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Solidarity

Issue Seven, Summer 2012-13 Contents

Workers in New Zealand helping workers overseas

Page 1 New UnionAID project in Burma Page 2 No change for Burmese workers Education for a better future: NZ unions making a difference The Newsletter of the Unions Aotearoa International Development Trust

Burma report This has been an exciting year for Burma with impressive steps being taken towards democracy and a market economy. Whether it will actually achieve real democracy is an issue which is the subject of intense speculation. UnionAID, as one of the few New Zealand organisations with established links and projects in Burma, has been exploring the steps we can take to assist the process of democratic development. It is for that reason that this issue of Solidarity is focused on our work in that fascinating country. We would also like to thank you for your support over the past year and look forward to your continuing solidarity in 2013. Have a safe and relaxing Christmas.

Teacher Aung Kyaw Moe and his pupil Moh Moh

New UnionAID project in Burma? An isolated area in south east Burma is about to become a special economic zone (SEZ) with the development of a deep sea port in Dawei and road and rail links to Thailand. After an approach by local government to Myanmar business leaders, the Centre for Dawei Development (CDD) was planned and a partnership with UnionAID formed. The CDD aims to provide high-quality fully-subsidised vocational training for local people in fields such as engineering, hospitality and tourism, and skin and hair care. This will give them the skills to take up the many jobs that will emerge from the SEZ development. A focus will be on training for young women, given the lack of other opportunities and their vulnerability to the risks of sex work. As a venture, this fits current NZAid funding criteria perfectly and before Christmas we hope to hear from MFAT whether our proposal has been successful.

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Page 3 Getting safely to school: NZ transport unions fund the ‘ferry’ Cooking up a storm in Mae Sot Montessori methods boosted by ASSA support Page 4 Burma Young Community Leaders Programme still at risk?

Cooking classes in Mae Sot

You can help vulnerable workers in developing countries in our region get a fairer deal by making a small monthly donation by direct debit by emailing admin@unionaid.org.nz with your contact details. We will then contact you and make the arrangements. Unions Aotearoa International Development Trust is a registered charity - Reg. No.CC40251

unionaid.org.nz


No change for Burmese workers Moves towards democracy and a market economy in Burma have not yet benefitted the many young women who are still migrating to Mae Sot to find jobs. Talking to five young factory workers (of over 700 mainly women now trained under our Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB) partnership project) on their one day off a month made this clear. Their stories illustrate the ongoing pressures of poverty and unemployment in Burma today. All five had crossed the border for the same reason: to save enough money to support families back home. May Myat No didn’t want to leave, but with nine family members and no work in her village, she is saving to send money home for her brothers’ education. Khin Myo Aye’s father is unwell and has no work. Khin Lay Nwe is the oldest of four siblings and is providing for her younger brother’s education. Aye Sandar Myint is here because her family’s rice paddies have been destroyed by

floods and insect infestation. She is only 18 years old. All agreed that they would head home when they could get jobs at the same rates of pay as their current work (about $NZ200 per month). If the removal of sanctions by Europe and the United States brings bigger and better markets for clothing produced in Burma, then hopefully this will create jobs closer to home for these young women. When asked what their biggest problem was in Mae Sot, they said ‘the police’. As illegal migrants they are at risk of being arrested and sent home. This vulnerability is frequently exploited and leaving a job can result in the employer threatening to inform police, as Khin Myo Aye found when she wanted to change jobs. To prevent this happening, she had to pay her employer a sum of money.

Teachers Aung Kwah Moe, U Htay Hlaing, Ann and Novelim

Education for a better future: NZ unions making a difference Sixteen years ago U Htay Hlaing was imprisoned for nine years in Burma for his political activities. Now he is living in the border town of Mae Sot and has joined three other new teachers to educate the children of migrant workers at the FTUB Parami school. These extra teaching positions have been made possible through the generosity of New Zealand teachers unions. The PPTA, NZEI, ISEA and the TEU are paying their salaries for two years and the four teachers are providing lessons in science, physics, computer studies, Thai language, biology and social studies to grades 9-10 pupils.

