Thank you for taking the time to learn about Karenni National Women’s Organization!

Karenni National Women’s Organization (KNWO) was established in 1993 in Nai Soi refugee camp in north-west Thailand, by Karenni women from Karenni state. Through the years, KNWO has gained recognition as a leading organization in the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Karenni state and in the refugee camps.

Our vision is for every woman and girl to make their own choices in their lives, enjoy full equal rights, and live free from violence.

Discover the background of KNWO, the inspiring women fighting for gender equality and women’s rights, and the current socio-political situation in Karenni state.


August 2018 Highlights

The month of August has been an eventful one for us here at KNWO with lots of preparation and delivery required for our gender-based violence advocacy projects aiming for the enhancement of a protection system addressing Gender-Based Violence in the Kayah State.

Following on from our review and feedback workshop at the end of July (see previous blog post) we have several new initiatives and improvement schemes so that women and girls in their communities are able to recognise, prevent and respond to gender-based violence (referred to as GBV for the remainder of the article).

However, first we began the month with a staff outing to Mya Le, also known as Man Lar, Village of Demoso Township to attend the Karenni National Resistance Day ceremony. This was the first time local organizations in the Karenni State congregated to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Karenni National Resistance Day. Leaders of ethnic armed organizations, different ethnic people from the Karenni State, respective civil society organizations, NGO’s and local residents attended the ceremony.

KNWO Staff attend Karenni National Resistance Day


Mid-August saw the implementation of our promised 24/7 help-line designed to respond to GBV victim’s needs, provide them with advice on how to react to a GBV case and refer victims to paralegal facilitators or to the KNWO case-management team. This help-line has been implemented in conjunction with the Finnish Refugee Council (FRC) and it is one of the outputs sponsored by the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO). Following a workshop to sensitize staff and create the guide-lines of the services as well as discuss practical operations of how the help-line will operate KNWO has employed two new staff members to operate the phone-line. Phone-line centre staff will work closely together with safe-house staff to ensure the needs of victims are responded to sensitively, urgently and compassionately.

The help-line marks a huge improvement to the accessibility of KNWO’s services for victims and we’re hopeful that this 24/7 confidential advice, help and assistance support will really save lives for those suffering from violence at home or in their community. KNWO’s help-line number is 09400089702 which can also be found in the ‘Get in Touch’  section of our website and on our Facebook Page. If you or anyone you know is suffering GBV please contact our staff – it’s confidential and we are able to offer free advice, as well as access to health care, legal aid and counselling.

On the 19th – 23rd of August some of our staff members made their way to refugee camps at Ban Nai Soi for our 6 monthly central committee meeting. The meeting occurred to review current activities at Camp 1 and Camp 2. KNWO runs several different programs at these camps to improve on the protection of women and children and the improvement of livelihoods for those in the camps.  The meeting discussed feedback on current challenges within these programs and discussed ways to improve them.


The Education Advocacy Team (EAT) members as always got to have their say in contributing to our program structure and also had the opportunity to receive their official KNWO work identification badges.

GBV training conducted by KNWO with the non-state Karenni Mobile Health Clinic

This month also saw two different GBV training programs; first amongst non-state Karenni Mobile Health Clinic (funded by PACT Myanmar) and the second amongst staff at Loikaw General hospital (funded by FCO). The training was conducted by KNWO staff on GBV health related issues with the idea of sensitising health-staff and making sure they were able to effectively address the needs of GBV victims. The training included an exploration of gender stereotypes and cultural gender expectations, materials designed to understand and consider GBV victims’ perspectives, as well as basic psychosocial techniques to deal with the mental health issues GBV victims face.

GBV Training at Loikaw General Hospital

July’s Gender-Based Violence Workshop in Loikaw

On the 30th – 31st July, KNWO staff representatives conducted a two-day workshop in KNWO’s head-office town of Loikaw. The aim of this two-day program was to reunite the Education Advocacy Team (EAT) volunteers to feedback on the training programs conducted between 2013 – 2015, and the project implementation since then. There was a lot of discussion to be had around problems encountered, how best to review current project structures and brainstorm for the future in how KNWO should and will target gender-based violence (GBV) in the Kayah State.

