Linked with our presentation of U.N Must Act to End Attacks on Karen in Burma/Myamar.
Linked also with our presentation of the Karen Women’s Organization KWO – Burma/Myamar.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “The voices of many women striving for peace, freedom and equality among human beings shall be heard better and better and will become the most powerful voice in the world community.”
Naw Zipporrah Sein – Burma/Myamar
She works for the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO).
Naw Zipporrah Sein was born in 1955 at Saw Kar Der Village, Kler Lweh Htoo District, Karen State, Burma. She was home educated by her mother before she went to school in the conflict zone in Karen State (Kaw Thoo Lie) where she completed her teacher education. For safety reasons, she sought refuge in Thailand in 1995 where she instilled and promoted education for Karen women in refugee camps. In 1998, Sein moved on to work for the Central Committee of the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) as coordinator and executive secretary, a position she still holds.No human beings want to desert their homeland to seek refuge in other countries where they find their lives equally miserable, due to lack of recognition of their status, causing them to live in hiding day after day. But when death is imminent, fleeing is inevitable and they go with the hope that one day, when the sovereignty and freedom of their motherland is restored, they will be able to return.
Sein, an ethnic Karen women in her 50’s, is one such refugee. She is unmarried. Her lover, a member of the Faren army, was killed in battle. Born in Saw Kar Der Village, Kler Lweh Htoo District, Karen State, Burma, just a few years after the ethnic Karen started to fight Burmese troops in a bid to restore their sovereinity, Sein saw her family joining the Karen army to fight for the liberation of their homeland and for the equality of ethnic groups. As a result, her family had to move around constantly to elude Burmese troops.
During that tumultuous time, Sein and her younger sister and brother had to be home-educated by their mother until they completed grade two. Luckily, she was able to attend further schooling in Rangoon and in the battle zone in Karen state until she completed her teacher education. Learning English at this time proved to be of immense benefit in her subsequent service to her compatriots.
In 1995, Sein had to flee Burma and took refuge in Thailand. Initially, she and her compatriots, like other refugees crossing the border, were not given refugee status, which meant they had no access to refugee rights upheld by the Geneva Convention on Refugees. Support from the Thai government is scant, and refugees have to depend largely on the help of NGOs.
However, Sein was not discouraged. She latched on to anything that would benefit her people. She worked for the Karen education department as a teacher and teachers’ trainer. In 1995, Sein moved to work for the Karen Women’s Organization and was appointed coordinator and executive secretary.
Sein’s colleagues speak highly of her: her strong leadership, her courage in decision making and her skill in bridging the gap between the older and younger generations, enabling them to work with each other with mutual respect. Most importantly, her colleagues admire Sein’s ability to listen to others. In 2000, she was reelected as executive secretary of KWO.
KWO works in response to the problems of refugee communities, many of whom live in despair and hopelessness. This has led to family dysfunction, drug abuse and sexual violence, in particular, with Karen women having to bear the brunt of the problems.
Being the head of planning and implementation of KWO, Sein established a leadership school for young women and other training courses to develop women’s skills as professionals. She also set up adult education programs, safe houses, literary programs, a nursery school program, a special needs education program, toy sharing programs and fund raising programs for the organization’s activities.
War torments everyone, but it seems women suffer much more than men do. They become victims of sexual violence abetted by people who regard it as an act of revenge. They are victimized by those who use rape as a strategic weapon in the conflict. Numerous ethnic women in Burma have been raped and subjected to sexual violence by Burmese troops.
In 2003, the women’s task force of KWO were trained on fact finding and began to compile information from women who had been raped and brutally abused by the Burmese army. The output was made into a report titled “Shattering Silence”, which was published in 2004 and launched at the 60th general assembly of the UN High Commission on Refugees in Geneva in 2004. This work is principally attributed to Sein.
She fervently believes in the power of women to work for change in their communities. “The voice of many women striving for peace, freedom, and equality among human beings shall be heard better and better and will become the most powerful voice in the world community,” says Sien.
At KWO, Sein works in seven refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border in Maesod district, Tak province, Mae Sariang district, Mae Hong Son province and Suanphueng district in Ratchaburi province, and also in the Karen State in internally displaced areas. Her contribution has led to changes in these refugee communities, the uplifting of women’s status, reducing family problems, drug abuse and sexual violence.
Besides her leadership roles at KWO, Sein also works on other issues she deems beneficial to efforts to bring about peace, freedom and equality of the ethnic groups. In 2003, she was behind national reconciliation efforts, and in 2003-2004, she was assigned as coordinator for a women’s capacity building program for the League of Women from Burma and was part of the taskforce for the Karen Peace Promotion Federation. She also works as part of the drug rehabilitation committee, rights promotion for refugees and women, and to instill nonviolence awareness and healing at the national and international levels. (Read this on this page of 1000peacewomen).
The U.N. has just committed itself again to protecting civilians at risk, and thousands of Burmese are in urgent need of such help. The atrocious situation in Burma is exactly the kind of crisis the resolution was designed to address. Without swift and decisive Security Council action, the killings and abuses there will not stop. Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. (Read the whole text on HRW).
about the Karen Nation:
the Karen People;