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Economic Empowerment Project Myanmar

Strengthening Economic Position

We lower the barriers for people with disabilities

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Global context

There are about 1 billion people with disabilities in the world today, of which 80% lives in Asia and the Pacific. Wherever they live, people with disabilities generally have a low social status and are discriminated against when they try to find paid employment.
In addition, women with disabilities or people affected by leprosy are particularly marginalised. The World Health Survey results for 51 countries highlighted that employment rates for men with disability and women with disability were 52.8% and 16.9% respectively, highlighting the discrimination faced by people with disabilities, particularly women. About 50% of all disability cases are preventable and directly linked to poverty. Malnutrition, infectious diseases, non-infectious diseases, and congenital conditions, all relating to poverty, make up about 71% of all cases of disability worldwide. Accidents, trauma, and war make up about 15% of all cases. The remaining 13% of disability causes fall into the “other” category, covering old-age related factors.
Disability causes
Disability-causes
1. Malnutrition, infectious diseases, non-infectious diseases, and congenital conditions causes. 2. Accidents, trauma and war causes. 3. Other causes.

Myanmar context

According to the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census, about 2.3 million people in Myanmar (4.6%) live with a disability, with a higher percentage of women being identified as disabled compared to men.
In addition, women with disabilities or people affected by leprosy are particularly marginalised. The World Health Survey results for 51 countries highlighted that employment rates for men with disability and women with disability were 52.8% and 16.9% respectively, highlighting the discrimination faced by people with disabilities, particularly women. About 50% of all disability cases are preventable and directly linked to poverty. Malnutrition, infectious diseases, non-infectious diseases, and congenital conditions, all relating to poverty, make up about 71% of all cases of disability worldwide. Accidents, trauma, and war make up about 15% of all cases. The remaining 13% of disability causes fall into the “other” category, covering old-age related factors.
In the table below you can find specific examples of the types of barriers that people with a disability face in the livelihood-area of farming, (farmers-)markets and micro-finance.
CATEGORY
Attitudinal
Physical
Communication
Institutional
Farming
People with disabilities and leprosy are regarded as unfit for agricultural labour.
People without limbs can’t easily access farm land far from the home.
People with disabilities and leprosy are often illiterate, making it difficult to learn of job opportunities or to learn from written manuals.
People with disabilities and leprosy are not included in farmers’ groups.
Markets
People don’t want to buy produce from people living with leprosy because their products are seen as unclean.
People in wheelchairs cannot access the muddy and uneven terrain of the marketplace.
People with visual impairments cannot read policies and procedures on how to obtain a selling-stall in the market.
People with disabilities and leprosy are often excluded from schools, resulting in illiteracy and innumeracy.
Micro-Finance
People with disabilities and leprosy are not invited to join loan groups as they are seen as incapable of contributing to loan repayment.
People with disabilities and leprosy struggle to access loan offices, due to lack of ramps and accessible transportation.
People with hearing impairments struggle with verbal communication with loan officers while discussing loan options.
Most MFIs require personal recommendations to qualify for loans, making it very difficult for people with disabilities and leprosy to qualify for their loan programmes.

Law and Legislation

The Government of Myanmar ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on December 7th, 2011, which means Myanmar officially agreed to implement measures that better guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities. In addition to ratifying the UNCRPD, the government has taken several steps towards addressing the needs of people with disabilities:
  • Article 32 of the 2008 current Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar states that the Union shall care for mothers and children, orphans, fallen Defence Services personnel’s children, the aged and the disabled.
  • The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) aims to promote the contribution of persons with disabilities to fully participate in the developmental tasks of the nation as a supportive force. It aims to:
    • Protect the rights of persons with disabilities;
    • Alleviate the discrimination based on the ground of disability;
    • Promote dignity, ability and capability of Persons with Disabilities;
    • Enhance equal and full participation of Persons with Disabilities in the national development tasks;
    • Upgrade the socio-economic status of Persons with Disabilities.
  • The municipal law has made it a requirement that new buildings and parks must be accessible for persons with disabilities.
  • Some measures were taken by the government in collaboration with NGOs to help ensure polling stations were accessible to better ensure that persons with disabilities could vote in the 2015 elections.
The Myanmar Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was enacted on June 5, 2015 and was written with input from Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs), disability-specific NGOs and consultants in the field of disability inclusion.​
Myanmar-woman-at-work
The Leprosy Mission Myanmar TLMM) has a good working relationship with the the Department of Social Welfare and the Myanmar Federation of People with Disabilities (MFPD). TLMM has partnered with those groups to influence items such as the 2014 Population and Housing Census and the 2015 Rights of Persons with Disabilities Law. Despite the positive steps, there are several key constraints that relate to the legal and political framework of the country, as well as other serious barriers that should be fully acknowledged and need to be directly addressed if the rights of persons with disabilities are to be realised in Myanmar. The next step in regards to legislation and legal frameworks supporting the rights of people with disabilities is in the implementation of those laws.

Economic Empowerment Project Myanmar

People with disabilities and people affected by leprosy, especially women, face many problems in Myanmar. Their human rights are often violated, and businesses and decision-makers consistently do not take into consideration the challenges and concernsfaced by households affected by disability (meaning one or more household member has a disability).
Myanmar-manuals
Most people with disabilities live in rural areas where agriculture is the main source of income. However, people with disabilities encounter many barriers to work as farmers or labourers in agricultural value chains, as well as access to marketplaces and finance. These barriers take shape in the form of attitudinal, physical, communication, and institutional barriers. 

