As part of its electoral support work with the Union Election Commission (UEC), IFES Myanmar brought BRIDGE to Myanmar for the first time by conducting a TTF in the capital Nay Pi Taw from 23 July to 2 August 2013. The trainee group was made up of 6 staff members of the UEC, 16 secondary teachers (all of whom were women) from every state of the Union of Myanmar, one staff member of MILI (the Myanmar Independent Living Initiative – a national disability advocacy group) and one IFES Myanmar staff member. The two lead facilitators were Paul Guerin, Chief of Party IFES Myanmar and Ross Attrill, recently retired from the Australian Electoral Commission’s BRIDGE office. They were ably assisted by Nelly Sann from the UEC and Soe Lin Htoot from the IFES Myanmar Office.
In what is a particularly progressive move on the part of the UEC, it sought permission for the Ministry of Education to release 16 teachers from across Myanmar who have knowledge of the minority cultures and languages from their regions. The hope is that these teachers will move back to their respective regions and be key people in any Voter Education and UEC training programs that are developed in the lead up to the 2015 National Elections. Min Soe, the MILI deputy training director, is hoping to use the methodology and content of BRIDGE to assist in developing programs that will make voters with disabilities more aware of their electoral rights. It was also vital to the TTF’s success that several staff members from the UEC were involved in order to create a group within the UEC who will be able to act as contacts to the other trainees. And, of course, the TTF also gave them an opportunity to practice methodologies which will be of use to them when they develop training and voter education packages.
As always, the TTF served to bring together a group of people who had never met each other and very quickly turned them into a group of friends and colleagues capable of supporting each other in the planning and implementation of BRIDGE. Both Paul and I were impressed by how quickly and enthusiastically the whole group embraced the methodology and the intelligence and sensitivity they used in developing their activities. All of the teachers commented on the fact that, not only would the experience help them in disseminating voter education, it would also be of enormous benefit in their classroom practice.
One of the things that served to make the TTF a success was being able to utilize a very functional and comfortable training room based in the UEC building. This centre is only a few weeks old and was renovated and resourced by IFES to enable the UEC to have an “in-house” training facility. The fact that it was possible to conduct the TTF within the UEC work space meant that the whole organisation was able to see what was being presented and will help to give long-term ownership of BRIDGE to the UEC.
Finally, Paul and I would like to thank Nelly and Soe Lin for their brilliant interpreting and translation. They both worked with intelligence and care and the amount of time they spent with the participants helping them with the development of their activities was really impressive. I would also like to acknowledge Wint War, the IFES finance and administration officer in Myanmar, who organised the logistics effectively and efficiently and always with a smile.
I look forward to seeing the progression of the new trainees and hope to be able to help in that progression.
Ross Attrill, August 2013