Womens Exchange

On international Women’s Day 1999, migrant and refugee women from different ethnic backgrounds came together in an informal setting to arrange a time and space where they could meet, exchange and discuss ideas, and also have fun as a group. These women wanted to understand the different issues affecting women in different circumstances and wanted to explore women’s roles in their families, communities, societies and the world. They agreed to meet once a month to continue the work that they were doing and started the Women’s Exchange Program. Women who attended the first meetings in Chiang Mai moved on to other places, and brought what they had learned at Women’s Exchange to their new hometowns. Now there are Women’s Exchange meetings happening in around 20 locations along the Thai-Burma border, with around 20-40 women attending every meeting.

During these exchanges, Burmese migrant and refugee women of different ethnicities and backgrounds come together to share their experiences and learn from each other. Women in the groups share how they personally have dealt with different challenging experiences and went on to improve their situations. These groups give the women a space to learn and share. Discussion topics include sexual and reproductive health and rights, domestic violence, migration issues, violence against migrant womenlabor rights, family life, among many other things. In any Women’s Exchange meeting where a case of domestic violence or rape is disclosed. MAP has recourses to provide the women with support. The women can also invite guest speakers or friends to facilitate special sessions on topics that the group would be interested in. These meetings are organized by the women in the group, for the women in the group.

Once a year, around Internation Women’s Day (March 8th), representatives from all of the local Women Exchange groups meet at the Annual Women Exchange Get Together in Chiang Mai. The Women Exchange Get together became a time when women, who we usually isolated by their work, could meet other women, along with regional and international women’s networks. There are plenary sessions and skill building workshops, women learn about a large range of helpful topics that they can bring back and share with their local Women Exchange groups. Around 150 women attend this event annually.

For a video testimony of the impact that Women Exchange and Women Exchange Get Together events, clink on the link and watch this video. Also, click on this link for a coverage of the International Women’s Day March in 2016.

Along with the Women Exchange group meetings, the Women’s Exchange program facilitated over 600 migrant and refugee women living on the Thai-Burma border to be involved in the proccess of developing a ten step program, Automatic Response Mechanism (ARM). ARM helps to support women who have been victims of sexual abuse. ARM was released in 2003 and updated in 2008. ARM is a resource for the migrant community, NGO’s, the police, hospitals and crisis centers, the court of law and any other parties that are involved or interested. It has been used as a reference book, a training manual and an advocacy tool. Nearly 10,000 copies of ARM in Thai, Burmese, Karen, Shan and English have been distributed.

Please, check out the hyperlinks for any additional information!

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