Human faces of Myanmar transformation | Toily Kurbanov

12 Sep 2013

women in workshop Women in Myanmar's Chin State are empowered through UNDP skills training and workshops in finance. (Photo: UNDP Myanmar)

If you’ve been following developments in Myanmar, you will surely know that the country is undergoing at least three simultaneous transformations:

 •  Nation-building: shifting from a country at war with itself to a strong, harmonious Union
 •  Political transformation: moving from decades of repressive military rule to participatory democracy
 •  Economic transformation: emerging from an autarchic, command-based system to a market economy

Hundreds of pages and thousands of cables have been written in the last year and a half—and studied scrupulously from Beijing to Brussels to Boston—about this transformation. Few reports seem to have left room for understatement, and rightly so, because the reforms we are witnessing here indeed merit adjectives such as “historic,” “dramatic” and “breathtaking.”

But words alone fall short in capturing what we see inside the country:  more than 60 million human stories taking new turns here and now. For example:
 •  A father in the former capital, Yangon, a former day labourer turned proud entrepreneur thanks to new openings in the economy;
 •  A wife in the commercial capital, Mandalay, once a victim of domestic  violence and now an NGO activist advocating women’s empowerment;
 •  A teenage boy in southern Mon State, once an escaped child soldier at risk of re-conscription, but now a farm worker as a result of the government’s stronger commitment to human rights;
 •  A girl in southern Kayin State who can now safely travel three miles to school and back because a ceasefire agreement has removed the threat of deadly violence.

Make no mistake: Not every human transformation has been positive. Many people have lost homes and livelihoods because of communal clashes across the country; thousands more are still suffering from land-grabbing and abuse of authority. Most reforms take time to bear fruit, and the path ahead will comprise much trial and error, many roadblocks and even some setbacks. But the human faces of Myanmar’s transformation give us hope that this diverse, resilient people—once in charge of their destiny—won’t look back.

UNDP now has the great challenge and tremendous privilege of supporting Myanmar on its new journey.

Talk to us: How can we provide this proud nation with as much international support and encouragement as it needs?

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