During the first semester of 2008, thanks to the support of our funders ERI Alumni Small Grants Program was able to assist 7 projects of the ERSB Alumni. The projects included trainings, workshops, research, and a journal publication. These projects present possible solutions to the explicit needs of specific target groups, and they can be considered as paradigms that will set the basis for social change in Burma
During 2008, Life Vision Foundation was able to continue the second phase of their research project about the impact that gold mining in Kachin State has on women and children. In 2007, EarthRights Alumni Small Grants Program supported the initial part of this project in which research was carried out during 3 months. The second part consisted of doing a 2 month in-depth research. LVF researchers went to the five different villages near the Mali Nmai where there are gold mines. They interviewed 26 villagers, 15 males and 11 females. Researchers found out that mine workers and people around the mine sites lack of knowledge about the mercury impacts and they are also throwing the mercury into the river after collecting the gold from gold and soil mixer.
Kachin Environmental Organization is carrying out a project in which a journal is planned to be published. The main objective of the journal is to disseminate the information collected about the environmental and social problems faced by the Kachin people. It is also important to highlight the cooperation among Kachin groups along the China-Burma border and in Thailand that will result from this project. This project will take one year to be completed.
This semester the Small Grants Program supported various types of trainings in order to create awareness about different issues and strengthen the civil society. The Lahu Women´s Organization trained 20 Lahu people (10 male, 10 female) in Nawn Khi-o Village, at the Thai-Burmese border. The training was an introduction to human rights. This was the first time that many of the participants learned about this concept. Even though many of them had been victims of direct HR abuses, they had no knowledge about UDHR and the international mechanisms that support it. One participant commented: "we only now hear and know that there is human rights and UDHR for all human beings". During the training, participants were able to share their experiences and acquire theoretical and practical knowledge. They were deeply moved by this opportunity and were open to share their own stories. At the end of the training they all agreed on the compromise they had acquired to continue distributing this new knowledge.
Karenni Evergreen carried out a 3 months training program in the Karenni Refugee Camps 1 and 2 focused on women and environment. Participants learned about fertilizers, wastes, community forest, the ways in which women use the environment and the impact its degradation has on them. At the end of the workshop different types of seeds were distributed among the participants to encourage small agricultural projects in the refugee camps. The result of this training was the empowerment of new environmental activists in the camps. Furthermore women were encouraged to become involved in decision making processes on matters that affect the community, the environment and their families.
Another training related to environmental issues was the one developed by Overseas Mon Women Organization. Mon people living inside Burma and migrant workers Thailand were taught about the need to protect the environment. The training focused mainly on global warming. After completing this training participants had enough tools to go back to their communities and promote environmental conservation in order to try to reduce the effects of global warming.
Three of our Alumni worked together on their own project to develop a training program about Earthrights for migrant workers living in Mae Sot. The main subjects of the training were Human Rights, Women Rights and Environment. The Women Rights Section of the training included topics like the roles imposed on men and women, the ways in which the concept of gender is constructed, and discrimination against women. The Environment Section included: protection of the environment, deforestation, consequences of the construction of dams, and community forest. As a final point of the training, especial attention was given to the relationship between Human Rights and environment: Earthrights. Each alumnus did a part of the training depending on their area of expertise from previous experiences. An essential part of the training were the group discussions in which the understanding of the participants about the new concepts was shared as well as their own experience and perspective on how to protect and promote these rights.
The last project supported by the Alumni Small Grants Program consisted of an environmental awareness workshop carried out by the Pan Kachin Development Society. 25 individuals from Eastern Kachin State participated in the workshop. As a result of this activity community members learned about the main causes of environmental degradation and were ready to go back to their communities and start working for its preservation.
While implementing their projects there were clearly some obstacles related to security, communication, and planning. But the organizations have used these difficulties as lessons to be considered for future projects. All of the grantees are highly thankful to EarthRights Alumni Small Grants Program and are looking forward to continue working with the program.