Burma Women’s Voices book series

The “Burma Women’s Voices” series of books is published by ALTSEAN Burma (Alternative Asean Network on Burma), an organization of campaigns, advocacy, and capacity-building for human rights in Burma.

With seven books in the series (I only own six of them), the Burma Women’s Voices books are each a collection of essays and poetry by the women of Burma. The writers represent many ethnic groups, and every socio-economic and educational background. Some are writing from refugee camps or living in other countries, others are writing from within Burma itself. The Thanaka Team is an ad-hoc group of women of different backgrounds who joined together to produce the first volume in 1998; they had no idea at the time that the book would be so strongly received that it would launch additional volumes approximately every two years since.

The Thanaka Team initiated this project for two main purposes: “First, to make more visible the prsence of Burman and non-Burman ethnic women in the struggle against the military regime of Burma. Second, we hope that the book will encourage more women of Burma to voice their experiences and hopes within the wider struggle, in direct protest of the many political, social and economic structures that so often render women of all cultures invisible,” (p. 1, Burma: Voices of Women in the Struggle, published 1998).

Current news from Burma has given some brief glimmers of hope here and there, with changes in the Burma government and well-publicized moves such as releasing a few political prisoners and the establishment of a human rights committee in Burma. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent historical visit Burma gave evidence that Burma is at least appearing as if it wants to be more open to foreign relations. However, at the time of this writing, such public moves are still shadowed by a wealth of human rights abuses and continued oppression. Only a small handful of the total number of political prisoners were actually released; the Burma military continues to send additional troops into the Kachin state and people are still forcibly removed from their homes, beaten, raped, and shot. Refugee camps in the border countries continue to see new families arrive, and countries where there are no camps find more migrants looking for hope and survival. Those slight glimmers of hope are far from realized yet.

Stories such as those in the pages of the Burma Women’s Voices series continue to be current, continue to be true. The hope of Burma that I see is in these pages–strong women, competent women, hopeful women. To quote the Thanaka Team, “The articles…express a deep commitment to securing a future for Burma in which women, young and old, will actively participate. The visions of women from Burma are the foundations on which a new, democratic, and just society must be built,” (p. 1, Voices of Women in the Struggle.)

Burma Women’s Voices Series are available in print or as a PDF download from the ALTSEAN Burma website. (Some earlier volumes are available only in print. All print volumes are $10 USD, free shipping.)



COTAAN–Developing a Plan and Building a Team

This post continues to follow the evolution of a new ministry being born: COTAAN, a prison re-entry and aftercare outreach.

Developing a Plan and Building a Team

I brought the vision for a re-entry program to the church general board.  The board unanimously accepted the idea and was excited about the vision.  One of our board members was already involved in prison ministry; that member had worked in the community to assist ex-felons in finding employment and also had a family member who was being released from incarceration.  We began to discuss funding for such a ministry, as our congregation is small and has limited financial resources.  We also discussed securing a grant writer to help us to think through all of the particulars for such program.

The grant writer helped us to identify what was manageable for us as a small congregation.  Through her guidance, we determined that even with funding, we were not equipped to offer a full-scale re-entry program.  However, we could serve as a referral service: partnering with larger established re-entry programs in our area. We also determined that we wanted to provide a spiritual component that would help individuals to further develop their sense of redemption and security in the Lord, and understand the power of prayer to help re-direct their lives and order their “moral compass.”  Finally, we also wanted to assist in providing them with practical tools for self-sufficiency.  Therefore, we determined that we wanted to include workshops in collaboration with a local bank to help them develop money management skills.

American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) has wonderful social justice ministry resources.  I would encourage anyone who is interested to visit their site and contact a representative to discuss possibilities.  In terms of setting up a board of directors, I would not recommend a large board (no more than 5-6 people).  Be very clear about what their role in the program will be: Are they expected to assist in raising additional monies for the program?  Are they partners or “overseers?”  What level of expertise to they need?  How are they connected to the vision for the program? (Finance? Law? Business? Shelters? etc). It would help to write up a job description for a member of the board of directors that would include responsibilities as well as other considerations before you begin asking people to serve.

The COTAAN blog posts are contributed by Rev. Christine A. Smith, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Wickliffe, OH, www.covenantbaptistwickliffe.com. Stay tuned for more on this story!

COTAAN is a grant project of AB Women’s Ministries. For more information about COTAAN , including how you could help support this ministry, click here.