Over the past two weeks of advisory sessions, Girl Up presented students at ISY the opportunity to expand their knowledge on gender equality in preparation for International Women’s Day which is on March 8th.
On February 27th, a guest speaker, Khaing Wai Hnin, presented to students her experience as a Burmese woman interested in information technology. She currently works at Bokashi Myanmar, a composting company that turns food waste into fertile soil. You can read more about this organization in our Bokashi-featured article.
Khaing Wai Hnin shared with us her moving story of being in conflict with her mother as she did not “fit” into the traditional preconceptions of women in Myanmar. Although she held a passionate interest in technology from a young age, it was against her mother’s wishes to study it in university, as it “wasn’t something girls should pursue.” As a result, she decided to study medical imaging technology instead, as it was the closest thing to studying information technology that was “suitable for a girl”, because “being a nurse was a ‘girl’ job.” Working in the hospital environment, Khaing Wai Hnin started to take note of how environmental issues equated to severe health problems. “What stuck out most to me,” she said, “is how eating healthy food correlates to living a healthier life.” With this newfound interest in creating a better environment for the wellbeing of citizens in Yangon, Khaing Wai Hnin joined Bokashi, where she makes a direct impact on both the environment as well as the production of healthy food that comes from healthy soil.
“A lot of people were confused,” Khaing Wai Hnin explained in her speech, “they asked me why I was handling food waste while I had a college degree and could just leave it to others. My mother often asked me if I felt ‘safe’ working with other men in the organization. If I were a man, I don’t think she would’ve done the same and asked if I felt ‘safe’ being around women.” There is no doubt that Khaing Wai Hnin has left a lasting spark of inspiration with her powerful story of overcoming societal prejudices concerning what a Burmese woman should be like, and how she has found her passion and joy in life. Senior Leader of Girl Up, Stuti (10) commented, “I thought it was amazing that she came and shared her story because even though we live in such a privileged community, I know that students at our school still feel pressurized by their gender and how it dictates the careers they can follow and the life they want to lead.”
During advisory the following week, Girl Up organized Kahoot games in each advisory classroom that tested students’ knowledge on gender equality in the workforce as well as details about the guest speaker. General information on gender equality and about equality in the workforce were put on posters that Girl Up has hung up around the school. As Hyemin (g10), who created these posters, mentions, “They are meant both for the purpose of acknowledging gender inequality that is subject for both genders and to celebrate improved opportunities for women, which highlights our aim as a group.” When asked about what this service-learning group has taught her, she recounts, “I have learned that it is really important to keep in mind the concept of balance, as a group who promotes gender equality and promoting women’s rights as of now is our main focus in keeping that balance. As we are celebrating International Women’s Day, it is great to see progress in women’s opportunities through the speaker and the fact posters that inform the community of what has been done to progressively improve women’s rights up to the present day. The Kahoot activity also helped in spreading more awareness of this subject.”
Annie (10), was also asked what significance these past two advisory sessions have had on the secondary school and she noted, “Since International Women’s Day is especially important for our group [Girl Up], I think that these events will make people remember us. Also, I am pleased to know that the world is slowly but surely changing.”
Girl Up has worked hard to broaden the ISY student community’s awareness of gender equality over the past two weeks. Girl Up would also like to thank guest speaker Khaing Wai Hnin for her compassionate presentation that remains powerfully in the minds of all.
Photographed by Hyemin