By Luke Miller, ActionAid Myanmar
Participatory Vulnerability Analysis (PVA) has been at the heart of ActionAid’s bottom-up development work for many years and this commitment was continued in Yangon when ActionAid Myanmar staff came together for a workshop on the topic. PVA is a tool developed by the organisation that aims to enhance the inclusiveness and participation of all individuals in a community when they examine what makes them vulnerable. The process can involve group discussions between community members, village leaders and local government authorities to obtain an understanding of a community’s vulnerabilities, but can also include focus groups to analyse the specific threats faced by, for example, women and disabled people.
PVA is used most often in identifying different needs at times of conflict and emergency, but a key theme of this two-day workshop is to emphasise the versatility of PVA in a host of other situations. The process of PVA combines with ActionAid’s International initiatives on the harmonisation of different tools used within the organisation to gain information and address development issues. This policy means that ActionAid Myanmar aim to have the principles of PVA at the heart of many different aspects of their development policy.
ActionAid staff from offices across the country arrived in Yangon ready for the first day which was set aside for an introduction to PVA and a discussion on its application in Myanmar. This two days orientation workshop on PVA organized by ActionAid Myanmar begun on 9 July.
After Introduction session by Khual Tawna, DIPECHO Project Manager, Tauhid Ibne Farid facilitated session on objectives and making common ground of understanding on PVA across the participants. The participants hoped to gain a good understanding of PVA and have the opportunity to share their previous experiences with the tool. Alongside this, those present emphasised how they wanted a good understanding of the application of PVA within Myanmar’s context. PVA has already been a prominent approach of ActionAid Myanmar’s in forming village disaster preparedness action plans that make sure they focus on the specific vulnerabilities of different groups within a community.
The country programme has grown considerably in recent years, meaning a huge influx of staff who have little experience of ActionAid’s PVA. With this in mind, the first activity of the day was to give a chance for more experienced staff members to answer questions and share their experiences of PVA. The participants were split into two groups, with one half being those who have been with ActionAid for over a year and the other half for those who have been with the organisation for less than a year. The large amount of participants who had worked with ActionAid Myanmar for less than a year made it clear how quickly this country programme is developing and expanding. It was emphasised that the nature of Participatory Vulnerability Analysis means that ActionAid staff have a role simply of facilitators: the people that should dominate PVA sessions should be the community figures ActionAid is trying to empower, with a key emphasis on giving a voice to marginalised groups.
Aloysius James from ActionAid’s International Emergencies and Conflict Team, an expert in PVA, gave a presentation on his understanding of the concept. A key theme of his talk was that the findings of the analysis have to be coupled with a strong follow up of action – it is of little use to gain an understanding of a community’s vulnerabilities if these problems are not then addressed subsequently.PVA is crucial in understanding the differing risks of disasters to various groups, Aloysius emphasised, stating that “every disaster has a differential impact – the impact on the elderly, children and the rich is different”.
Women are consistently affected more than men by disasters and ensuring women have a voice when analysing a community’s vulnerability is crucial. “During the PVA process itself,” Aloysius pointed out, “people get empowered”.
Importantly, Aloysius noted that inclusion of different groups will not necessarily lead to participation. In many instances in Myanmar when a local authority is present in a room, normal community members are afraid to speak out – ActionAid staff have a crucial role at this point as facilitators to ensure that everyone within a PVA event feels they have the power to contribute to the discussion.
This first day of the PVA training also included a talk and discussion on the particular relevance of PVA to Myanmar from PVA expert Swe Set. The vulnerability of communities to extreme weather, as seen in Cyclone Nargis in 2008, is still a prevalent issue for many in the country, while poverty and a lack of awareness of rights adds to peoples’ susceptibility to problems. The group agreed that PVA is critical to empowering and addressing the rights of the people of Myanmar. With ActionAid ensuring that every group in a community has the opportunity to express their specific vulnerabilities, it is hoped that the problems of the population can continue to be understood more and then acted upon. Khual Tawna, coordinator of the event brought full of energy with diverse energizer entire day which was full of fun as well.