The public in Myanmar has a better understanding of the struggles of key populations

The public in Myanmar has a better understanding of the struggles of key populations

In our series on PITCH Country Focal Points, Yan Win Soe shares what he hopes to achieve with his partners before the end of the programme.

Yan Wun
Yan Win Soe

What are the key advocacy successes achieved in PITCH in your country to date?

First of all, the general public in Myanmar now has a better understanding of the struggles faced by key populations. Recently, the messages on social media networks and the conversations with the key population representatives showed improvements in how the public perception on the key populations.

As a result,  key population-led networks in Myanmar are now able to publicly celebrate the events, such as the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia or the International Sex Worker Rights Day, even in outside of Yangon. That was different from previous time.

Second, thanks to the support of PITCH, key population-led networks had arranged several consultations with the Bill Committee (Lower House) and other important decision makers at central level. The goal of these consultations was to ensure protective laws for sex workers and people living with HIV released and functioned. So far, a total of 69 consultation meetings at central level have been organised i.e. 32 times for the Sex Worker Law and 37 times for the Law on People Living with HIV. Although the process of engagement with decision-makers at central level had started since before PITCH, the key population-led networks in Myanmar said that PITCH mainly enabled their advocacy activities to continue effectively in full confidence.

Third, the historic victory in the judicial system was the release of five sex workers in 2018 and one sex worker in 2019. These people were sentenced under section 3(A) and 3(B) of the 1949 Prostitute Suppression Act. This momentous achievement was the result of both continuous advocacy work and services jointly provided by the PITCH partners.

Who are your two most important allies?

We have many important allies. However, I would like to elaborate on two of them.

The Central Committee on Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) is the most important ally which welcomes our advocacy initiatives on the drug policy reform. It has provided the space to the PITCH programme  to transform the new national drug policy into actual implementation.

Pyithu Hluttaw (the House of Representatives) Health and Sports Development Committee is also an important ally for us. Normally, the key population networks deliver their advocacy messages to the House of Representatives through this committee. The committee members warmly welcome the advocacy messages of the key population networks.

In 2019, I am planning to forge alliances with gender, transgender and women’s networks. Similarly, we will link up with health professionals’ associations, particularly on questions related to universal health coverage for key populations.

Name one thing that has surprised you in PITCH since you started your role.

PITCH is a large network uniting people who are dedicated to work for the rights of key populations. This surprised not only me but also the decision makers who joined our events. Thanks to PITCH and its partners, the decision makers were so impressed and showed much more trust in me than ever before.

What is the most important global and/or national policy event for your country in the next year?

At the end of 2018, the Law on People Living with HIV became one of the  priority laws to be finalise except for the Sex Worker Law. I believe it is urgent to sensitize the general public and decision-makers about the importance of these laws, and create the enabling environment for bringing these laws into actual implementation.

What is the top change you hope to see in your country before the end of PITCH?

The top change I hope to see is that key population-led networks become successful advocates before the end of PITCH. Meanwhile, they have got the unique opportunity to advocate for their stakeholders by using the approach of PITCH; they monitor government commitments, collect evidence and use it for advocacy, as well as develop new advocacy tools to support their work.

Name one thing you have learned through working in PITCH that you didn’t know before.

Flexibility is quite a powerful tool in our advocacy work. PITCH has helped create flexible conditions to address urgent matters and crises.

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