November 24, 2014
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has almost become a symbol of the struggle for democracy and human rights. Almost everyone has heard of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of the Burmese opposition. However, many others are working behind the scenes for democratic progress and human rights education. Ko Thet Mon, from the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, is one of those tireless defenders whose determination and courage is matched only by her modesty. Through her daily work, she contributes to build a more peaceful, less violent community in trying to find new approaches and better communication strategies. Thet Mon also knows the price of freedom: her father, who was very involved in advocacy of democracy, spent many years in prison. Thanks to a bursary from the Brian Bronfman Family Foundation, she was able to attend this year’s International Human Rights Training Program in Montreal (IHRTP). She spoke to us at the end of the three-week training that allowed her to learn new skills and grow in her role as a human rights leader.
Equitas: How did you get involved in human rights?
Thet Mon Ko: When I was young my father was a political activist. I have also experienced human rights violations since childhood. But it was not until I joined the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma that I realized how much our human rights are being violated as citizens.
E: How did the Brian Bronfman Family Foundation IHRTP Bursary helped you?
TMK: It has really helped me a lot. It will not only help my organization, but also my country. What I have learnt here can be applied to my organization when I get back to my country, and that translates into better trainings for democratic development and human rights activities. And this is particularly important right now since my country is in the middle of an important process of democratization. So the bursary is not only helping me, but all the people I’ll be able to train in my country after the IHRTP. I’m very grateful to the Brian Bronfman Family Foundation.
Watch the interview with Ko Thet Mon
E: What have you learnt at the IHRTP?
TMK: I’ve been able to meet human rights defenders from all around the world and together we’ve been able to share our experience. We learnt a lot from each other’s stories of achievements and even from our past failures. Also, the participatory approach used in the IHRTP is very useful to me. This approach helped me in the design of programs intended for participants in my own country. Before I came here I thought our organization didn’t need to improve its capabilities, however after this training I realize we can get better at what we do, especially if we focus more on the people.
Interview by Vincent Frigon