This report delineates the research process and -findings of a Vulnerability Assessment conducted by Covenant Consult on behalf of FRC in January/February 2018. Collecting reliable and valid data about the region’s state of vulnerability was the main objective of this Vulnerability Assessment. Therefore, the research design and methodology was carefully chosen in order to derive meaningful recommendations from acquired research data to professionally guide FRC’s program planning for Kayah State. Within the framework of given resources and time availability, the Vulnerability Assessment covered a sample of 254 households from 25 villages in five townships. In fact, this research sample group represents nine ethnic groups that reside in Kayah State. The first pillar of the research was a structured survey that was conducted in all 254 households from those 25 villages located in 5 Townships. Additionally, 14 focus group discussions (FGDs) with rural youth were conducted in order to identify barriers for women and youth to access education, in particular vocational training and literacy training. The third pillar for acquiring information and obtain data from were nine interview sessions in total, held with key informants from CSOs, NGOs, and the GoUM. These threefold research sources built a comprehensive data base that provided the assessment project with a clearer picture of the current situation in surveyed townships. This pool of data represents general observations that contribute to an informed discussion about the levels of vulnerability in Kayah State, including a particular emphasis on vocational education and literacy.
Despite the fact that ethnic groups in Kayah State are not signatories of the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), Kayah State remains largely stable. And although Thailand still maintains two Karenni refugee camps in Mae Hongson Province with about 13.0001 people in residence, incidences of conflict between KNPP and the Tatmadaw were reduced to a few cases over the past couple of years. Therefore, ‘only’ 33% of households reported to have suffered from violence due to ethnic armed conflict in the past. The most war-affected townships, however, are officially restricted areas and thus could not be included in this vulnerability assessment. During FGDs, participants expressed their desire for a successful peace process that yields into genuine peace throughout the entire region. In addition, leaders shared their opinions about and suggestions for strengthening the peace process. Their voices articulated in unison the crucial need for community participation in the peace process. In particular, KSWN mentioned their concern about the fact that women are currently not much involved in the peace building process.
The nine ethnic groups in Kayah State represent great linguistic diversity. There are at least six languages actively spoken. However, the language Burmese is used as a unifier and is the most commonly used for communication, apart from people’s ethnic languages. There exists the long regional tradition in Kayah State to utilize the Burmese curriculum and textbooks in order to impart Burmese as major medium of school instruction. KII partners indicate that Burmese still remains ‘foreign’ to younger generations, although they are frequently exposed to Burmese through the school system. This basically means that school children do not practice Burmese on a regular basis outside of the classroom. In particular, youth from remote areas only acquire a basic command over Burmese language while their level of literacy capacity still remains too low for full comprehension of Burmese literature and communication practice.
The research data also revealed a relatively high percentage of people who never attended school. The household survey revealed that 27 percent of female members and 18 percent of male household members never attended school. Thus, it must be assumed that these people have a relatively low command over Burmese language actively spoken. This current reality limits the possibilities for ethnic youth in Kayah State to communicate with others outside their local communities but also their ability to participate in skill building, training, and upcoming job opportunities. While the above stated figures include all household members of the survey, it is most likely that an exclusive research focus on youth alone may reflect differing outcomes since Kayah State younger generations’ school attendance went relatively high with the NCA from 2012. Or in other words, a decreased number of displaced people through less violent conflict incidences most likely led to a relatively high percentage of regular school attendance among young generations and thus led to an increase of basic literacy among youth from remote areas.
Vocational training is generally acknowledged as a primary means for increased and enhanced people’s life skills and, therewith, sustained livelihood prospects. This conviction is exemplified through FRC’s existing cooperation with a number of CSOs and the GTHS in Loikaw. The Vulnerability Study distilled further possibilities and necessities for an intensified cooperation between FRC and the government institution in order to update FRC’s current short course program at GTHS. In a nutshell it can be said that the Vulnerability Study provided deeper insights and reflections on how FRC’s existing cooperation can become complemented by recommendations on how to enhance and expand its existing educational engagement with youth from remote areas.
It is suggested to focus on two main cooperation pillars: First, on a continued and intensified cooperation with the GTHS. Second, on a continued and intensified cooperation with Women- and Youth CSOs who operate in Kayah State. In the cooperation with the GTHS, these activities can be considered: i) to develop a number of new and relevant short VT courses; ii) to conduct teacher training concerning their technical and even more importantly methodological capacity for enhancing student- and adult learning principles; iii) to translate training materials and manuals; iv) to promote VT through IEC materials; v) to improve inclusiveness measures as for example participation of youth and women from remote areas; and vi) to facilitate a strong link between GTHS and the private sector. The main focus should be given on the ‘relevance’ of training and marketable skills.
The second focus, which will be on cooperation’s with Women- and Youth CSOs, may emphasize strengthening of their managerial as well as technical capacity. Deeper insights into current managerial and organizational capacity may be gleaned from a more detailed managerial- and organizational capacity assessment. Such insights can be utilized as baseline data. An organizational capacity assessment needs to include following areas: i) mission; ii) vision; iii) leadership; iv) policies; v) HR and staff retention measures; vi) finance system; and vii) assets and outreach capacity.
The distinct development inputs with a particular focus on women and youth that FRC might take into consideration are of crucial importance since the vast majority of the population in Myanmar and also Kayah State are young people. The age pyramid of the country shows a healthy structure in comparison and contrast to Western countries. However, this age pyramid carries the challenge of offering meaningful education and training for young people who become potential contributors to the country’s positive development. A great contribution can be achieved when youth have access to meaningful and relevant skill building activities that lead to jobs and income generating measures. The youth’s access to purposeful skill building activities also represents a reasonable training ground for young people to attain a posture of making healthy life choices that not only benefit themselves and their level of resilience but also include a concern for the greater good of the community.
Increased levels of technical information and knowledge are related to inputs regarding to i) youth development theory and practice; ii) community development principles; iii) social and cultural change; iv) issues with addictions as important areas of capacity building. When organizational capacity gets enhanced in meaningful ways, CSOs may become more effective drivers for change. After a certain period of strengthening organizational capacity, the focus should be shifted towards outreach into remote communities. As the effectiveness of CSOs includes financial resources, it will be valuable if not essential to work out a project cooperation component that covers not only all necessary activity costs but also indirect costs.
The distinct development inputs with a particular focus on women and youth that FRC might take into consideration are of crucial importance since the vast majority of the population in Myanmar and also Kayah State are young people. In comparison with Western countries, the age pyramid of the country shows a healthy structure. However, this age pyramid carries the challenge in the provision of meaningful education and training opportunities for young people who become potential contributors to the country’s positive development. A great contribution can be achieved when youth find access to meaningful and relevant skill building activities that lead to better job- and income generating measures. The youth’s access to purposeful skill building activities also represents a reasonable training ground for young people to attain a posture of making healthy life choices that would not only benefit themselves and their level of resilience but would also include a concern for the greater good of the community.
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