“I Sit Twice a Week at the Office of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission”

By: Sue Anne Teo,
Sue Anne Teo works in Myanmar with human rights capacity building.
RWI’s Programme Officer Sue Anne Teo, on the bottom left, together with staff from the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission.


That’s ‘hello’ in Burmese!

I’ve been here in Yangon for the past four months and even though the Raoul Wallenberg Institute does not have an office set up here as such, I sit twice a week at the office of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (‘MNHRC’), who is also RWI’s main partner in Myanmar.

There are naturally some challenging aspects of being based in a nascent democracy and this includes things that we would take for granted in Sweden such as stable internet connections and telecommunications. I have three sim cards (and therefore three different devices) so that I can stay connected at all times, using the hotspot to get online. The electricity supply can also be quite erratic at times and it is not uncommon for power cuts to happen many times in a day.

My solution for this?

Two solar powered lamps and a power bank for the phone. Yes, this is how we roll in Myanmar.

Of course, sometimes I forget to charge these things and have to sit in darkness for hours.

It is also the rainy season at the moment and in Yangon, thunderstorms occur frequently and without warning. Needless to say, an umbrella is an absolute necessity!

Our work here centers around capacity development for the MNHRC and also strengthening human rights capacities of their partners, such as academic institutions.

We have been working with the MNHRC since 2012 focusing on building up the human rights knowledge of the staff and commissioners of the commission in order for them to carry out their mandates effectively. In addition to workshops, we have also worked together with the commission on their website, resource center, translations and publications of human rights conventions and materials and outreach programs, amongst others.

I am currently doing a staff capacity development mapping exercise to ensure that future trainings can be targeted and focused on the right personnel within the MNHRC. For the academic component, we are working primarily with Mandalay University on human rights education, raising awareness on the concept of human rights, the core conventions, human rights teaching and research methodologies.

The work here is challenging but exciting and the pace of change keeps me on my toes. There is nowhere else I’d rather be.

I’ll keep this first blog post short. Looking out my window now and the dark clouds above indicate an imminent downpour. Better head home before that happens.

Hang on, where’s my umbrella?!

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