This was an exciting event as it was the first time since 2015 our EAT members have been able to meet altogether as a group and have this essential discussion. In 2013 – 2015 KNWO and the EAT was given enough funding to cover that time-period but after 2015 a lack of funding for KNWO has previously prevented organised feedback and continuous training – This year with funding from The British Embassy also known as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and support from our partner the Finnish Refugee Council (FRC) KNWO is now able to offer regular, yearly conferences and workshops for EAT elected representatives.


Day one of this workshop focused on allowing for team-members from different townships to present their experiences of working in the safe-houses and case management. Different townships have different circumstances and community dynamics which present unique sets of problems for our volunteers. By discussing the individual experiences of our 7 townships KNWO can understand the varieties of GBV problems in the state and are able to plan accordingly with future training thanks to the feedback of those volunteers on the front-line.


Our first day proved revealing with anecdotes from staff showing the scope of problems they have encountered with implementing the GBV prevention projects. Common issues included:

  • Language barriers: Often in rural townships Burmese is not the main dialect widely spoken by villagers. Local dialects and languages are not always spoken by EAT volunteers which leads to huge difficulties with awareness raising, education, support and counselling for survivors.
  • Transportation Issues: This is usually caused by lack of funding for volunteers to get to areas in which they need to operate but there were also difficulties with poor roads and poor weather conditions in certain areas which made travel difficult and a lack of cars amongst volunteers and staff.
  • Resistance to the project from Village Leaders: EAT members discussed difficulties with moving beyond a local level for resolving cases and disputes between survivors and perpetrators. Often the cases would not follow the appropriate legal process and would be settled with reparations from abusers toward the victims, ordered at a local level:

“Because of the drug addiction in our community or the families some of the people will use alcohol and drugs as a trigger for violence. We discuss this with village leaders and the victim and the abuser – but we can encounter difficulty as there is no higher authority than the village leader and DV cases are handled on a village level only – if the ETA or survivor is not happy with the outcome they cannot go higher with their case.”

-Feedback from EAT member

  • Safety Concerns for Volunteers: Volunteers have been met with threats of violence themselves from abusers when they try to support survivors. Several instances resulted in uncompleted cases as it was no longer safe for our volunteers to pursue justice and support for survivors.
  • Lack of training since 2015: Domestic violence and family violence is complicated; often intertwined with these cases are incidents of sexual assault, rape and child abuse. Our EAT members are currently equipped with knowledge and training to handle domestic violence cases – but have had difficulty managing incidents of other gendered violence due to knowledge gaps in these processes.


However, the years have not been without success; volunteers were able to also share positive anecdotes about the impact KNWO and the EAT have made:

  • Education and Awareness: One of the most powerful tools we have is changing the mind-sets of abusive households and communities that normalise abuse through education.
  • Saving the lives of vulnerable women: Volunteers reported that if they had not intervened women would have certainly died at the hands of their abusers.
  • Able to pursue justice for survivors on a state level: With the right knowledge even when the EAT had to stop direct involvement they were able to empower women with the confidence and the knowledge to move above the village level and pursue criminal justice.
  • Personal Development: EAT members reported they had grown hugely in their confidence and felt able to deliver the programme successfully. EAT members in particular who had previously been denied access to higher education felt the training and program had been incredibly valuable to increasing their knowledge and skill sets.

“When we go to meet the villagers they get to know the real sitution of their own communities – they don’t realise how bad it is until we tell them. Through our work the survivors know how to follow the legal process and they access valuable information through us. We are able to facilitate co-operation and conversation between survivors and external groups.”

-Feedback from EAT member

With this honest feedback and open discussion KNWO was able to make informed decisions on training processes and project planning going forward with the input of those who will implement the project and training practices.


Day 2 then, focused on planning for the future and open discussions amongst the volunteers and staff about how they would like to proceed. Together, we have created the following structure for the future of the EAT:

During the workshop 3 representatives from each township have been selected to receive in-depth and up-to-date GBV training in the month of September 2018 – each township also selected one substitute representative if one of the 3 elected had a change in circumstance and would no longer be able to attend or deliver the program. The aim of this is to equip the representatives sufficiently to be able to go back to their own townships and train the EAT members on a local level. Of the 3 electives, 1 will be elected to return to KNWO later for complete training on legal processes to then be shared with the community; including policy, village leaders and health-care professionals.


