Christine Ross, PSA policy advisor, has been active in the UnionAID action group since it started up a few years ago. She joined the UnionAID study group visit to our occupational skills training centre project on the Thai-Burma border in late February this year.
“They are doing really impressive work – the sewing training is teaching women the skills needed to get jobs that will pay reasonable wages; and the trainees are also informed about labour laws, health and safety, and their union rights of bargaining and collectivism”.
Many of the trainees are young women who have been sent across the border by their families to escape the terrible poverty in Burma, worsened by the recent flooding, but they are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked into the sex trade. The garment factories provide one of the few opportunities for paid work.
We also met representatives of the women’s organisations that are supporting ethnic minority women who, with their families, have fled the military violence inside the Burmese border states. Several of these young women have been on the Burmese Young Community Leaders programme in New Zealand, and their dedication to making a difference for the women they represent made a deep impression.