This online platform is focussed on the 3-year Economic Empowerment Project, funded by DaNa.
The purpose of the project is to strengthen the economic position of disabled people and people affected by leprosy in Myanmar.

The Leprosy Mission Myanmar (TLMM), BRAC, and Enablement work together, also with private and public stakeholders and relevant government actors, to lower the barriers for people with disabilities to find meaningful employment and to protect and empower the affected households.

How do we strengthen the position of people with disabilities?​

Piloting the development of a supported approach to micro-finance by BRAC and TLMM.
Read more >
Piloting the development of adapted tools for people with disabilities.
Read more >
Communities will need guidance on how to make their own market places accessible.
Read more >
We assist people with disabilities to become employed trough job coaching.
Read more >

Success stories of people involved in the ‘Economic Empowerment Project’.

Chan Myae Aung

Hair dresser

Chan Myae Aung (25 years old and having a physical impairment) left in 2016 Htein Pin village, Kyaukkyi township, to attend a hair cutting training in Yangon.

It included a 3 months training, provided by Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) - Japan. After the training, Chan Myae Aung stayed in the city as a casual worker while he tried to find a suitable job.

In May 2018, he met Job Placement Coach (JPC) U Khin Mg Win with whom he discussed his employment preferences and opportunities. The JPC arranged a job interview at a barber shop and within the same month he could start working as a hair dresser. 

Chan Myae Aung has a monthly income now which is sufficient to sustain himself and his parents. He is grateful for the work of the JPC. 

Ko Rambo

Job Coach

Ko Rambo is physically impaired and worked as a sales man of lottery tickets in Mandalay. He attended the 10-day Job Placement Coach training hosted by The Leprosy Mission Myanmar.

He now works as a Job Coach in city  and helps other people with disabilities to find a job. Some of them have become interested in selling lottery tickets as well. 

Ko Rambo enjoys supporting community members with disabilities and finding job opportunities for them in Mandalay.

Kyaw Thu Htwe

Farmer and barber

Kyaw Thu Htwe (31 years old and having a hearing impairment) lives in Phayar Hnitsue village, Taungoo township. Together with his family, he is farming and running a barber shop in the village. Despite being deaf, Kyaw Thu Htwe is eager to work.  

One day, he met Job Placement Coach (JPC) Ma Thida Myint, with whom he explored employment opportunities and possibilities to attend vocational skills training. After he expressed his interests in electronics, the JPC brought him in contact with a Copy and Electronic Product Maintenance Workshop. This company is founded and managed by a person with a disability, who gave Kyaw Thu Htwe skills training.

Nowadays Kyaw Thu Htwe is running a small shop from home, where he repairs and maintains electronic devices. Through these activities, his income increased and Kyaw Thu Htwe and his family are doing well.    

Ma Cho

Masseuse

Ma Cho (39 years old and having a visual impairment) lives together with her younger sister in Khin Tangyi village, Yaedashe township.

She experienced many challenges in life, such as discrimination by villagers and the inability to find a job. This negatively affected her self-image; she felt worried and scared to participate in her social-environment. 

Fortunately, she met Job Placement Coaches (JPC) Ma Thida Myint and Ma Thinn Myat Moe with whom she discussed vocational training- and employment opportunities. They encouraged her to attend a massage training at the school for the blind. In addition, they helped Ma Cho write a professional CV and prepare for a job interview. 

This appeared to be successful! Ma Cho is now working at Genky, a Massage Centre in Yangon. She enjoys her job and feels more confident than ever.  

Ma Phyo Ei Ei Htwe

Sewer

Ma Phyo Ei Ei Htwe (38 years old and having post-polio paralysis) worked as a tailor for 3 years. She had to leave her job when she moved to Hlaing Tharyar township, together with her husband and child. 

She struggled to find a new job until she met Job Placement Coach (JPC) U Khin Mg Win At. They discussed employment opportunities and the JPC explained about the rights of people with disabilities. Ma Phyo Ei Ei Htwe felt confident again to find a new job.

With support of the JPC, she found a suitable new employer at a nearby sewing factory. The workload is in line with her capacity, which enables Ma Phyo Ei Ei Htwe to work despite her disability. She enjoys her job a lot! 

U Ko Ko Gyi

Farmer

U Ko Ko Gyi is from Taungoo and is physical impairment as a result of a stroke. His main source of income is small scale farming.

However, due to muscle weakness of the limbs, U Ko Ko Gyis  is unable to hold farming tools for extended periods of time. 

Through the 'Economic Empowerment Project' he received several adapted farming tools. These are significantly lighter in use and easier to handle. U Ko Ko Gyi is back to work and able to provide a livelihood for himself and his family.

Adapted farming tool

Meet Myat Moe Htay

Burmese Myat Moe Htay’s disability made her feel a failure and then one day, there was a glimmer of hope. Perhaps, another life was possible.

Meet Naw Aye Myint

Naw Aye Myint wanted to be a teacher but, she failed her exams.
Thus began an unexpected journey.

Credits

A big thank you including all credits for providing these short documentaries go to Nicola Zawadi Cross.
For more info please visit her website.

Our Partners

Partners of the Economic Empowerment Project Myanmar

Projects

Enablement is working closely with persons with disabilities, their families and stakeholders at all levels in various projects around the world.

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