Since September 2017, Green Lotus (with the collaboration of Action Aid Myanmar and Women for the World) has started an innovative project in Ward 67, Dagon Seikkan Township in Yangon, Myanmar. This project aims to empower a community through a participatory process and through social and green business development. We noticed through the FISONG project that women have a key role in the slum’s development. Indeed, their motivation and willingness are assets to build sustainable projects for the enhancement of their livelihood. Women have the capacity to mobilize, encourage and lead great actions! Always in a participative approach, their role is essential in everyday life activities. So, let’s include them!
Women’s condition in slums
Traditionally within a family, women are mostly reduced to the role of domestic tasks and have no access to economic property or political power. The male breadwinner and female housewife model has been theorized in the west but is applicable to the Myanmar situation if we analyze it carefully. In south east Asian slums, most of the families follow this pattern: men work outside the home and have the responsibility to provide an income and women are maintaining the household; taking care of the children’s education etc.. Since Industrialization (XIXst century), this traditional family model has been questioned by numerous feminist movements for restraining the independence of women. Because of a financial dependence, women are facing many difficulties.
In slums, people are generally facing health issues and are socially excluded from society due to their precarious situation. These conditions don’t help women as they have to spend most of their time taking care of their household. They are encountering a double exclusion pattern. In 1989, Kimberley Crenshaw, a sociologist from Los Angeles theorized “Intersectionality”, she affirms that women from minority and precarious backgrounds are more likely than middle- and upper-class women to be confronted by the patriarchy’s brutality. Nowadays, the concept of “Intersectionality” is gaining more and more traction in the feminist debates: intersectionality is helping us to better understand specific contexts in which marginalized communities and women are living.
Because of this precarious situation, women in slums are more likely than other women to experience issues such as: domestic violence, sexual harassment or unemployment., these examples have to be added to the issues on lack of food, lack of facilities and poverty.
Moreover, women’s health is impacted as they are surrounded by a unhygienic environment with a lack of basic amenities. As they have to take care of their family, they rarely eat sufficiently which has a direct impact on their health. (Source 1) In addition to this, women’s maternity care is usually very poor in slums, most of the women have no access to a proper follow-up during their pregnancies and complications and birth deaths are not uncommon.
As most of them can’t apply for legal jobs, men have the responsibility to be the financial support of the family. Later on, the women administrate the finances and must be sure to answer all the needs for the family.
The precarious situation can drive to desperate actions. Indeed, we can often observe that men often spend their money on alcohol or tobacco, which impacts their finances.
So despite all the difficulties women encounter in ward 67, what motivates them to be involved in the project development?
Why should we empower women?
We witnessed that women participate more regularly than men in the project development. This is particularly due to their natural participation in their household’s and how they link the safety of their homes to their environment.
A sustainable development would be impossible without women’s empowerment and gender equality. In the population, women are as numerous as men, the gender equality is necessary to prevent any delay in the slum’s development. According to the OECD in 2008, women represent 70% of the world’s poor because of unequal economic opportunities.
Indeed, we should be sure to include women in the economic growth. According to several researches, women labour is not used properly (source2). As a matter of fact, the economic opportunities are lost. The male-oriented model confines women to un-paid household work.
This is also due to a lack of access to education which excludes women who do not have the necessary skills and qualifications.
Women’s exclusion in economic opportunities exempt them to the political life. Indeed, the economically poor are less willing and have less time to devote attention to politics. If we give the opportunity to develop their economic situation, they could be better influence politics and have an impactful presence on decision making for their environment’s development. If the political development is efficient, due to a good governance, a sustainable development is possible.
As women are more devoted to their household well-being and build trust relationship with other women, they could frame a balanced politics combining economic, social and economic development and environmental protection.
Giving economic power to women, it is also giving them more choices and a voice in their community level.
Women in the Ward 67 – FISONG project
Within Ward 67, women have a significant influence on the slum’s development. Indeed, our consortium partner in the project, Women for the World, have worked with several women to build saving groups.
Those groups aim to increase women opportunities in household acquisition. It also helps them to structure their savings for any needs concerning everyday necessities.
One group is composed of 20 women and one leader is in charge of the management.
More than giving them economics saving, this groups help the women to be part of a social and dynamic structure in which they can exchange together. Women for the World works with them on their skills opportunities and why their participation is so important in Ward 67.
Thanks to a very good dynamic initiated by Women for the Word, we noticed during the project that most of the participants who joined our workshops were women!
In line with this, we wish to highlight women skills by finding the best economic opportunities for their livelihood’s development.
We are already starting some handicraft workshops to increase women knowledges and give them competencies to put forward their techniques for any intrigued designers. As we said earlier, women are mostly staying at home and reduce to household activities, that is why we are trying to show that housewife is a skilled and real job and that women abilities should be enhanced and seen as valuable economic activities.
Women inclusion is clearly essential for the project development.
We can count on their willingness and strength of character to make a project impactful!
Sexual division of Labour,A Dictionary of Sociology © A Dictionary of Sociology 1998, originally published by Oxford University Press 1998.[ONLINE] https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences-and-law/sociology-and-social-reform/sociology-general-terms-and-concepts/sexual
Williams, Kimberlé Crenshaw. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color”. In: Martha Albertson Fineman, Rixanne Mykitiuk, Eds. The Public Nature of Private Violence. (New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 93-118.