Creating Myanmar’s First Female Farmer Forum

On July 21-22 2016 I co-led the Land Core Group (LCG)’s Female Farmers’Forum in Mandalay. This was Myanmar’s first farmer forum for women and it brought together women farmers from across the country to discuss land issues. Inspiration for and design of the Forum stemmed from previous research on how women and men access, use and claim land in Myanmar’s current political and economic transition.

Participants share their experiences in plenary discussions.

The Forum involved a range of participants with different farming experiences and community concerns. 34 women contacted through formal and informal land and women’s rights networks attended, representing 16 farmers’networks and community organizations. Participants came from 12 States and Regions, and identified with 10 ethnicities – including Kayah, Burmese, Mon, Kayin, Tavoyan, Lisu, Chin and Akha and 2 religions – Burmese and Christian. The group contained a fairly even mix of widowed, married and single women.

Some men dont think women can plough fields with cows. I myself do everything from sharpening the wooden harrow blade to ploughing. I believe it doesnt matter if you are a woman or a man, your strength is the only thing that matters. For me my mother trusts me to run all of her farm lands.Woman Farmer, Sagaing Division.

Participants work together to discuss regional differences and similarities in group work and debates.

During the Forum, women from Sagaing Division performed a role play depicting the experience of a widow seeking to retain control of her family’s land, while a loan shark, working in collusion with the village head, attempted to take her farm. During the role play, the young widow was intimidated by male authorities in subtle and aggressive ways, both verbally and through dismissive or intimidating body language. Only through the cooperation of an older women, who had knowledge of the law, could she successfully solve her case.

Participants created role plays to share some of the problems faced by women in their villages.

Client: Land Core Group Myanmar

Photographs by Catriona Knapman

Read more here: Land Core Group Briefing on Myanmar’s First Female Farmer Forum