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.)



Penguin Atlas of Women in the World

Penguin Atlas of Women You can see my copy is well marked.  The tabs may move around as I study different issues, but there are always several bright yellow stickies marking my travels through the pages of this book.

Yes, I reference this book frequently in my work on global issues facing women and girls. The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World (Fourth Edition), revised and updated by Jodi Seager, provides informative–albeit often disturbing–snapshots into the lives of women around a variety of issues.

It’s divided into sections: Women in the World, Families, Birthrights, Body Politics, Work, To Have and To Have Not, Power, and World Tables. Those sections contain everything from where women have the right to vote and hold government offices (and how many actually do hold office) to statistics about domestic violence, female genital cutting, and rape as a weapon of war. Literacy, poverty, wages, women in the military, sex trafficking, migration, maternal mortality, and many other issues are addressed.

You will find a wealth of very important information here…the numbers to back up the stories you read in the newspaper or online, facts that will make you want to know more. It’s always possible–and a good thing!–to question statistics, of course. There are so many ways one can go about counting numbers and statistics are always shaped in some way by the perspective of the person quoting them. However, just seeing the numbers to begin with will make you stop and think. My hope is that you would be spurred on to deeper study. Not sure about the statistic? Do more digging from other sources to see what you can find out.

In any case, I think this book is a good jumping off place–discover which figures send an arrow into your heart the deepest to determine where you may need to do more self-education or, perhaps, engage in the issue directly. It’s also a good supplement to other resources. Reading about sex trafficking in Eastern Europe? Check this book to see some numbers, and then see how prevalent an issue it is worldwide.

The binding on my book broke within a few months of me owning it, I refer to it so often. I hope yours becomes just as worn out…until books like these no longer have a reason to exist.


The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, Fourth Edition, revised and updated by Jodi Seager, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2009). 128 pages.