Empowering Young Women and Girls, Mandalay
People In Need has made a commitment to help the Good Shepherd Sisters to expand their Support Program for Vulnerable Women from a single-project initiative begun in 2013 into a long-term, comprehensive program for the empowerment of young women and girls.
At present, eight sisters, six staff members, and three volunteers work in the Mandalay Community of the Good Shepherd Sisters. The sisters provide vocational training for young women in social crisis, and an education center and boarding school for poor girls, as well as a day-care center for HIV-positive children and the children of parents living with HIV. The sisters also care for street children, provide spiritual support for people in the parishes, and visit the female prison, where they offer moral support as well as lessons in sewing and handicraft.
Gender bias remain deeply entrenched in Burmese society. Women often suffer violence. Discrimination hinders access to basic education, health care, and decent work at fair wages.
Beginning in July 2014, the Sisters will expand their support for women at risk and address the broader challenges they face in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city. Here, many poor young women with inadequate education fall victim to a harsh socioeconomic environment whose dangers include human trafficking. These vulnerable women must accept low-paid day jobs as domestic helpers, street hawkers and construction workers, or become sex workers or karaoke girls – all without access to proper food, health care or social services.
In response to these realities the sisters will set up a training center to instruct and energize women with a fresh vision that brings a sense of empowerment to their lives. These are the main objectives of the Empowerment Program:
- To work towards equality with men as partners in and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action, and peace and security
- To provide a safe and healthy environment for those who live in the facility
- To provide a standard of living that enables women to live in dignity
- To uphold women’s self-esteem, and encourage their participation in social and public life to help build their communities
- To promote the spiritual, cultural, human, intellectual, and social development of women
The new program will provide training and accommodation for 50 girls who have lived in fear of abuse, trafficking, and other dangers. In addition, 500 women will take part in the social activities at the center, and the sisters will help about 750 parents and community leaders across four parishes.
The comprehensive Empowerment Program will comprise three initiatives in three locations:
1. The Drop-In and Healing Center at the Convent of the Good Shepherd Sisters in downtown Mandalay (the main community) functions as a first stop for vulnerable girls upon arrival. The main objective is healing, and the Center offers care and support for about 20 girls who can stay and live there for at least one year. The Drop-In and Healing Center has already opened, and 20 girls now live in the main community. For a more detailed description see Support Program for Vulnerable Women.
2. The Empowerment Center will open on a Good Shepherd property in Mandalay Myothit (New City). A new four-story facility will complement the existing two-story building that has served in the past as an education center and boarding house for girls.
The Empowerment Center will welcome guests from the Drop-In and Healing Center who have completed their healing process, as well as other young women and girls at risk. With its new four-story building, the Center will provide accommodation for 40 young women, as well as space for sisters, counselors, and trainers. For residents as well as vulnerable young women and girls from the the neighboring areas, the Empowerment Center will provide the following day-training activities and seminars:
- Regular spiritual meditation to promote healing for the abused and exploited
- Lessons in sewing and the creation of traditional handicrafts, bags and postcards
- Training in management skills for cooking, sourcing products, sales and teamwork
- Social activities
- Music, singing and dancing lessons
- Education in health and personal hygiene
- Classes in language, adult literacy, computer skills and general knowledge
3. The Good Shepherd Sisters and People In Need are planning a Spiritual Renewal Center at the Maymyo Convent in hill town of Pyin Oo Lwin where the sisters own property and buildings that are suitable for expansion. Intended as a haven for vulnerable women and girls as well as a venue for new activities, the center will also accommodate sisters and staff.
The implementation of the Empowerment Program began in 2013 with the refurbishment of the Drop-In and Healing Center, also known as the main community. Most of the funds for construction and furnishing for the main community as of June 2014.
The second component of the program is scheduled to start in 2014, when some of the girls will move from the Drop-In Center to the Empowerment Center’s existing building in Mandalay Myothit. However, to realize the vision for the Empowerment Center, a larger facility is needed. People In Need hopes to help raise funds to cover the steep construction costs for a new four-story building that will enable the sisters to expand the program to its full capacity.
After completing the expansion of the Empowerment Center, hopefully before the end of 2014, PIN plans to with the sisters on the Spiritual Renewal Center in Maymyo in 2015.
The program should generate its own revenue, and should become self-supporting over time. The sisters envision the following avenues for income generation and self-reliance
1. Sale handmade products including ready-to-wear clothing, custom clothing made to order by our tailors and seamstresses, handicrafts, bags, postcards, and other gift items. The items will be sold:
- locally, through an on-site Good Shepherd Sisters’ shop and independent tourist shops
- domestically, through a foreign-owned tourist shop and the YMCA shop in Yangon
- internationally, through the Good Shepherd Sisters’ Income Generation Program in Australia, Europe, and the United States, and through the congregation’s Mother House in Rome,
- custom-made clothes by our tailors and seamstresses.
2. Exchange of skills and resources within the Good Shepherd Sisters Province of East Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar)
3. Local contributions from the girls’ home regions
4. Local donations and income from seminars, training courses, pamphlets and fund raising.
5. The establishment of sub-centers in Myanmar through networking with:
- trained girls and women moving back to their home villages
- and with other communities of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Myanmar+————————–