Pu Sor’s Story and Gender Discrimination
My name is Phattharin (Po Sor) and I come from Maehongson Province, Thailand. After attending the Weaving Bonds workshop, I became confident enough to get involved in women’s leadership issues in my community. As you can imagine, girls and women have less opportunities to get educated and participate in the decision making process in my community. As a young woman I was discouraged by many people around me, including my family. I wanted to get an education and a career, however this was very difficult for me for various reasons including the fact I am Karen and was discriminated against on ethnic grounds. I am currently a university student and my tuition fees are paid for by an organization based in Bangkok; I am the only female university student from my community and I feel so sad for my sisters and other young women who cannot get an education. This is why I really want to do something for my community in terms of women’s leadership; I want to change this situation, but I didn’t know where to start or what kind of things I should do. This question stayed in my mind until I met Weaving Bonds staff and participated in their workshop. In the workshop, I gained a lot of valuable knowledge from different teachers and local community leaders. This workshop has encouraged and supported me to go further and make my dream more possible.
Gender in my community:
My village is Baan Thiyaper, Sobmoei, Maehongson Province, Thailand. The village is located in the north of the country and is the southernmost province of Mae Hong Son. Travel in the region is still difficult, due to poor road infrastructure. During the rainy season travel is especially difficult and in the summer dusty conditions make travel uncomfortable, so winter is the best time.
In the past, our village was a simple village. We relied on nature for life; we had no electricity and no means of communication. We could live without having to rely on these things, but development came to my community and provided access to communication with the outside world. Our community has undergone dramatic change in recent decades.
However, there is one thing that has not changed at all and that is the subject of sex and gender. Our religious faith and culture has handed down the concept that women are the weaker sex. Since I was a child I have heard people in my community or my parents say that women cannot be leaders; just being a woman is a sin in itself. It is always emphasized that a woman’s role is in the family home – getting married and raising children.
The roles of men and women in my Karen community are clearly divided – women should be the main parent, take care of their family, make textiles (weaving and knitting), clean the house and cook, while men work outside the home, for example farming and gardening. Even so, women often work outside the home too! Karen women are expected to be patient and gentle with their family and undertake all they can for their family home. Before marrying (in their late teens) Karen women prepare blankets, clothing, bags and bags of gifts for men. This is a tradition inherited from our forefathers and it indicates that a woman is ready for a family. By contrast, men are not pressured to marry, stay at home or take care of their parents. A woman who wants to leave to go work in the city faces difficult questions from her family and if she does leave she is expected to send all of her money to her family and to return as quickly as possible to marry.
Women are seen as the weaker sex and often pressured into marriage and seen as the property of men. Social views about the role of women leads to women marrying at a young age (when they are seen as more desirable) and cases of domestic violence – often in connection with economic problems. Many women end up in situations where they live with a husband who does not love them without the option to divorce or leave their husband – due to a cocktail of beliefs around sexuality, gender roles and family structures.