A group of EarthRights School Burma alumni drawn from regions across Burma recently reunited in the capital for an Alumni Reunion and Workshop. Twenty two alumni attended the event on 30 and 31 January in Rangoon, facilitated by ERI’s Alumni Program Coordinator. Participants, including alumni from 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007 and 2004 graduating classes, travelled from some diverse and distant locations to take part, including Mon, Kachin, Arakan, Shan and Wa States and other areas. For many participants, it was the first opportunity to meet with peers from other graduating classes, share experiences and ideas, compare notes and commence building productive relationships on common issues and concerns.
The workshop agenda enabled alumni to individually present on and discuss their organizations, activities and projects with the group. Participants are working across an inspiring range of areas with and for their communities, such as: developing and training youth leaders and environmental activists; promoting women’s empowerment; implementing sustainable resource management projects in remote agricultural communities; documenting and reporting human rights violations and environmental harms and organizing and participating in local and regional campaign actions; promoting education, active citizenship, cultural protection and access to knowledge for marginalized communities.
Following introductions, participants engaged in several group and plenary discussion sessions. Firstly, alumni identified some of the current changes occurring inside the country and the opportunities and challenges these present; in particular, their implications for civil society work. Alumni then divided into issues based discussion groups on the following themes to exchange activities and ideas and look at ways to partner and share resources:
• community development, education and empowerment of women, youth and children
• development projects, advocacy and promoting rights
• sustainable livelihoods and community resource management
The workshop program further enabled discussion about developing the emerging network inside the country and ways in which the alumni program can support needs and initiatives. Participants noted how valuable they found the opportunity to meet each other in person, socialize and gain from the diversity of experiences and ideas.
The Reunion and Workshop has initiated the development of an alumni network inside Burma constituting an array of civil society actors and leaders working in diverse communities and ethnic groups. While alumni are drawn from far flung locations and politically and culturally distinct groups, the workshop facilitated identification of many common issues and concerns. The event was thus able to highlight the substantial potential and enthusiasm that exists among our alumni for drawing upon a shared vision of earth rights in order to share ideas, construct partnerships and work together in building Burma’s future.