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Career steps - a GPSS alumna reports on her work for the Asia Foundation in Myanmar

Shwe Yee was one of our participants of Global Politics Seasonal School in Cambodia 2016. Here she tells us about her career and current work experience with the Myanmar chapter of the Asia Foundation. As a researcher and program officer she works on enhancing women's political participation and urban safety in Myanmar.

News from Oct 11, 2018

"After my matriculation exam in 2007, I first worked as a teacher at an International School in Mandalay. Then I graduated from Mandalay Yandanarbon University in 2012, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in English. However, the turning point in my life came when I got the scholarship for University Preparation Program from the Thabyay Education Foundation in 2012. That program nuanced my understanding of the tensions among the different ethnic peoples of Myanmar and helped me comprehend the political affairs here. Since then, I have gained over six years of working experience for local and international organizations within Myanmar in the educational and political fields.

Since January 2018, I have been working for the Asia Foundation as a researcher and a program officer on their urban safety project to strengthen interagency collaboration among relevant government departments, to facilitate public participation and to support the empowerment of women. This project aims to identify and mitigate issues related to urban safety and includes a special focus on the safety and security issues of women. As a member of the women’s urban safety assessment team, I coordinated and conducted field research in collaboration with international experts. Based on the research findings, I realized that women’s political participation in policy development remains very low. In Myanmar, women are excluded from many areas of public life, such as the administrative sector, parliamentary reforms and the peace process. I strongly believe that women’s participation in the social and political arena is vitally important to support and strengthen a democratic society. Moreover, my work experiences and research findings have broadened my interest in studying politics and international relations abroad, which, I believe, will particularly help me achieve my career plan of being a policy analyst. I have spent the past six years studying a range of political systems to understand what works best in various countries and what would work best in and for Myanmar.

One of my main responsibilities is to engage with township-level government to better understand local safety and security challenges. In this context, I have met with Township Management Committee (TMC) and key actors such as the Police Force, the General Administration Department (GAD), municipal authorities and various ministries. As part of my role working on the urban safety assessment, in collaboration with the senior researcher, I conducted the analysis of and drafted recommendations to implement improvements for (women’s) safety and security. Unfortunately, working on local security issues turned out to be not only a tough job, but next to impossible due to the particularities of the existing political system, specifically the dual military-civilian government structure and the lack of support faced by international organizations operating in-country, including the Asia Foundation. To challenge this lack of support, I initiated women’s working groups in Karen State and in Southern Shan State. The groups addressed the following questions: 1. “How can women get better access to public services in our daily lives?” and 2. “How can we design the political system to help deepen women’s participation throughout the political process?”

In my opinion, both in government and in civil society organizations we have to work with the approach of checks and balances to reinforce women’s political participation in our culture.

In conclusion, conducting “women urban safety assessment” and dealing with the security-related actors including civil society leaders has helped me gain a nuanced understanding of the current state of public administration and the challenges faced in ensuring women’s equal political participation in development sectors in Myanmar. After studying abroad, I will be equipped to better contribute to the work of my organization, the Asia Foundation, and will have strengthened my understanding of how best to address the challenges facing women in Myanmar society. "



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