Posted on 06 Mar 24 in KHT News

The 8th of March marks International Women’s Day.

This is a day to recognise the achievements of women and girls, and also that there are still many difficulties and obstacles they face because of their gender. It is also a day to recognise the specific ways women are impacted by poverty and issues such as climate change and conflict.

Karen women are the backbone of their communities. Whilst Karen society and culture have changed with women gaining more rights and opportunities, they are still a vulnerable part of an already marginalised community. Women are less likely to be in positions of leadership and able to make important decisions for their families. Women are more likely to carry a ‘double burden’, which means they face discrimination and deprivation as women AND are a Karen person, both inside and outside their communities. Women are responsible for domestic, productive and also reproductive labour, often as they face poverty, rural isolation and can be victims of exploitation, including trafficking and violence.

If there is domestic violence or trouble in the home, the headman will usually intervene and try to help fix it. Before many women did not leave such situations and divorce was less common, but that is changing. But still, many women need male relatives to survive.

– P, Khun Yuam

Many Karen women live in isolated villages and will struggle to access adequate healthcare. This becomes more apparent in OB and Gynaecological health, however traditional midwives are slowly fading away. Women must rely on their husbands and families to support them during these times, and whilst the Karen believe women should rest after childbirth, in reality the work doesn’t stop. Karen women do an astounding amount of labour! From looking after children and elderly relatives, to farming and household chores, their time is often spent in the service of others. Having spent time in the villages, we have seen women wake up early to cook, gather water, get children ready for school and then head out to the fields to work with their husband’s or relatives. They will often return before the men to prepare food, they will also work to clean and prep crops, manage the household meals and budget and ensure the house is clean. Karen women also forage and are important in animal rearing and looking after the environment.

KHT is proud to work with Karen women, both in our staff and in the villages we support. We ensure women’s needs are considered and that our projects positively impact women and girls. Women are part of the Water Committees we set up so they can be involved in the betterment of their village and their specific needs are listened to. We have sourced goods from Karen women to support income generation and we aim to ensure we are listening to women when we design any new projects. Our Scholarship Programme aims to support Karen youth, and we have a strong track record of supporting young women who then go on to work in their communities are teachers, nurses and even as KHT staff! KHT also welcomes many women as volunteers and this is often a great exchange of female solidarity and sisterhood.

On this day, we celebrate all women and emphasise the power of indigenous women in not only preserving their cultures but also empowering their communities and themselves. They cannot do this alone and that is why your support is so vital! KHT pledges to continue serving Karen women in the most appropriate and effective ways and ensuring we are always looking out for their needs and listening to them.