Grassroots roles and leadership aspirations: The experiences of young ethnic women in Myanmar civil society organizations

Maaike Matelski, Nang Muay Noan

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This research explores young ethnic women’s activities, experiences, and leadership aspirations within Myanmar civil society organizations (CSOs), and the influence of the COVID pandemic on their life and work. Ethnic women working
for CSOs face a number of challenges not only from various power holders but also from within their own communities and organizations. Meanwhile, they carve out opportunities for themselves as young civil society workers. Many show aspirations to become community leaders or politicians. This research was set up in collaboration with two organizations based in Myanmar. Interviews were held in July 2020 with fourteen young ethnic women who had previously been involved in women’s leadership trainings, to explore how they experienced their position within civil society after completion of these programs. Apart from their ethnic and gender identities, a number of intersecting identity factors such as age, life stage, education level, and place of origin were taken into account. Differences in experiences were found not only among the known identity factors but also between individual women from different communities, and between those working on the community level and in more formal nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). We end with a number of recommendations for CSOs and their partners and donors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-131
Number of pages37
JournalThe Journal of Burma Studies
Issue number1
Early online date28 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Myanmar
  • civil society
  • ethnicity
  • women
  • gender
  • intersectionality
  • leadership


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