EarthRights School Burma 2011 graduate, Eh Say, is a community development worker with a local development organization in Karenni State, Burma, with a strong interest in environmental activism and sustainability. His fieldwork project while studying at the school was a needs assessment in his home region to find out about environmental and development issues affecting communities and the levels of awareness of these among local youth leaders.   

In his research, Eh Say documented some of the pressing concerns which trouble rural Karenni people. Environmental degradation has intensified over the past decade, with rapid over-extraction of resources by private companies that sees little benefit returned to local people in return for destruction of their traditional livelihoods. Land grabbing and militarization has plagued Karenni State and deprived Karenni people of their rights and home lands. In some cases communities have had little...

The Social Development Center is an alumni-founded and run school in Mae Hong Son, a province of Thailand along the Burmese border. Founded in 2002 by four alumni of the EarthRights School Burma, SDC draws students from ethnic minorities in neighboring Karenni State and educates them in human rights, environmental and legal issues. Upon graduating, these students return home and use their newly acquired skills to better their communities. For more information about the Social Development Center, visit their website.

Thaung Si, a 2011 ERSB alumnus from the Lisu ethnic group, has always had a passion for organic agriculture. His fieldwork for the Burma School, in his community on Pyin Oo Lwin, led him to take on a project to empower and strengthen his people by building community-driven sustainable livelihood strategies. Thaung Si wanted to give local farmers and villagers alternatives to large scale commercial agricultural enterprises and methods, which are destructive to soil quality and the local environment and exploitative of local farmers.

Thaung Si’s project developed out of a needs assessment he conducted in several villages in his community area. Using interviews, surveying and other tools, he found that most farmers were struggling to make a living. They relied on expensive chemical fertilizers and seeds designed to boost yields but which had harmful effects on soil quality, requiring ever...

During her fieldwork for the EarthRights School Burma, 2011 graduate Aye Thidar travelled back to her home of Ramree Island, Arakan State to conduct a needs assessment on the impacts of deforestation on local communities. She discovered that local villagers face significant problems because of disappearing forests. Lots of things lead to deforestation: lack of electricity in the region, logging, rubber plantations and mono-cropping by large companies and government authorities that destroy native forests, as well as extensive use of firewood by local people to produce alcohol to support their families.

Households nonetheless rely heavily on firewood as an essential fuel for cooking and heating. Wood scarcity means more time and money is invested in obtaining firewood and can also endanger women and children who have to travel further afield to isolated spots to gather wood for the family.

Aye used the results of her needs assessment...

Ellen, a 2011 ERSB  graduate, has been awarded a small grant to continue the work she began at the Burma School in 2011. For her fieldwork during the Burma School session, she spent six weeks in Irrawaddy Division studying young women who left their communities to find jobs in urban centers and abroad. She found that poverty and vanishing opportunities are forcing more and more women into unregulated and dangerous work, so she proposed a project to tackle these issues.

In many villages in Irrawaddy Division, Myanmar, large numbers of local youth, especially young women, are leaving their communities in search of jobs in large urban centers and abroad.  Most end up as domestic workers, although some are subjected to trafficking or lured into sex work. For girls who become domestic workers, unregulated and intimate working environments mean many experience human rights abuses, ranging from poor labor conditions, invisibility and lack of voice, to exploitation...

We witnessed an effective integration of ERI’s legal and training programs as two Mekong School alumni participated in the MLAI public interest legal training program from April 18 to May 2, 2012 in Chiang Mai. Both experienced in using legal tools to strengthen grassroots campaigns, Lao Zhang (China, 2007) and Laofang (Thailand, 2010) joined lawyers and legal activists from the region to share experiences and practical strategies, with the aim to strengthen public interest advocacy for environmental and human rights justice.

Lao Zhang is a farmer and doesn’t have a law degree, but he has always been eager to use the law in his community work. He is from a remote village in Yunnan Province, settled on abundant valleys of the...

This is an article written by EarthRights School Mekong alumni SIriluk, who attended the ASEAN Youth Forum and ASEAN Peoples' Forum in Phnom Penh. Photo Credit Mingla Charoenmuang

For the last few years, since the 2008 ASEAN Charter was drafted and commenced, its people began to pay more attention of what ASEAN is, what it can do, and whom it does for. ASEAN as an association of Southeast Asian Nations, and as an economic, political, and socio-cultural zone, ASEAN governments try to promote a further step of emerging SEA nations into a ‘community.’ As its slogan trying to achieve as ‘One Vision, One Identity, One Community’, it gains much of criticisms in terms of its attempt to free flow the labor market and emerge more free trade areas.

However, there is a positive aspect to look at, at the...

Cambodia hosted the ASEAN Youth Forum (March 26-28) and ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People's Forum (March 29-April 1) in Phnom Penh prior to the 2012 ASEAN summit. This was Cambodia's first time to host the Forums. EarthRights School Mekong alumni from Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and China attended to continue their involvement in a growing collective current of ASEAN civil society advocates aimed at transforming ASEAN into a people-centered community. In the context of ASEAN, “People-centered” means: one, that the decision making process within ASEAN must be transparent and open for people, not secretly discussed among government officers behind a closed door; and two, that the principle of non-interference as stated in ASEAN Charter means that the ASEAN member states respect freedom of expression of the social justice movement, not that the governments maintain silence or do nothing to end human rights abuses committed...

The Burma Alumni Program is pleased to announce that funding decisions have recently been finalized Round 2, of the 2011 Small Grants Program. A large number of strong proposals were received and a ten of these will receive grants with support from the Daniel C Clark Memorial Fund as well as external funder Trocaire.  In keeping with the Small Grant Program’s objectives, funding priority has been given to proposals from recently graduated alumni from the latest two ERSB classes of 2011 and 2010. Applicants were also offered support and mentoring by the alumni program to develop and fine-tune their project ideas and proposals before final submission to funders.

Ten projects across a range of theme areas will be supported and rolled out for implementation in coming months in locations and communities across the country, where successful applicants are living and working. The projects cover the following key areas:

Developing...

Children’s Day in Burma is celebrated on February 13, honoring independence leader Bogyoke Aung San's birthday. Alumni organization Wimutti Volunteer Group (WVG) organized an event in Bokyoke Gardens in Rangoon marking the occasion and learning about Child Rights with a group of children who are undertaking WVG’s non-formal education programs for children and young people.

The children visited the gardens to pay their respects to General Aung San and hear stories from his childhood. They learnt about Child Rights, discussed what these mean for them in their daily lives and took a quiz on the topic before rounding off the day with a visit to the fish museum.

Bogyoke Aung San was a Nationalist leader of Burma. He was born in the township of Natmauk on February 13, 1915, the son of fairly well-off parents. He graduated from one of the high schools established by Burmese...

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