Nelly Mawi
Nelly Mawi Contributed

Important footsteps

WHILE many teenagers cannot wait to break free of the ties of their family, Nelly Mawi and Silver Moo were just hoping that theirs would stay together.

Both women fled Burma with their families as refugees when they were in their teens.

The two women will tell their story with Footsteps for Burma at a Zonta Club of the Blackall Range dinner at Flaxton on Thursday for International Women's Day which this year is dedicated to empowering rural women and ending poverty and hunger.

Nelly's people, from the Chin State, were regarded as a minority within their own country and subject to brutality, forced labour and religious persecution by the Burmese military regime.

Her family fled to the Mizoram region of north-eastern India five years ago when she was 16.

They had to wait for two years for her father to join them and to obtain the United Nations refugee certificates that would allow them to resettle elsewhere as refugees.

They were allowed to do menial work while they waited for appropriate documentation and, as food and rent cost more than they earned, they often went without food.

Nelly's younger siblings, aged nine and 13, stayed at home while the family went out to work for 12 hours a day.

Silver MooSilver (pictured right), 32, grew up in a Karen village where fear and flight were as much a part of life as the crops and animals they farmed to feed themselves.

They fled their village eight times while she was growing up before they left for good when she was 17.

The family found safety at the Nu Po Refugee camp in south-east Thailand where her parents were given six square metres of land upon which to build a house for themselves, their six children and Silver's grandmother.

She remembers it as a hard life where there was never enough food.

They were finally given a second chance at life three years ago when they came to Australia through the federal government's humanitarian program.

Footsteps for Burma was established by a Brisbane woman, Tracy Jones, in 2010 to raise awareness of the persecution of minority ethnic groups in Burma, and to raise money to help them through food, medical supplies and education.

For information about the group, go to footstepsforburma.org.

 

A Brief History

International Women's Day has been observed since the early 1900s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.

The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that 'all the battles have been won for women' while many feminists from the 1970s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women's visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. T

he unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

However, great improvements have been made.

We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices.

And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.

Annually on March 8, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements.

A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more. - internationalwomensday.com



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