The We women foundation was founded in December 2009 and has been active in Chiang Mai, Thailand, since March 2010.
Founded by Ursula Cats, an anthropologist and drama therapist, the We women foundation was established after Cats’ work and research in Myanmar and Northern Thailand. She has been actively fighting for human rights for many years. Working as a lobbyist, a campaign organizer and an action coordinator for Myanmar has deepened her passion for the people of Myanmar. She is dedicated to supporting those who live without the liberties and freedom that are too often taken for granted in many parts of the world. She is motivated by her passion for her work and research. Cats believes that, ultimately, it is not foreigners who can sustain true social change in Myanmar, but that the people from Myanmar themselves are the key figures in their own future. She has encountered many strong, wise women from Myanmar whose voices are not heard within their communities. These women inspire her to devote her time to empowering and supporting them. By providing them with the opportunity to study and grow leadership skills through various projects, Cats feels that these strong women can become influential leaders in Myanmar.
In 2009, Cats carried out extensive research within one Shan community in Northern Thailand. Her research inspired her to organize an educational project for unrecognized refugee women from Myanmar. After the final data was analyzed, it became clear that the young Shan women are critical of existing gender divisions within their communities. They desire more equality and the ability to make individual choices without being limited by gender-prescribed roles. These women described education as a tool of empowerment essential for achieving their aspirations and goals.
Cats focused her research on the Shan, one of Myanmar’s many ethnic groups, because the Shan people constitute the majority of unrecognized refugees in Thailand. In this project, however, she chose to include all ethnic women from Myanmar who are currently unrecognized. The struggle and insecurities of these women are all similar and all of them should get the chance to obtain influential positions within their communities.
The situation of the Shan people and of other unrecognized refugees has turned Cats’ wish for a world where there is equality for all into action.
The Formal Education project is based on the knowledge and input of unrecognized Shan refugee women and comes with a healthy dose of idealism, a dash of optimism and a heaping spoonful of faith in humanity.
Since 2014 the goal Cats’ had set for the foundation became reality, with We women Alumni Num Aye as Country Director Myanmar, We women is now lead by a strong homegrown leader.
The projects inside Myanmar, target women from marginalized ethnic communities. From 2012 We women has researched the needs of these women and new projects were developed. Besides our Formal Education program, a Gender Dialogue project, a Social Business Training Project and a Women Leadership Network have been established.
Together with experienced local partner organizations, We women strives for education, gender equality and empowerment for the women from marginalized ethnic communities in Myanmar. We women is a self reflective organization, willing to look critically at its projects. They are not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them while pushing hard for success.
Thank you very much for your interest in volunteering with the We women foundation. We are a small organization with limited resources and we depend a lot on volunteers to keep our programs going!
Whether you are in Yangon, The Netherlands, Chiang Mai or abroad, and you are available to volunteer your time and expertise to We women, please let us know. You can apply for current openings we have at the moment, join our Student Advisor Corps, or visit our sparked.com page where we list assignments people can do from the comfort of their own homes.