Congratulations to our iRaffle winners: • • • • Khin Myo Aye, Aye Sandar Myint, Yon Yon Son, Khin Lay Nwe, May Myat No

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First prize: iPad, Michelle Maguren, ticket number 16403 First prize: iPad, PPTA Otago Region, ticket number 18625 Second prize: iPhone: Robert Reid, ticket number 16119 Third prize: Kindle: PPTA Canterbury Region ticket number 20589

You can help vulnerable workers in developing countries in our region get a fairer deal by making a small monthly donation by direct debit by emailing admin@unionaid.org.nz with your contact details. We will then contact you and make the arrangements. Unions Aotearoa International Development Trust is a registered charity - Reg. No.CC40251

unionaid.org.nz


Getting safely to school: NZ transport unions fund the ‘ferry’ Children of migrant workers who live at a distance from the FTUB school get safely to and from school each day in transport generously paid for by the Rail and Maritime Union (RMTU) and Maritime Union (MUNZ). The school has one vehicle of its own, and they lease

The RMTU-MUNZ ‘Ferry’

two extra cars to ferry the children. The three vehicles do six ‘ferry’ trips each a day, three in the morning and three in the afternoon, bringing over 400 children safely to school and home again.

Montessori methods boosted by ASSA support Cooking class sushi .

Cooking up a storm in Mae Sot

Democracy activists have put down their placards for now and picked up wooden spoons. They have been busy producing - from the tiniest of electric ovens and the most basic of kitchens - cupcakes, biscuits, sushi, and dried vegetable snacks. These are just some of the examples of creative fundraising ventures dreamed up by Min and Htwe Nge who are constantly exploring ways to raise money for their many activities on the Thai-Burma border. Thanks to UnionAID funding, they built the kitchen where they can teach pupils and their families baking and the preparation of sushi and other snacks. They have already used these skills to raise funds for the Mae Tao Clinic, which provides free health care to Burmese migrants. They now plan to open a stall selling snacks to students from a vocational college nearby.

Big changes are afoot at the Parami pre-school, which is attended by over 70 children. A volunteer teacher has been working with the kindergarten teachers to introduce the Montessori model of teaching into the classroom. ASSA (the association for social studies teachers) has generously provided a lump sum for the purchase of the special resources required for this method. According to Min Lwin, the results are already impressive, with the children quieter and more focussed as they go about their learning.

Parami Preschool

Sandals outside the Parami Preschool

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You can help vulnerable workers in developing countries in our region get a fairer deal by making a small monthly donation by direct debit by emailing admin@unionaid.org.nz with your contact details. We will then contact you and make the arrangements. Unions Aotearoa International Development Trust is a registered charity - Reg. No.CC40251

unionaid.org.nz


Burma Young Community Leaders Programme still at risk? The six students this year have been an interesting mix. We have two from ethnic political parties, a journalist, one from Save the Children and two from smaller local NGOs. These young men and women will return home better prepared to work effectively as Burma transitions to democracy, as demonstrated by our seventeen alumni who have all taken up positions of responsibility and leadership. All six have improved their English language skills, and learnt about and seen how human rights are applied and how citizens are engaged in a participatory democracy - in central government, local

bodies and community organisations. Individual members of the group have also focused on their own areas of interest. Yamin, the journalist, spent time in the press gallery with Radio New Zealand and at the New Zealand Herald; others learnt how organisations can campaign together around a shared goal, and ways of attracting young people to engage in political activity. Everywhere they go, the students impress with their enthusiasm and the quality of their presentations - at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Human Rights Commission, schools and unions - about their work and the changes taking place in

their country. Returning students can also apply to UnionAID for small grants for a field work project. Successful projects to date have included human rights training on the border, English language courses, organic gardening and compost preparation, teaching for critical thinking and community development training, and computer courses. Although John Key has stated publicly, after meeting our impressive alumni at a function in Yangon, that the government will continue to fund our programme, there has been no formal confirmation to date.

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I want to become a Kiwi Solidarity Member Name Address Phone Email Please contact me and sign me up as a Kiwi Solidarity Member to make a monthly donation. Signature

You can now download the 2011-2012 UnionAID Annual report at unionaid.org.nz/unionaid-annual-report-2012 Your regular donations mean that UnionAID can guarantee funding to our projects. It only takes a small amount each month to make a real difference to people’s lives. Sign up for monthly donations now. Return the coupon to: UnionAID P O Box 6689, Wellington

Burmese young leaders Yamin, Hinnthar, Ah Li, Victor (top) Sai Sai and Phoe Kyi visiting Taupo

or email the details above to: admin@unionaid.org.nz

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Become a Kiwi Solidarity member - Support real change

You can help vulnerable workers in developing countries in our region get a fairer deal by making a small monthly donation by direct debit by emailing admin@unionaid.org.nz with your contact details. We will then contact you and make the arrangements. Unions Aotearoa International Development Trust is a registered charity - Reg. No.CC40251

unionaid.org.nz

UnionAID Solidarity, Summer 2012-13  

This has been an exciting year for Burma with impressive steps being taken towards democracy and a market economy. Whether it will actually...

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