The 9th of August is marked as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This day was created as a way to highlight and acknowledge the contribution and struggles of Indigenous people globally.
There are more than 476 million Indigenous people across the world and they face a number of rights violations are disproportionately impacted by poverty and its consequences on education, health and security.
Are the Karen Indigenous peoples?
Whilst there is some debate on this due to the previous nomadic nature of the Karen and creation of borders across SE Asia, the Karen are considered by many as Indigenous tribal people. Borders and citizenship, and even settlement of people is does not always account for their realities and the Karen have a strong connection to the lands they reside in across Thailand and Burma.
Who are the Karen Hilltribes?
The Karen people are made up of various sub-groups and speak different dialects of the Karen language. The Karen are people with an oral tradition and their language was not previously scripted. They have a very vibrant culture with many traditions linked to either their Buddhist, Animist or Christian beliefs. They are recognisable from their cultural clothing which is usually made by hand weaving and their food which relies heavily on what is available in the hills and forests where they live.
What challenges to the Karen face?
The Karen face many of the same issues facing other Indigenous people across the world. They are often trapped in poverty, from isolated and rural communities and have been unable to access certain socio-economic and political rights for many years. Climate change is having a severe impact on their livelihoods as farmers, and they do not have easy access to clean water, power or even basic infrastructure such as public transport and healthcare. Although Thailand has made great strides in addressing and working to reduce poverty, the Karen have not benefitted as much and are still further behind than they should be. The Covid Pandemic and its aftermath has also had a negative effect on growth in Thailand and has worsened things for the most vulnerable.
Why should we care about the Karen?
The Karen are people that emphasis honesty and hospitality in their culture. Their traditional weaving is always done as symmetrical patterns to highlight their consistency and integrity. They are hard-working and struggling in a world that is changing rapidly but has forgotten them. The Karen are vital to the well-being of their land and environment, and the continuation of their culture and language is important for humanity and our shared history. Karen people are keen to educate their children despite costs and distances, and they are keen to also protect their lifestyle and traditions. Poverty is difficult to overcome for the Karen due to barriers and obstacles related to their ethnic status, the harsh terrain they live in, their ability to access markets and livelihoods and a lack of basic needs and support that would help them grow. This is why KHT are committed to working with and supporting the Karen and reducing some of the disadvantages they face so they can better their futures and well-being.
The theme of the 2023 Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is ‘youth action in changing their communities’ and KHT are heavily invested in supporting Karen children and youth by removing barriers to education and building their confidence. We are also working to improve their lives outside of school and ensure they keep leading in positive development for the Karen. Your support is vital to help us continue our work. We hope you will share our posts and blog and encourage others to donate too!