Wanted: Opportunity, not charity


On December 7, 2012, hundreds of persons gathered at the Myanmar Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) in Yangon. They were here to attend the first ever Job Fair for persons with disabilities in Myanmar; to support equal rights by asking for job opportunities, not charity.

The remarkable event, which also commemorated the first anniversary of Myanmar’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was arranged by ActionAid Myanmar.

File 14410Dr. Myint Thein, Minister of Social Welfare, Yangon Regional Government Office

Many prominent people had come to show their support. Dr. Myint Thein, Minister of Social Welfare, Yangon Regional Government Office, delivered the opening remarks, urging the Myanmar business community to create and promote more job opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Daw Yu Yu Swe, Assistant Director of the Department of Social Welfare in Naypyitaw, followed his lead: “People with disabilities want opportunity, not charity. Please try to give them that”, she urged. She then pledged that the Department of Social Welfare’s is more than willing to work with the business community on creating equal employment opportunities. And she narrated successes stories of various Asian enterprises on recruiting persons with disabilities.

“Everyone must have the right to be employed, and everyone must try to be employed,” she concluded.

Dr. Maung Maung Lay, Vice President of UMFCCI and Managing Director of NI Lay Naing Co. Ltd. agreed with Daw Yu Yu Swe’s statement. He pronounced the UMFCCI’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility and on the spot he declared his willingness to hire any participant with accounting experience.

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Daw Wah Wah Tun, President of Myanmar Woman Entrepreneurs Association, encouraged persons with disability to build their skills, capacity and confidence: “Most people do not think that persons with disabilities should be employed. We need to change this perspective first by investing in vocational training. One business group could take the lead in employing persons with disabilities and by demonstrating success many others would follow the example”.

Dr. Mike Griffiths, Research Director of the Social Poverty & Policy Research Group, pointed out that 2.32 per cent of the Myanmar population live with disabilities. The exclusion of this group from the workforce is costly: Every year the Myanmar GDP loose 1,189,410,000 USD on this account.

“The government must find ways to reduce the poverty by considering the case of persons with disabilities and the elderly. All of us must change our view on people with disabilities”.

The participants enjoyed this opportunity to speak their mind to the government representatives, the business community as well as the general public through attending media representatives.

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Ko Nay Lin Soe from Myanmar Independent Living Initiatives said: “Many people say that the most important for people with disabilities are charity, kindness, and medical care, but the actual need of persons with disabilities is equal opportunity in life.

Ko Kyaw Lin Naing from Myanmar Physical Handicraft Association said: “I would like to ask the government to stand up for our rights, and to ask the business companies – who have the power and capacity – to grant us the right to be employed”

Ko Pyae Phyo Paing from Myanmar Blind Computer Users Network said: “I am very happy to participate in this event. This is the first Job Fair for us and I wish many people can find a job today.”

Later, in the evening session, Dr. Tin Myo Win from National League for Democracy encouraged the participants to strive for equal rights and offered to give certain free services in the Muslim Free Hospital for poor persons with disabilities.

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The Job Fair was organised by ActionAid Myanmar with support and participation of the Ministry Of Social Welfare, Yangon Regional Government Office, Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Relief and Resettlement (Nay Pyi Taw), Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), Central Executive Committee Member Dr Maung Muang Lay, Social Poverty & Policy Research Group (SPPRG), Dr. Tin Myo Win (GI Surgeon). Local organisations such as Myanmar Physical Handicapped  Association, Shwe Min Thar foundation, Myanmar Independent Living Initiatives, Disabled People’s Development Organization, The Leprosy Mission Myanmar , Myanmar Blind Computer Users Network, Association of Myanmar Disabled Women Affair, Lumbini Acaedamy, Family Support Network, Future Stars Intellectual Disabilities Self Advocacy Group, Light House, Association of Aid and Reliefs (AAR Myanmar) – AAR Japan, Myanmar Autism Association, Light House, Myanmar National Association of the Blind, Pann Nann Ein Foundation, Deaf Resource Center, Myanmar Christian Felloship of the Blind, Aye Myitta Center, Parahita Pyin Oo Lwin Blind School and Monywa School for the Blind also supported and attended the event.