Giving Children A Strong Start in Life

Friday 15 November 2019

“If the times are good, I see my parents every other year,” Naw Si Si says. She is 14 years old and lives with her grandmother in a wooden house on stilts in Thailand, close to the border with Myanmar. Naw Si Si is from the Pwo Karen ethnic group. Most migrants in her community are economic migrants, coming from Myanmar to Thailand.

Decades of armed conflict in Myanmar have forced many Karen people to flee to Thailand. There is a ceasefire now, but many stay in Thailand and only occasionally go back across the border. There is a large community of people from Myanmar in the Thai border areas. Refugees and migrants often live separately from the Thai population, speak their own languages and only occasionally mingle.

“The best thing about living here is that I get a chance to study,” Naw Si Si says. She is in 8th grade and wants to be a doctor. “Here in Thailand you can go to school, even if you are from Myanmar.”

“I do want to be a doctor, but I don’t know if it is possible or not. It requires my parents support.”

Her biological father passed away. Naw Si Si’s mother lives with her new husband, but they work in Bangkok and she only sees them every other year if they can afford to come home. She lives with her five siblings and grandmother.

“I have lots of friends, but I don’t have my best friend anymore. She went back to Myanmar. We don’t have any contact. I want to cry when I think about it.”

Naw Si Si takes part in a leadership training for migrant children, run by one of Save the Children’s partner organisations.

“I feel stronger today,” Naw Si Si says. “In the past I didn’t dare speak to my teachers, after the training started, I became braver.”

Naw Si Si tries to support her friends and girls in the community to speak up. Young girls’ ambitions are often ridiculed, and girls are reluctant to speak to adults about their needs and wishes.

“Don’t be shy, there is nothing to be ashamed of! I am from Myanmar, but I can be anything if I try. You don’t know the future, so you can’t judge who I am, or who I will become.”

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