Women Making a Difference: Myanmar Dr. Thant Htet

Myanmar – On International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2017 it is important to recognize women who make significant contributions to their communities. For the last 10 months, Dr. Thant Htet has been working as a Community Health Supervisor for IOM Myanmar until her recent promotion to the position of Township Health Supervisor, where she is working on maternal and newborn child health. Thant Htet lives in the small city of Bogale, located in the Ayeyarwaddy Region in the South West of Myanmar where she works with a number of communities in often remote areas.

“I wanted to work at IOM as the Maternal and Child death rate in Myanmar is still high compared with other Asian countries.

I think we need to look beyond the numbers of maternal deaths. It’s so sad that many family members may be left without care of a mother or a wife. It encourages me to be a part of the maternal and child health project to support women’s lives through health care.

“Working in Bogale for IOM has been a great experience and my colleagues are friendly and helpful to each other. We also work well coordinating with the township health department to improve maternal and child health, to raise community awareness of health issues and in building the capacity of auxiliary mid-wives, community health workers and village health tract committees. Part of this role includes mainstreaming gender issues into health policy. I’m proud to serve the community through my work.

Since my childhood, I had wanted to be a medical doctor who could save the lives of people and promote health education, especially for vulnerable people. Soon after graduating from university I worked in an international organization as a medical doctor where I was posted in Rakhine State assisting with emergency rescue during a period of conflict. During this time I became very interested in public health.

I have had many enjoyable experiences working in IOM. Providing training to volunteer health workers was a real highlight as they are people from community who want to make a difference. Having the chance to work closely with these people, to learn from their experiences and to understand the strength of their communities was really powerful. It also gave me a chance to motivate them to learn about health related activities but also to empower the women to contribute to their communities.

I believe that in most professional settings in Myanmar men have fewer barriers to succeed than women. In our culture, most people think that men are more trustful and have stronger leadership and decision making skills. But I believe that it depends on the individual, not on gender. People should have the same opportunities, regardless of gender.

I think, in Myanmar, we still need to improve women’s rights. In all sectors, if there are equal rights for all human beings such as equality of income, opportunities and conditions, it will lead to development of the country.

In Myanmar, it’s easier for a man to get a job than a woman, so in a family, women become dependent financially on the man and can lead to less equality. It becomes a tradition in Myanmar, not everywhere, but especially in rural areas. In this respect I think women must empower themselves so that we are not vulnerable. There is strength in knowing our own value and what we can achieve. We need to understand that all human beings have the same rights.”