The Irrawaddy

‘We Have to Do Lots of Things to Fill the Gaps’

Shwe Shwe Sein Latt runs the Phan Tee Eain (Creative House) organization, which works to empower women. (Photo: Nang Sen Nom / The Irrawaddy)

Phan Tee Eain (Creative House) is a civil society organization established in 2009 that works to empower women and rehabilitate those who have suffered from sexual violence.

At present, the organization is giving training in women’s development and leadership, networking with women’s organizations at home and abroad. It has taken a lead role in organizing women’s forums in Burma, and has consistently served as a voice for women’s rights in the culturally conservative country.

Shwe Shwe Sein Latt, director of Creative House, recently sat down with The Irrawaddy to talk about the role the organization is playing in empowering women and protecting and promoting women’s rights in Burma.

Question: Creative House is planning to build a shelter to help rehabilitate sexually abused women. Would you elaborate on that?

Answer: Yes, Burma is in dire need of this shelter. I’ve told the government and other organizations [to establish such a shelter], but no one cared. Therefore, we have to create it, as our name is Creative House. I will build the first shelter with my own money, but I have no prior experience.

Q: What does the plan entail?

A: I’m thinking of renting an apartment where women who suffer from domestic violence can pour out all their troubles to us, and we’ll comfort them. I hope at least they will be able to stay overnight at the apartment and help put their minds at rest. Women will no longer need to keep their feelings suppressed. The shelter will be a place where they can pour out their feelings and find comfort.

However, the best thing that could happen would be political changes. If there were real changes in politics, we wouldn’t need to engage in social work. But, presently, we have to do lots of things to fill the gaps. Women account for 51 percent of the population and the country therefore will not see development if the status of women doesn’t improve.

Q: In which towns do you plan to set up shelters?

A: I’m still considering it. I plan to run it on a manageable scale. At first, I need to build the required capacity. I have attended relevant training in management of shelters in Bangkok. I plan to run it in cooperation with the Social Welfare Department.

I plan to launch a hotline for them [women subjected to abuse] to reach the police. I need to negotiate with the government on this. I’ll network with police, political parties and lawyers. The shelter will be free of charge and serve as a safe haven for them. There will be persons who will comfort them and be sympathetic toward them.

Q: Since the shelter aims to ease the mental suffering of women, what type of volunteers will you bring in?

A: I will bring in psychologists. The Department of Social Welfare also has experts. And we have studied international experiences. Other organizations are providing training. We know how to heal the mental wounds of these women. What they need is someone who will listen to their feelings with sympathy.

First, we’ll comfort them, and secondly, we’ll need to talk to their families to make sure they do not suffer again. We’ll also work together with the media to educate about women’s rights and eliminating domestic violence.