Other initiatives decided upon were a 24 hour helpline for EAT to be able to contact KNWO staff, as well as a commitment from KNWO staff to go into townships once a week to provide hands-on support for the EAT.

As part of our education and awareness programme KNWO is excited to announce we will be creating an educational video based on-real life cases in order to raise awareness and evoke empathy for survivors. We will also be creating a cartoon booklet as part of our materials to assist EAT.

Schedule for KNWO and EAT proposed plan

September: 3 day GBV training course will take place for the elected representatives.

November – December: Representatives will return to their townships and give training there.

December: Trainers will train police officers, health-care professionals and village leaders on GBV.

November – January 2019: From the 21 representatives they will vote on one individual from each of the 7 townships as to who will receive the in-depth legal training in 2019 (A 3 day training course)

February: Trainers will give government-staff training on GBV in the Bawlakhe and Loikaw township.


March 2018 Highlights

March is celebrated worldwide for being Women’s History Month and home to International Women’s Day. However this year we also comemmorated a major milestone in our organisation’s history: KNWO’s 25th anniversary!

This month our staff coordinated and participated in a broad range of advocacy events and campaigns, as well as making significant progress in our strategy plans for the months and year ahead.

Take a look at our highlights below…

KNWO’s 25th Anniversary and IWD Celebrations

Since 1993, KNWO has evolved into a leading women’s organization serving over 1500 Karenni women members and over 5,000 families in two refugee camps along the border. KNWO’s 20,000 members promote the need for peace in their families and communities in the idea is that peace will spread from individual homes.

To celebrate 25 years of progress, KNWO hosted a joint anniversary and International Women’s Day ceremony on the 10th March for our supporters and members in Mae Hong Son. Thank you to everyone who attended!

KNWO’s Loikaw staff also hosted a small celebration at our branch office which many local organisations, partners and supporters attended.

You can read our full IWD Day blog here.

Karenni National Day Celebrations

Our members, staff and supporters gathered in Mae Hong Son to celebrate the Karen New Year 2757.

KNWO staff member addresses the audience

KNWO Annual Meeting

Our annual meeting was held mid-month at our Mae Hong Son office. The three-day meeting was an opportunity for field staff and Loikaw branch staff to present on their current programme work, share reporting and develop a strategy for the year-ahead.

KNWO staff in a discussion workshop
KNWO staff in a discussion workshop

GBV coordination meeting

KNWO staff also participated in the bi-monthly GBV coordination meeting involving women’s groups, INGOs, legal and health aid organizations, UNHCR and local authorities. The aim of these meetings is to strengthen future shared action plans to address GBV in the Karenni state. Hosting coordination meetings is an effective way to tackle the challenges of case management and advocacy in order to provide the best legal, emotional and practical support to survivors.

KNWO and Shining Star staff
KNWO and Shining Star staff

WEAVE Graduation Ceremony

At the end of March, we were proud to see many of our Women Study Programme Participants graduate in a ceremony was in Camp 1. Thank you to our partners WEAVE for making this possible through our collaboration and helping so many women to reach their full potential.

KNWO are so grateful to everyone involved for standing in solidarity with the women we serve. Your support has made – and will continue to make – this incredible progress for women’s rights possible.

#ItsNotOkay: Standing against violence on International Women’s Day

On 8th March 2018, KNWO held an International Women’s Day celebration at De Maw Soe township, Daw Ng Kha. The event attracted a total of 170 participants from the De Maw Soe township, Loikaw township, Nan Mae Kso city, Moe Byal city and Phruso township, comprising of local women, men, youth, section leaders, political parties, and YLFC students.

Karenni National Women's Organization-7

The event was a fantastic opportunity to share knowledge about women’s rights, as well as the importance of including women in peace building processes. Topics discussed included reducing gender-based violence (GBV) and support for survivors through safe-house services and local justice systems.

Highlights of the day included a role play on women and security prepared by the YLFC (Youth Life Formation Centre) and testimonies from two local representatives about the experiences of women in their communities.

