with different groups on issues that align with our values and goals.
KWO networks with Karen civil-society groups including the Karen Human Rights Group, Karen Peace Support Network, Karen River’s Watch and the Karen Grassroots Women’s Network (among many others) to amplify the concerns of our community at the local, regional and international levels. For example, we support the KESAN and KRN Campaigns and joint activities during International Rivers Day and Indigenous Peoples Day events. We will also conduct trips to visit our resettled communities abroad and in this way gain and nurture the wider support of the Karen diaspora.
These close working relationships increases the potential for KWO to have an impact in the areas we are working in. KWO is a founding member of the Women’s League of Burma, an umbrella network organization with the aim of increasing the participation of women in the struggle for democracy and human rights, promoting women’s participation in the national peace and reconciliation process, and enhancing the role of the women of Burma at the national and international level.
KWO also networked with Asia Pacific Refugees Rights Network by advocating with them for refugees’ rights by attending seminars, training and workshops. This networking allows us a platform to raise the voices and concerns of refugees to a broader audience. This relationship has expanded our reach to other network communities worldwide to show our solidarity and support
We document human rights violations and acts of violence against women perpetrated by the State and by community members. These are reports we receive directly from Karen State. We will continue to record the history of Karen women leaders with the aim of publishing books for community education.
Widespread human-rights abuses continue to take place with military impunity
across South-eastern Burma. Sustained documentation of these human rights abuses is an ongoing task that takes place with the hope of actors of such abuses being held accountable. The documentation also aims to raise awareness within the Karen community and at various levels of international and regional advocacy to show evidence of systematic violence perpetuated against Karen women by the Burma Army. The documentation process began in 2002 after recognizing that a record of the abuses could be beneficial in the future for legal redress for survivors and their families.
The documentation team tracks and collects cases of sexual gender-based violence and various other human rights abuses in Karen State. This information is gathered and shared selectively to ensure confidentiality of survivors on organizing trips, with donors and stakeholders as a means to advocate for stronger accountability mechanisms under the rule of law. To date, the Burma Army denies any allegations of rape and abuse against women.
We publish a KWO magazine for our members, aiming for three issues a year so that we can share information, promote literacy, and empower Karen women and the wider community, especially in remote areas, by being better informed about current issues. The KWO Magazine is produced and shared quarterly in Karen, which includes updates on a variety of issues and activities related to KWO or general interest of women. Readers are from Karen State and the refugee camps. They can obtain access to the magazine through the Internet but we also provide copies on our organizing trip.
Please see the KWO Magazine by clicking here.
Women leaders at all levels of KWO conduct regular trips for community mobilizing. Organizing Trips are essential for KWO’s leadership to remain connected to the community and for our community to have direct access to leadership and thereby to influence plans and decisions. We share information about KWO activities, the current political situation in Burma and particularly what is going on in other areas of Karen State. We gather community views, ideas and suggestions, and encourage people to mobilize for active participation in the community.
Organizing trips strengthen the relationships and ties with our community organizations such as with youth and minority groups. They also keep open and maintain channels of regular communication between KWO managers, offices, refugee camps and members inside Karen State. All levels of KWO staff work together to travel and meet and share information on a wide range
of women and community leaders. Communication access can be difficult depending on the area KWO staff work in, which is why efforts to make these trips and discuss in person are all the more important. Security risks for staff traveling continues to be a significant challenge. At times, funding has also compromised the ability to conduct these trips on a regular basis.In 2018, KWO was able to conduct 16 organizing trips. In 2019, there were 15 organizing trips in both refugee camps and Karen State. Between 300 and 1000 participated in each trip including KWO senior staff, KWO members, community leaders, women and youth and those who are working for CBOs in the community which included discussing and consulting with various levels of leadership in the community as well as villagers about how their situation is improving or worsening in Burma’s current socio-political climate.
Special Events are valuable opportunities to inspire, share information, and raise awareness among large numbers of people in our community and in other places through media coverage. Special Events can create awareness on the important issues that have effect on community’s lives and at the same time raise the voice of the communities to the authorities or to government, demonstrate concerns, demand policy and behavior change, hold the authorities accountable, commit to promises made, as well as celebrating successes and diversity. We usually organize large Special Events in rotating sites throughout the refugee camps and Karen State. We hold large events including for the 16 days of Activism campaign. Many local KWO branches will also organize smaller versions of these events to recognize these important days and take the opportunity for advocacy which they offer.
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