Burma – Women´s Voices for Peace

Thanakha Team. Burma – Women’s Voices for Peace. Edited by Thanakha Team. Bangkok. May 2010.

Burma – Women´s Voices for Peace is the seventh edition of women´s stories to be published by the Thanakha Team. Thanakha is a collective of women from different regions of Burma and other parts of the world, that exists to gather and publishes women´s stories about the human experience of the conflict in Burma. The stories are short, poignant vignettes demonstrating practical examples of daily peace-building and solidarity. The mere existence of some of the stories represents huge risk to lives; an earlier edition features poems smuggled to the publisher written by female prisoners incarcerated in horrific circumstances. Others are written by those fortunate enough to escape Burma and begin a new life as refugees, dislocated from their families and writing from exile in foreign lands. These stories epitomise the spirit of Burmese women. The defiant, eternal desire for peace is captured in every tale.

The stories are real, moving tales of daily existence – the women use the language of solidarity and peace-building whilst writing from a context of extreme displacement and state-perpetrated violence. Some of the stories have a strong political focus, others are more personal. They tell of amazing acts of courage – often using the simplest, most humble vernacular. What unites the women´s experience in this collection, regardless of ethnic background or political perspective is the humanity, compassion and humour with which these women continue their struggle.

Women have a strong presence in the fight for peace and democracy in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi is the internationally recognised figurehead on the political stage and this October marks her 15th cumulative year of incarceration. This book represents just one crucial aspect of the work that ALTSEAN-Burma carries out. The organisation has been working with women in and outside Burma to bring about peace by sharing their stories, educating, training and empowering them, building and supporting displaced communities since 1996. ALTSEAN provides the resources for the Thanakha Team and supports women empowerment initiatives in the hope that one day a new generation of Burmese community leaders will have the freedom to participate democratically in their building of their nation.

At this stage the Women´s Voices collection is published in English as well as several ethnic Burmese languages. It is hoped that one day the stories can be translated into other languages so that these important voices can be heard across the world. In the meantime, here´s a translation of the closing poem in the collection – a call for solidarity, courage and hope amidst the violence.

Women´s Hope – Soe Meh

If you have shed tears for the freedom stolen from you
We have wept for the lives we created
Only to die before our eyes

If you show vengeance for all that you´ve been through
We can only aspire for a life that once was ours
To find its way back to its spirit

We are left with nothing but the courage to hope
And we hold on to this as we keep living each day
An inspiration, to gain back our freedom.

Moo Baulch.
Sydney, Australia.

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