Manaw yu Hpaw Htoo, from the Lawsi village, explained that in her community many women still do not recognize the abuse they face at home as domestic violence. Even when domestic violence is recognised and reported, local leaders tend to respond with ineffective traditional methods.

She shared “The majority of community leaders are men.  They don’t provide women with opportunities to make decisions and I feel our views are not respected. We want equal rights for men and women and for both to work together.”


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To end the day, participants all contributed towards a poster to send their personal messages about the importance of women’s rights, building peace and preventing violence against women. They demanded better care and sympathy for female survivors and improved safety for their children. Many shared their sense of pride in KNWO’s work and left with a stronger understanding of where women can seek support, justice and guidance.

There is a clear desire for change in the communities KNWO supports. Through events such as these, KNWO will continue to bring communities together to celebrate women’s vital contributions and ensure women’s safety and empowerment is prioritised at every level.

Learn more about KNWO’s work to eliminate GBV here: GBV Prevention & Survivor Support

Women Network Meeting

On September 29th 2016 KNWO staff representatives reunited with other Women Organizations from Myanmar in a networking conference in Yangon. It was the 4th time that women organzations from different states met in this national level conference.

During the meeting, KNWO team presented their work with the safe house to the audience. The focus was on Prevention and Response program. After each organization exposed their work to the public, all participants grouped to discuss their weaknesses and strengths to implement their goals. 

Maw Pray Myar speaks about KNWO Safe House Project.

Discussion main focus was the following questions:

  • What the best way to achieve justice for women victim of Gender Based Violence is.
  • Which actions shall we implement to protect women from violence.

After this activity, the group built a plan to prioritize actions and assign responsibilities. The meeting transcript will generate a report that will be shared with partners and other stakeholders in January 2017.

KNWO Team poses with representatives from IRC/PLE .

Karenni State Women’s Voice Conference outcome


From September 19th to 21st September 2016, KNWO held Karenni Women’s Voice Conference at Maw Du Dee Boe Hall, Htay Ta Ma Village, Chi Kel village cluster, Loikaw Township, Kayah State, Myanmar.  The Conference counted with the presence of Ethnic Armed Groups, Senate, Political Party Groups, Civil Society Organizations, NGOs and INGOs and Karenni people representatives. Citizens from Loikaw’s seven townships attended to the conference, of those, 169 were males and 271 were females. A total of 440 participants from 48 villages were actively engaged in the Conference.

Kayah State citizens representing some of the state ethnicities.

Discussions during Conference first day were focused in the result of a consultation with community members led by Karenni National Women Organization (KNWO).  This consultation took place in the months of August and September 2016. In this task-force, 1730 participants were interviewed, 634 being males and 1096 females. Topics of discussion were Human Rights, Women’s Right, Social, Economics, Politics, Security and Land and Environment.

Oo Al Phon Shoe, Kayah State Prime Minister opened second day of the Conference  with a welcome speech.  Khu Oo Reh, Deputy Chair Person of Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and Unity of Ethnic Federation Council (UNFC) Secretary shared a speech aiming to clarify Myanmar Peace Process. His speech was followed by a panel discussion about women’s peace and security, women’s participation in politics, women’s participation in social affairs, women’s participation in economics and Land and Environment. These topics were chosen in order to include all aspects of women roles and gender equality. In the last session of the day, the participants were divided into groups that discussed the above mentioned topics in depth and listed suggestions for improvement.

Oo Al Phon Shoe, Kayah State Prime Minister, during his welcome speech.

In the third day of the Conference, moderators summarized the discussions of first two days. This was followed by an extensive group work which raised key recommendations for improvement  to insitutions such as Government, Army (Tamadaw), Ethnic Armed Groups, Senate, Political Parity, NGO/CBOs and Donors.

Guests hold a panel discussion on topics involving women’s peace and security.


Government, NGOs and citizens meet at the Conference. 


Event audience.


A Karenni women raises her voice.


Result of the discussion:

1. Politics:

  • Women’s political awareness should be increased. There should be a better understanding of elections dinamics and other political specific topics.
  • To raise religious leaders’ awareness about women’s rights. Traditional leaders should recognize and promote women’s rights.
  • To provide political training and capacity building for women to boost their participation in politics. Participation should be encouraged by parents and other family members.
  • Women should integrate institutions in National Government, State level, Village clusters and townships in all decision making levels.
  • To include women representatives from State level to Federal level to participate and to present sub-tribes political aspect and consideration on their recommendations.
  • To create a policy to ensure inclusion of at least (30%) of women in all aspects of politics and peace process discussions.

