Myanmar Civil Society: Surviving and Sustaining
I am inspired by meetings with community groups that demonstrate real, meaningful and positive changes in the lives of vulnerable children.
As I sat across from the leaders of Arr Man Thit, a small community-based organisation which we fund for their child rights work, their eyes full of hope and fatigue, I realised that this was going to be one of those inspiring, yet gut-wrenching moments.
The four leaders of Arr Man Thit I met, three women and one man are all HIV/AIDS affected and impacted struggling for their own survival in the slum areas of Mandalay and, yet, somehow still muster the courage and tenacity to support 100 children impacted by HIV/AIDS.
In addition to working with us on child rights and organisational development capacity building programmes, the grassroots organisation supports the nutrition, health, education and budding child rights activism of children who have all lost one or both of their parents and who struggle with their own health issues.
Adequate care and protection
They work with the aunts, uncles and grandparents of these children to ensure that they are receiving adequate care and protection at home and that they remain out of institutions.
They have developed a partnership with the Myanmar Midwives and Nurses Association who has taken the group under their wings providing both a small office space and technical support.
The women of Arr Man Thit queue at 4:30 in the morning to receive their own basic medication—a process, according to them, that is riddled with bribery and corruption.
“We want to fight this,” one member commented, “but we put the rights of children before ours.”
“Sustainability for us is surviving long enough to continue to help these children survive, grow and receive their rights and entitlements. Sustainability is that these children survive and hopefully they will be in a position to take over for us when we are gone.”
One of the 100 children supported by Arr Man Thit. Living with HIV from birth, the 12-year old girl pictured above showed me her journal, which recounted stories of stigmatization and discrimination at the hands of adults and other children.
As we flipped through the pages, it became apparent how she had grown in confidence as she talked about staying in school, working with other children on rights fulfilment and educating both adults and other children on child rights and non-discrimination.
“Tell others our story,” she said.