Burma: Naw Zipporrah Sein

The voices of many women striving for peace, freedom and equality among human beings shall be heard better and better and will become the most powerful voice in the world community.”

— Naw Zipporrah Sein

Naw Zipporrah Sein was born in 1955 at Saw Kar Der Village, Kler Lweh Htoo District, Karen State, Burma. She was home educated by her mother before she went to school in the conflict zone in Karen State (Kaw Thoo Lie) where she completed her teacher education. For safety reasons, she sought refuge in Thailand in 1995 where she instilled and promoted education for Karen women in refugee camps. In 1998, Sein moved on to work for the Central Committee of the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) as coordinator and executive secretary, a position she still holds.

Naw Zipporrah Sein was born after the Karen people formed an army to fight Rangoon for their right to self-governance and sovereignty. Her family was part of the Karen revolutionary struggle, which meant they often had to move to flee persecution from the Burmese army. In 1995, Sein had to flee Burma and took refuge in Thailand. Although she and her compatriots were not given refugee status, she used her knowledge to promote education for Karen women, setting up a training system and advising Karen teacher groups. In 1995, Sein worked for the Karen Women’s Organization as coordinator and executive secretary, but quit after two years to return to her full-time job as a teacher. At KWO, Sein worked in seven refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border and in internally displaced areas inside Karen State, helping women deal with family problems, sexual violence and drug abuse, and caring for orphans and unaccompanied children. Sein established a leadership school for young women that offered training courses to develop women’s skills as professionals. She also set up a program for adult education, a safe house, a literary program, a nursery school, special needs education, a toy sharing program and a fund-raising program. In 2003, Sein trained the staff of KWO to collect information from rape victims of the Burmese army. The information was compiled in a report called "Shattering Silence" which was launched at the 60th general assembly of the UN High Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 2004. Sein has also worked on other initiatives to bring peace, freedom and equality for ethnic groups including an effort at national reconciliation in 2002.

Karen Women’s Organization (KWO)