Fellows from nine regions across Myanmar learned to demystify the fundamentals of democracy during the first module of the Myanmar Democracy Fellowship (MDF) programme completed in Yangon in September 2016.
“People ask me a lot how to define democracy and most of the time I struggle to find a precise definition,” said Saw Lu of Charity Oriented Myanmar (COM) during a roundtable introduction about what participants hoped to accomplish during the programme. “I enrolled in the fellowship to have an answer to give them.”
Developed by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) and COM, MDF focusses on comparative constitutional and electoral law, human rights and democratic reform. The programme is divided into four modules of five days each (extending until March 2017), and was designed for CSOs from across Myanmar to advance their knowledge and practical skills in democratic governance and advocacy.
Participants were selected through an application process that took place this past July. “As a Chin, the MDF was a great opportunity for me that I could not pass up,” said Do Khan Tuang, founder of Helping Hands in northern Chin State.
Twenty-four fellows attended the first five-day module in Yangon, which combined discussions, interactive exercises and lectures. During the first module, a guest speaker from Sri Lanka shared first-hand experiences about human rights reporting and law-making processes. Additional case studies came from Indonesia, South Africa, Nepal and France.
“This programme is very useful to better understand the concept of democracy. I am now reflecting on my own country situation by using the democratic principles I learned here,” said Law Reh from Kayah. The fellowship’s aim was not only educational, but also intended to strengthen connections within Myanmar´s CSOs from across the country.
Some participants said MDF was the first opportunity they had to exchange with peers from other regions and to understand their different perspectives. “We cannot copy and paste experiences from other countries,” said Ba Lu Myar from Kayah State, “but we can get inspired.”