Celebrating 20 Years of SWAN

25 May 2019

On the recent visit to Burma, the HART team’s first stop was in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, to celebrate with the SWAN team on their 20th Anniversary. Attended by SWAN staff, founders, advisory team members, partner organisations and supporters, the event consisted of several exhibitions which exemplified SWAN’s commitment and success over the last 20 years. The programme offered a photo exhibition and traditional dancing, as well as a variety of inspirational speeches by those present when the organisation was founded in 1999, which provided an array of avenues to explore SWAN’s rich 20 year journey of activism.

SWAN was established to provide education, healthcare and wellbeing support to Shan women and children. Initially the organisation was set up to provide quality care for those arriving as refugees at the Thai border following on-going persecution by the Burmese military, most notably since the displacement of more than 300,000 Shan people in 1996.
“Shan people were not recognised as refugees in Thailand and they had to work in fields as migrant workers. Women and children had no support – that was a motivator to start up SWAN.” – Nang Lao Liang Won, SWAN Co-founder.

At the celebration, the key speakers addressed the ongoing problems that SWAN faces. Concern was expressed for the newly displaced women and children caught up in the current conflict in northern Shan State and the widespread intolerance of diversity they face. Stressing the importance of collaborating with other national women’s organisations, SWAN’s Education Director Ying Charm Hom explained that “we used collective sisterhood and determination to drive us forward in our mission”.

As a progressive organisation, SWAN operates under collective leadership in order to bring an end to gender discrimination. With a commitment to support not just Shan people but also women from other ethnic minorities in Myanmar, SWAN advisory member Ying Lao claimed “any criticism we get drives us and makes us work harder [because] any backlash shows us that we are making change”.

“We would like to renew our commitment to bring social justice and gender equality to our community” – Nang Harn Noan, SWAN Co-Founder

The SWAN team at its 20th Anniversary celebrations
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