She leads from within: Promoting refugee leadership on the Thai-Burma border

On the border of Thailand and Myanmar, there’s a large community of over 80,000 people living in refugee camps. Within these camps, our local partner is supporting refugee-led camp committees, to enable the community to decide their own affairs, determine how best to repond to their own needs, and provide leadership and support.

As a temporary but long-term home for families who can’t safely return to Myanmar, these camps operate much like a village; divided into around 10-15 sections, each with its own Section Leader and Section Assistant.

The people who hold these positions are leaders from within the camps – like Thida*.

Thida* has lived as an encamped refugee in Thailand since 2010. She’s a member of one of the Camp Committees who represent and support refugee communities on the Thai-Burma border. Credit: The Border Consortium

Meet Thida who is a refugee and Camp Committee representative

Being a Karenni refugee, Thida is passionate about representing the needs and concerns of her community to the Camp Committee.

Supported by our local partner’s ‘Lead from Within’ project with Act for Peace, and the help of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation (ANCP), these Camp Committees are refugee-led and enable the community to meaningfully engage in decisions affecting their lives.

How Thida is helping refugees in her community to access support

One day, Thida visits the home of someone living in her community.

She notices that this man, living with disability, needs extra support. But he’s slipped through the cracks. Thida helps him to register with our local partner, The Border Consortium (TBC), so he can access food assistance, and live in safety, with dignity, while displaced.

Once a month, she helps out another camp resident who lives with mental disability by taking him to buy his groceries. She always encourages him to go by himself, but he says he doesn’t trust anyone else but her.

Through her work as a translator and Section Assistant, Thida knows her community and the people who need support but face barriers to accessibility.

Little by little, she’s working to change that – and her ambition to improve the lives of refugees doesn’t stop there.

After being elected as a Camp Committee representative in August, her next goal is to help tackle mental health issues in the camps. She’s also set her sights on repairing some of the roads, so that everyone, especially vulnerable groups, can be safe as they travel around.

Over 80,000 refugees live in ‘temporary’ houses in camps on the Thai-Burma border where our partner, TBC, is the main provider of food, shelter and other forms of support. Sharni Boyall / Act for Peace

Supporting refugee leadership over decisions affecting their lives

While we hope for, and continue to pursue durable solutions for refugee communities on the Thai-Burma border, it’s so important that we continue supporting refugee leadership and sovereignty over decisions that affect their lives.

Thank you to all of our supporters for believing in people like Thida, and backing this work.

*Name changed for safety reasons.

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