From shy and silent - to a dedicated activist
Alizabeth Chaw is a busy woman. Despite previously being afraid of speaking in front of people, she is now a dedicated activist for land rights, peacebuilding, and against gender-based violence. The change came after attending a Women’s Leadership Training conducted by Diakonia’s partner KDN.
“After receiving land rights and law training, I realized that we are entitled to claim the right to our land. Earlier we did not know what to do and just kept silent, even though most of our lands had been grabbed.”
Most people are farmers
Alizabeth Chaw is a middle-aged woman who lives in a small, mountainous city in Karen state, Myanmar. Most of the people are farmers; they cultivate coffee, cardamon, djenkok bean and tea leaves. The youth often leave the area to earn money, moving to Yangon, Mandalay or Thailand, and some people rely only on the money sent back by their children.
The government has appropriated land
In Alizabeth Chaw’s home area, the government has appropriated land for office buildings, staffs’ housing, governmental projects and the extension of military compounds. In response Alizabeth Chaw, together with a lawyer from a local NGO, organized a training about land rights for the villagers. More than 90 people attended the training. The focus was on how to receive compensation for land occupied by the military, government and business companies. Systematically, the villagers made a list of occupied lands, in each case describing how many acres there were and the type of land. The information was later sent to the government.
Is a key person in the struggle
Alizabeth Chaw has also organized GPS trainings in 35 villages in collaboration with a land rights group. After the trainings, villagers knew how to use the technique and started to measure their lands to claim legal documents.
Land grabbing is difficult to resolve as it is often committed by the government, military or businesses. Alizabeth Chaw and her group are still struggling for their case to be completed. It is a long process and the community has to be mobilized to put pressure on the authorities. Alizabeth Chaw has become a key person in the struggle.
“We have already organized many trainings and meetings with the community but we still need to put in more effort to achieve our mission. We also need the technical aspect to become more effective.”