Flora Bawi Nei Mawi



Role: Executive Committee/ Director
at CCERR (Community Care for Emergency Response and Rehabilitation) and Founding Director to Latsi Nu Women Agency
Active in Country: Myanmar
DTP Alumna: 2012 Indigenous Peoples Program - Malaysia 


Flora Bawi Nei Mawi was born and raised in Myanmar and identifies as a Chin Indigenous Woman. She is a feminist and currently serves on the executive committee as a Director at Community Care for Emergency Response and Rehabilitation (CCERR).


Flora’s journey in human rights began with her voluntary work at Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO); during her time there, Chin State in Western Myanmar was devastated by unprecedented floods and landslides caused by one of the worst national disasters, Cyclone Komen in 2015.

She realised that aid efforts were not locally led, which meant that affected people were not allowed to participate in identifying problems and solutions. The need for the local community to have their voices heard resulted in the creation of CCERR, which was established to ensure that local communities had the space, capacity and support they needed to fulfil the rights of those affected by the disaster. 

Flora’s participation in DTP’s 2012 Indigenous Peoples Program helped her realise how much Myanmar has been politically lacking in ensuring the rights of its own people. Talk of international human rights instruments and frameworks was new to her and it was fairly dangerous for her to join such programs as well. Flora was especially impressed with the educational materials taught and feels that the provision of such programs gives her the motivation to spread the knowledge she had gained from training. 

At present, Flora has been elected twice and is now leading the member-based organization. She works with communities only if consent is given. The organisation operates on a model of shared ownership and responsibility with the community, asking “what problem do you have, and what can we do together?”. Even under an armed conflict setting, her leadership embraces the principle of feminism and emphasises ‘localisation’.

 

“The organisation does not come in and save everything. The person must recognise their responsibility. We are complementing each other. We share successes and failures, and we are there to help.”


Additionally, she founded Latsi Nu Women Agency, a program to advance the status of women in the political sphere. This program utilises a Feminist Participatory Action Research methodology, which provides space and opportunities for indigenous, internally displaced, and urban poor women to co-conduct bottom-up action and policy-oriented research. Having applied this method to flood- and landslide-displaced women in Chin State in the context of climate justice, Flora has extended this tool to the conflict-torn Rakhine State under “Women’s land rights and natural resources” with minority women.

The tool kit from the DTP program, particularly on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), is powerful in monitoring the ongoing and highly controversial Kalay-Falam-Hakha road project. Flora stresses that FPIC is potent in ensuring that companies and government adhere to the World Bank’s safeguards and grievance redress mechanism.

When asked about certain difficulties faced when raising awareness, Flora mentions female under-representation in male-dominated NGOs and a broader societal issue of people not knowing the power they have and thinking that power is only held by governments or institutions. She recognises that the discrimination that women face extends across several layers, and internal ethnic cultural practices perpetuate that. Flora stresses the importance of political education, to help the community understand that the government has limited capacity.


Flora’s motivation began with her mindset. She emphasises the importance of stepping out of her comfort zone to unlearn the things she has been taught in order to really empathise with the difficulties of this human rights journey. When asked if she had been afraid in starting this difficult journey, Flora comments:

 “I am more scared of not doing what I can do and taking the opportunity to help”

 
Flora takes inspiration from different people and believes in seizing any opportunities that are presented to her. She encourages others to participate in DTP’s programs as they provide opportunities to network and expose oneself to multicultural influences. She also mentions that the trainers of the program provide challenges to participants, which is particularly helpful for activists due to a hands-on approach.

Flora hopes to call on independent and international support for their movement with communities and women. She emphasises that human rights are not about quantity but quality. While a movement might be small, investing and supporting it provides a moral boost and would give them more power locally, leading to further acceptance from their community for the issues they are fighting for.

 

Profile written November 2020