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Orchid’s story – Thanaka project: Girls' power in Myanmar

OrchidFootnote * is a 26-year-old young woman in Myanmar and a champion for gender equality who advocates for girls' rights and raises awareness about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and gender-based violence (GBV). Before becoming an advocate for women’s and girls’ rights, Orchid endured intimate partner violence for nearly 5 years. At the age of 18, she met a young man who, throughout their relationship, physically and emotionally abused her.

"Girls themselves need to know what violence is, and people around them also need to be aware of what violence is. If not, they can suffer from gender-based violence and domestic violence without receiving support from their parents and family. They may not be aware of being abused and experiencing violence by their partners, accepting it as a normal phenomenon", shares Orchid today.

Her life took a positive turn when she got involved with Plan International Canada’s Thanaka project funded by Canada. This project supports adolescent girls and young women to become gender equality leaders and to promote their rights in the areas of economic empowerment and SRHR.

In 2023, Orchid participated in the Champions of Change training, which supports the empowerment of adolescent girls, and young women with knowledge and skills on assertiveness, gender equality and SRHR. Orchid was selected to become a peer leader and eventually trained other adolescents, especially girls and women in her community.

Plan International Myanmar supported Orchid in becoming aware of her rights and to face her challenges: “I found the courage to confront my problems of abuse and violence. I decided to overcome these challenges as an assertive individual. Now, I am aware of my rights and have chosen to speak out against what I have been facing. The change in me stems from the knowledge gained through the Champions of Change training.’’, shares Orchid.

She embarked on a mission to break the silence in her community regarding gender inequality, including GBV. She collaborated with the Thanaka project by organizing awareness activities, workshops, and discussions to educate her community about girls’ rights and preventing GBV. Orchid inspired others to join the cause and challenge harmful gender norms and behaviours.

A group of girls and boys are actively participating in an event held on the International Day of the Girl Child through Plan International’s Thanaka project
Photo Credit: Plan International/Htaw Mar

The Thanaka project equips girls and women with critical knowledge, skills and resources, including follow-up services such as job placement or enterprise development to strengthen their economic status and become decision-makers and leaders in their own lives, homes and communities.  “I also learned employability soft skills from the Thanaka project, which enabled me to gain employment with a local non-governmental organization. The training received from the project has been genuinely supportive for me. Through the training, I have acquired the skills to search for and apply to jobs effectively and how to respond to interviews productively", shares Orchid, who is now employed in a leading position in which her aptitude for empowering other young women and making a positive impact within the community plays a major role.

“Now, I am working at one of the local NGOs, assisting people with disabilities. I consistently share my experiences with girls and young women, encouraging them to be aware of their rights and to live free from violence", shares Orchid.

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