Day 2: Fourth National Fellows’ Conference in Myanmar

Friday, February 22, 2013 - 08:25

The second day of the Fellows’ Conference is focussed on making action plans for how to engage with the most significant challenges Myanmar is facing today. An inspiring example of that is three experienced Fellows from Rakhine State who have employed a clever media strategy to tackle corruption in their local community.

I think corruption is one of the biggest obstacles for Myanmar’s development. The government is truly reforming, but unfortunately we still see many corrupt civil servants at village level, says Khine Khine Saw, a 31 year old woman from Rakhine State, who has been a Fellow since 2007.

File 15619Fellows Khine Khine, Ngwe Tin and Tin Htun have formed a CBO to continue the work they have started as fellows.

Khine Khine Saw is working closely with former Fellows Ngwe Tin and Tin Htun. Together they have formed a community-based organisation (CBO) to continue the work they have started as Fellows.

- Fellows can tackle corruption locally by spreading awareness in the villages. We do not have to pay bribes; we have a right not to, says Ngwe Tin, a 32 year old woman.

When the community suffered from various problems related to illegal gambling one of the volunteers proposed to take action. But since corrupt local police were involved it was a difficult task to deal with. The Fellows were inspired by an ActionAid training about media engagement and made a strategy with the volunteer.

We gave the information to the BBC and they announced it on their Burmese programme. This made the top brass in the police force aware of the issue and the gambling house was closed down immediately, says Khine Khine Saw.

The BBC broadcast had much greater consequences than the Fellows had intended.

- The local teachers had been extremely lazy and disengaged, often closing the school for several weeks at a time. But after the BBC broadcast they improved their performance significantly. They were afraid that they would also be on radio otherwise, says Khine Khine Saw.

- In fact, all government staff improved, says Tin Htun.

File 15621The second day began with a Panel Debate and Q&A session about the theme of the conference: Unity in Diversity for Justice.

Recently I witnessed some people pleading with the local police to allow them to open a new gambling house in another location. The officer answered that they shouldn’t ask permission from the police, but from the people who told the BBC about the first one, says Tin Htun

But it has not been without risk to engage with the media. The volunteer has later received death threats after forwarding information to Ministers and Members of Parliament about a corrupt businessman in the community.

- But our volunteer is very brave. He will face any consequence to continue his work, says Tin Htun.

Tin Htun has attended all four Fellows’ Conferences. He has noticed a substantial change over the years.

- The first year we were all very shy. We did not have enough confidence to interact with Fellows from other parts of the country. But over the years we have learned so much from each other and gotten to know each other so well. Now we all interact no matter where we come from.