By Maaike Matelski – Ten years ago I published an article on my research with civil society actors from Myanmar, in which I described the sudden changes in ideological and physical positioning as the country…
By Ursula Cats How many times have the people from Burma used the slogan: “Free Free Aung San Suu Kyi”? And now she is “really” free, the regime has released her, without constraints, from her fifteen years’ house arrest. In Burma people are very happy, but also around the world there is great relief. A young female student from Yangon told me today: “When Aung San Suu Kyi was released I cried. Before the future looked like a dark tunnel, but now there is a light. I think we all feel more alive again.” When I talk to the women I work with, their excitement is palpable. Aung San Suu Kyi spreads hope; she stands for unity among the people of Burma. She is seen as a strong leader who loves her people. Throughout the years her voice was silenced, but they’ve build their own ideas on the core stances of her visions. Many people are ready to work alongside Aung San Suu Kyi and are prepared to carry on, even if she would be cut off from her people again. This is in line with her wish: “I cannot do it alone. I think we all have to work together. We will have to find a way of helping each other” she said, while calling for the release of more than 2100 political prisoners still in jail (The Age, 15 November). The fact that so many political prisoners remain behind bars is one of the many reminders to the world that despite Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, the people in Burma are not really free.
By Ursula Cats When I started my fieldwork as a Master’s student last year, I had many ideals and I mainly wanted to represent the women I was researching as “agents of change”. What I actually experienced was different. As I wrote in an e-mail to my supervisor Ellen Bal towards the end of my fieldwork: “I can clearly see the restrictions these young women have. I can see that they are active agents, but their impossibilities are also becoming painfully obvious.”
I have always had the motivation to support people who have fewer opportunities than I do. To gain more knowledge on developmental work, I decided to enroll in the Master’s program in anthropology in September 2009. It was not complicated to find a focus for my fieldwork: the women who had fled from Burma to Thailand. The anthropological theories I used, however, did not correspond directly with what I actually saw and experienced. Eventually I was able to gain a perspective based on the stories of the women themselves, which I used in my thesis to shed light on the situation of unrecognized refugee women from Burma.