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Video: The Women Bringing Hope to Myanmar’s Border

Pyo Pyo spent her childhood running from oppression and violence. Eventually, she fled to an internally displaced person’s camp along the Thailand border.

But today, violence following Myanmar’s 2021 military coup is threatening the region where Pyo Pyo lives once again. Watch her journey as a young woman leader and learn how, with the Fund’s support, a grassroots group is tackling this ongoing humanitarian crisis:

Learn More: Who Are the Karen People? Why Are They Being Targeted?

When you hear about Myanmar, you may think of the 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis. But Myanmar’s powerful military continues to persecute ethnic minority groups in the country today. The Karen people are an ethnic minority who have resisted oppression for decades. The Karen are Indigenous peoples in the Myanmar-Thailand border region, but with languages and cultures distinct from the majority Burman.

For more than 70 years, the Karen have sought to maintain their dignity and autonomy as the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s army) has carried out arbitrary arrest, torture, rape, and extra-judicial killings, sometimes targeting resistance to military rule and often to sow fear. Today, an estimated 6.5 to 8 million Karen people continue to seek ways of living their lives free of such threats from the military.

More than 70,000 Karen live in refugee camps in Thailand, and more than 200,000 Karen are internally displaced, mostly in the jungle. Before the coup in 2021, the government had seized Karen land for development projects and the army had mined Karen villages, making it impossible for refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) to return.

After the military coup in 2021, fighting has intensified in the Karen state. Some people living in IDP camps along the border have been forced to flee yet again to escape the encroaching conflict.

Karen womens organization meet in a center near Myanmar's border
KWO are one of Myanmar’s oldest civil society organizations.

Who Are the Karen Women’s Organization? What Does the Fund’s Support for KWO Do?

The Karen Women’s Organization (KWO), is a 70,000-member strong group that works to promote gender equality and to provide for Karen communities. Formed in 1949, KWO tackles the oppression Karen women often experience both at the hands of Myanmar’s government and within their own patriarchal society.

In response to the recent attacks near the IDP camps, KWO has intensified its humanitarian work providing food, water, and shelter.

KWO rejects the legitimacy of the 2021 coup and demand free and fair elections. They insist that any humanitarian aid Myanmar receives avoids giving any political legitimacy to the Burmese military.

The Fund has supported KWO since 2015. With our support, KWO has helped tens of thousands of girls and women harness their power to stand up for their community’s needs and rights. Our flexible funding has allowed KWO to pivot between providing health services and nutritional support, while also advocating for a peaceful, equal future for the Karen people. We’ve also enabled their life-saving efforts getting COVID-19 resources to the Karen people, who were almost completely left out of informational or public health outreach. 

How Can I Help?

Share our video. Pyo Pyo, the women of KWO, and the Karen people deserve to have their voices heard and story amplified. Post the video on your social media or email it to friends today.

Donate. You can help the women of KWO—and hundreds of grassroots activists like them—keep their communities safe and speak out against injustice.

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