ore than a year ago, the American Women for International Understanding (AWIU) voted to sponsor a Delegation to Burma/Myanmar. Over the course of the year, interested members formed a study group who wanted to learn more about this historically fabled and currently troubled country. We studied the history, culture, ethnic composition, and both past and current political issues.This delegation grew from one of the three AWIU Action Agenda items for 2013
In January 2014, fourteen members, selected as Delegates, traveled to Myanmar to meet with NGO’s, government officials, political leaders, businessmen, tribal elders, tradesmen, and ordinary citizens of Burma. The Delegation was composed of professional women who are medical doctors, lawyers, social workers, educators, public administrators, government executives, artists, and active members of NGOs and other international organizations. They traveled to Burma from their homes in Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee, California, and China. While in Burma, the Delegation traveled from Yangon, to Mandalay, down the Ayeyarwady River to Bagan, and then to Inle Lake before returning to Yangon. They marveled at the still-standing structures built in the 9th- 13th centuries; admired the industry that produced verdant farmland and intricate crafts; and appreciated their cultural traditions and friendly acceptance of foreigners.
This report documents the highlights of the Delegation through photos and narrative. Credit for the photos, posting and format goes to Merle Cherney. Other members contributed to the report narrated by Gayle Morin.
Burma/Myanmar Delegation Report
LIST OF DELEGATES:
Gayle Graham-Morin, Delegation Leader
Judith Jakaitis, Delegation Co-Leader
Merry Lee Eilers
Magda Fehema Sharkasi
Robin Winter Odem
*Anne was not able to participate as a Delegate, but she continued to support the Delegation through her tireless efforts before, during and after the Delegation.
The Inspiration for the Burma/Myanmar 2014 Delegation
Each year AWIU sets an Action Agenda to create areas of focus in supporting women around the world for that year. This delegation grew from one of the three AWIU Action Agenda items for 2013, found at the bottom of this page, to select an inspirational Woman of Courage to work with to send a delegation to her country. The Woman of Courage selected was Zin Mar Aung of Burma, pictured below at IWOC 2012.
About Zin Mar Aung
Zin Mar Aung, a former political prisoner imprisoned for eleven years because of her political activism, has dedicated her life to promoting democracy, women’s empowerment, and conflict resolution in Burma. Following her involvement in the 1996 and 1998 pro-democracy student uprisings and subsequent imprisonment, she established a cultural impact studies group to promote the idea that democracy is compatible with Asian culture. She also created and leads a self-help association for female ex-political prisoners, and a political science school in Rangoon, which teaches and empowers civil society activists in Burma’s changing but still challenging environment. She is also the co-founder of a women’s empowerment group, and is currently spearheading an organization to raise awareness of issues affecting ethnic minorities in conflict areas.
Learn more about the history of our delegationsBuilding bridges since 1968.
The 2013 AWIU ACTION AGENDA
- Programs to provide healing for women who have suffered from violence.
- Working with an International Woman of Courage to plan an AWIU Delegation to her country. Each chapter to develop a local project working with citizens from that country who now live in the US. Delegation planned to Burma January, 2014.
- Education of women emphasizing literacy and communications. These educational efforts, often sponsored through grants, are supported by both AWIU local and international programs.