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.)