The Dream Come True

Shwe Pyi Thar, in the district of Yangon, is located in the northwestern part of Yangon, Myanmar. Most of the labors live in this area. Myanmar has adopted a minimum wage to ensure their workers earn enough to cover the cost of living.

The LRC  went to Shwe  Pyi Thar to visit one of our partners on Solidarity Trade Union Myanmar (STUM). When we arrived, a very attractive woman was greeting us very warmly.

Her name is Myo Myo, Program Director of Solidarity Trade Union Myanmar (STUM) which participated in PEACE project in the first round of Training of Trainers (TOT) and also the review meeting at PyinOo Lwin in January 2018.

Myo explained that “STUM was organized in 2016 as a successor organization to the Myanmar Trade Union Federation (MTUF).” At that time, MTUF was not able to register because of internal disagreements due to barring of women to serve  in leadership positions.

“Before we received the grant from PEACE project, we were relying on a Chiang Mai based organization for funding support for research on worker’s rights”, saidMyo.

Myo had often participated in some LRC advocacy activities related with PEACE project. To enable STUM to be qualified for a grant, she applied to participate in the ToT which had motivated her to apply for a small grant program of PEACE project.

“All the content in the course is new to me and one-time training isn’t enough for me.” Myo said sparklingly.

She was particularly interested in learning how to get information from the government and in the use of community scorecards as part of promoting social accountability. If she were to redesign ToT, she would devote more time to financial management, reporting and risk assessment and management.

One of her efforts includes conducting one multiplier training with two trainers who also participated in the ToT. More than (20) CSO representatives participated in the multiplier training, (10)  were selected that came from the trainers’ own network.

She succeeded in applying for a grant and is her first experience in implementing the project in a systematic manner, therefore she faced many difficulties, but with technical support provided from LRC, she learned to overcome some of the challenges. The application for a grant itself was a challenge, and if she were to do it again, she would be more confident as she has gained some experience in managing and implementing project activities. She learned that there is a need to have more meetings with the government to build trust especially labour rights being a very challenging issue. LRC provided me with opportunities to establish a relationship with state and national level government officials from the Ministry of Labor in a proactive manner and to solve problems through mutual understanding, dialogue and constructive engagement. Prior to engaging with LRC, I was using a confrontational approach with the local authorities and policymakers through organizing labour strikes in the street and industrial zone in Yangon instead of finding solutions such as negotiation with key persons and government counterparts and the management and owners of factories.

The main achievements, as she elaborated, include improvement in communication skills, using dialogue among the stakeholders and effective engagement with policymakers. In fact, she has adopted a  model and a new approach which is a constructive engagement, for example, listening, respecting, dialogue, negotiating and presenting evidence-based data and information. This approach has been well received. Consequently, the Minister of Labor is aware of the positive progress in demanding labour rights and in the protection of workers. It appears that the network is better accepted and is now growing with the inclusion of more workers from a wider geographic area than originally planned.

The significant changes as indicated by Myo, is “CSOs, as direct beneficiaries have improved knowledge and skills in data collection and in advocating for labour rights and protection of workers”. Myo says, “They learn to use the more systematic approach in implementing the activities”. Myo concluded by saying, “Now my dream to help and empower the workers have come true, thanks to the PEACE grants program.