If a peace process is to lead to a peace supported by the entire country, everyone needs to be involved in making it. But often groups, such as people living with disabilities are excluded from this vital national conversation. iSchool-Myanmar is working to change this: with the support of the Joint Peace Fund, it is running a project on peace education for marginalized groups of people in Central Myanmar.
Their first training ran in Pyi Gyi Takhon Township, Mandalay 21-24 January on the theme of ‘Building a harmonious society by accepting diversity”. The training provided lessons on multiculturalism, history of Myanmar and what Union means to 27 participants from Manadalay and neighboring areas. Among the participants were people with disability, members of organizations in support of people with disability and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
“Our main objective in the training is to promote understanding on federalism and multiculturalism among people with disabilities, as well train CSOs. Particularly we would like CSOs to better understand the rights of people with disabilities, and support them by making their concerns heard in the Union Peace Conference,” said Ko Ye Win, Program Manager of iSchool-Myanmar.
Ma Tin Tin Nyo of Shwe Min Thar Foundation whose organization is supporting job opportunities and education of people with disabilities said this is the first of this kind of training she has received. “I’ve never learned about these subjects before. These are important to know for all of us, for all of the citizens. I gained a lot from the training and I’m going to definitely share all I learned in my network,” she said.
U Kyaw Kyaw Hein who is working for the Funeral Service Association in Pyi Gyi Takhon Township was another participant. He said the training opened his eyes to be more empathetic about people with disabilities and how to best support them. “As I provide funeral services to people, I have no prejudice or discrimination towards anyone. However, the training equipped us with more understanding on the nature of people with disabilities. It also gave me new perspectives on politics and religion,” he said.
Ko Ye Win said peace process and federalism are not popular issues in Barmar-dominant areas, explaining that projects coming to these areas tend to be about development. “You don’t find much awareness programmes on peace issues or civic education. Moreover, people with disabilities and LGBTIQA have very limited opportunities to participate and especially for people with disabilities, it’s hard to leave their town.” he said.