The Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) was formed in September 1999 in an effort to help alleviate the suffering of Kachin people both in Burma and those who have fled the country as refugees.
The Kachin Independence Army was the first of Burma’s non-state armed groups to negotiate a ceasefire with the junta in 1994 but promises of investment in the infrastructure in Kachin State were never truly realised and the ceasefire collapsed in June 2011. Full-scale fighting had, by October 2012, displaced nearly 100,000 people and reports of grave human rights violations continue to come out of the region.
KWAT delivers a number of programs across a broad spectrum of areas that effect women and the wider Kachin community. Among its work are efforts to promote women’s participation in politics and in peace & reconciliation processes, and this includes training and empowerment of Kachin women in Burma and in exile.
KWAT’s peacebuilding project is aimed at empowering the Kachin community. Through helping people gain knowledge about peacebuilding theory and application, and participation in peacebuilding projects, the organisations aims to enable to build peace, justice and a strong society. Moreover, this project is aimed at increasing awareness among women and communities and empowering them, so that grassroots movements will be able to participate in building a sustainable peace and a community built on justice.
Documentation and research programme
Launched in 2003 the main purpose of the programme is to research and document human rights’ violations in Kachin State and in northern Shan State where many Kachin people also live. KWAT also researches human trafficking, women and health, women and education, and sexual violence inside Burma.
KWAT also seeks to preserve and maintain Kachin culture and history through its research and documentation activities, and provides training in the methodology through its internship programme.
Capacity building programme
The organisation’s capacity building programme organises workshops and trainings on topics such as political issues, women’s empowerment, education, peacebuilding, leadership and gender and human rights.
KWAT has been providing internship opportunities to young people brought from inside Kachin State since 2002. Every year new interns receive training in a wide range of subjects including human rights, women and politics, gender issues, leadership, the environment and working with the media. They also learn new practical skills – such as office management, computer skills and English – so that they may work more effectively in their organisations in Kachin State. Similar trainings are delivered to women in their local communities inside Kachin State.
The health programme is delivered in Mai Ja Yang, in the south of Kachin State. The activities include adolescent reproductive health trainings, school health care and awareness trainings, a malaria and tuberculosis prevention and medication programme, out reach health campaigns to local villages, and a daily mother and child care clinic in Ja Reng Yang.
The anti-trafficking programme was started as a result of documentation and research into the trafficking of women in children from in 2003 and 2004. The programme aims to reduce the volume of trafficking of women and children from Kachin and Northern Shan State and to make a real contribution to the rehabilitation of trafficked victims. It includes the running of a Crisis Support Centre, safe houses, vocational training, and awareness-raising.
Political empowerment programme
Political empowerment program activities include the organising of exchanges and discussions on political and social issues to raise awareness and increase knowledge within Kachin communities.
Migrant worker programme
The migrant worker program operates in Chiang Mai, Thailand and supports hundreds of Kachin migrant workers from Burma, especially women. The overall aim of the program is the empowerment and advancement of Kachin women and children, the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality, as well as women’s participation in leadership and decision-making roles. It includes a drop-in centre, library, migrant exchange programme, outreach programme and training programme.
KWAT also works on advocacy at a local and international level, to raise awareness about the situation of women and the overall situation in Burma. KWAT collaborates with a variety of networks and partner umbrella organizations to implement its advocacy activities.