The Burma Voices Project was conceived during my first trip to Burma in 2015. I was deeply moved by the kindness and hope of the Burmese people as political campaigning began in September 2015, but shocked and angry that human rights violations continued in the run up to the November 8th general election. Not only were many people are unaware of how or where to vote, but the military government was imprisoning Burmese citizens for exercising their right to vote and campaign for political parties.
The first piece in the series is Open Mouths: Free Speech in Burma?
This article enables a selection of otherwise silenced Burmese voice to be heard in a public sphere, informs the reader about some of the many social issues plaguing contemporary Burma and proposes a number of ways the world can help the oppressed people of Burma.
Burma Voices Project: Women of Burma
Women of Burma is a series of interviews with women in Burma. With a powerful female figurehead now at the country’s helm, it is high time for the women of Burma to come to the fore. This project aims to enable these women’s unique voices to be heard by the international community and their previously untold stories to be deservedly shared with the world.
Numerous encounters on my travels around Burma kindled this project into existence over several months, with individual and group interviews occurring in early 2016. Each of the women I interviewed is a Burmese citizen, but they are ethnically diverse, hark from many different areas of the country, and follow various faiths.
Some girls don’t know about sex exactly, and some girls read a lot and they know about it. If I got pregnant [or had] children before I got married, then I would get shame. How can I say it? I would get shame, and my parents wouldn’t call me their daughter.
Most girls talk about this kind of threatening on Facebook. First there will be a private message, saying: ‘if you don’t give me money, I will post your photos on Facebook.’ They threaten to post naked pictures made in Photoshop. It is blackmail. Sometimes they don’t want any money and they just post the pictures.
My husband asks, ‘will you be okay, going alone?’, I’m forty-two, I have two children, I can look after myself!
People don’t earn very much, we don’t have money to travel, but people look out for each other, and help one another wherever they go. We are not rich in money, but we are rich in kindness.
All interviews were conducted in person, with the participants’ full consent for publication. Names have been altered to protect the participants’ identities.