Four days ago hundreds of young people in the remotest corners of Myanmar packed their bags and left home by foot, motorbike or bus. Reaching bigger towns they met other Fellows and continued the exhausting journey together in crowded vehicles under the sweltering sun.
Today, February 19, 408 Fellows had reached their destination: The opening of the Fourth National Fellows’ Conference in the former capital of Yangon.
It is very encouraging to be here. Sometimes I get depressed when I am at home and find it hard to keep up my work. But here, there are too many people like me. I can learn from their success and that encourages me to continue, says Le Me Tar who also attended the second and third National Fellows’ Conferences.
Le Me Tar became a Fellow in his native Kachin State through ActionAid partner MAS in 2009 and is now an alumni member of the programme. After completing his Fellowship he is now working for another organisation.
- The best thing about becoming a Fellow was the attitude change. It gave me ambitions in life. Now I want to work for my village, to spread awareness in my community to enable people to solve their problems in life. I think lack of awareness is worse than poverty itself, says Le Me Tar.
ActionAid Myanmar and partners initiated the Fellowship Programme in 2006. Since then it has become a movement of more than 400 Fellows and the essence of all ActionAid Myanmar’s work.
The innovative programme aims at identifying young, potential leaders in rural communities and equipping them with skills, knowledge and confidence. By becoming Fellows they stimulate participatory development in their villages and engage with local authorities to ensure access to the rights of the people.
As interesting and rewarding it is to be a Fellow, at times it can be lonely, frustrating and tough to work alone in remote communities. The yearly National Fellows’ Conference is a highly appreciated chance to share learnings, difficulties and achievements.
The first day of the conference, which has the theme of Unity in Diversity for Justice, is dedicated to sharing achievements.
My greatest achievement is that I have helped improve life in my village by establishing a microcredit programme. Before the villagers did not know the importance of saving and they took up loans at horribly high interest rates. Now they can save money and lend from each other instead of the moneylender, says Le Me Tar.
Organising the Fourth National Fellows’ Conference is in itself a great achievement for ActionAid Myanmar. This is the first time the event has been officially approved by the authorities. And not only approved – the Yangon Region Minister of Social Welfare, Dr. Myint Thein, delivered the opening speech.
The winds are indeed changing in Myanmar, leaving more space than ever for the Fellows movement grow and flourish.