2. Social:

  • Sufficient budget for Education, Health and Social Welfare to be allocated under National Budget.
  • To grant ID cards and household registration to all Internal Displace People (IDP).
  • Old beliefs about women’s roles being limited to mother and wife hold women and society abck and should be replaced by modern approaches.
  • To raise male leaders’ awareness about women’s rights (religious leaders, ethnies leaders, administrators).
  • To raise women’s awareness about their own rights.
  • To eliminate the word “Dependent” from women’s ID card. Currently ID cards state “Household Leader in males’ IDs” and “Dependent”, Female.
  • To recognize conflict zones and villages which are still not registered by government.
  • To provide job posts to all those who return from Borders areas.

3. Economics:

  • State Government must create job opportunities for all women.
  • Government and Ethnic Armed Groups must collaborate to create a clear taxes payment policy.
  • To create a policy that allows for widow and vulnerable women to have a reduced taxes priviledge.
  • To create an Agriculture and Trade Commission in Karenni State.
  • To create job posts for those who fled from civil war and wish to return to their places of origin.
  • To ensure creation and maintenance of  safe work environments for women.
  • To prioritize selection of local people as employees in public institutions operating in their home areas.
  • Stop all forms of sexual exploitation. Stop the use of women as economic advertisement.

4. Security:

  • To create a written law about women protection in Karenni State. In case of violation of this law, authorities should take quick action accordingly.
  • Members of Army and Ethnic Armed Groups who violate women’s security must be judged and punished accordingly.
  • Authorities must take severe actions against individuals who commit sexual abuse or any form of sexual violence against women.
  • Increase and promote women participation in decision making of legitimacy law.
  • Women must be hired for vacancies in Police.
  • Authorities to take severe actions against individuals who sell any type of drug.
  • To respect women’s peace and security rights based on international norms.

5. Land and Environmental Policy:

  • Ensure women the right to own land. It is required a reform in old traditions which state that women are not allowed to own land.
  • To ensure land law to women to be own land and change should not be Male as Household leaders.
  • Government, Tamadaw (Army) and Ethnic Armed Groups to cooperate in order to ensure cease of unlawful land confiscation.
  • Ensure that unlawfully confiscated lands are returned to original owners.
  • To promote women’s right to manage land.
  • Increase women’s knowledge about land management.
  • Women must be involved in decision making regarding amendment of land law (constitution).
  • To take action on Justice, ethnically to develop for regional.

KNWO will submit  a report with more detailed information to Government, Tamadaw (Army), Ethnic Arm Groups, Senate Representatives, Political Party Groups, NGOs, CSOs and Donors in October 2016.



KNWO, FRC and Kayah State authorities celebrate sewing training conclusion.

On Friday, September 16th, KNWO, FRC (Finnish Refugee Council) and SSID (Small Scale Industry Department) celebrated the closure of its first vocational educational training in Basic Sewing techniques in a joint ceremony. The event held in Loikaw counted with the speeches of authorities and the training participants.

Ceremony audience.

25 women from Kayah’s state all seven townships were awarded with a sewing training certificate. They took part in a eight week course designed to provide them with craft and living skills. Program goal is to prepare participants to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Tee Moe, course trainer, shared her contentment with the mission: “I was very happy to see how interested in learning our students were and how hard they worked. I am often asked by other women in the villages when we will have another training, because they want to participate. I feel proud to be able to share my skills with other women.”

Trainer Tee Moe during her speech.

Basic sewing training is the first of a double module sewing course. Advanced sewing course is estimated to start in October and be run through the month of November. The program does not only  builds women’s technical and soft skills, but also focus in ensuring they have guidance to commercialize their products. Activities held by KNWO staff include contact with potential clients and support participants to finance their sewing machines.

KNWO-Loikaw holds Karenni-State Women’s Voice Conference

September 19th to 21st 2016 will be marked as important dates for Karenni National Women’s Organization (KNOW – Loikaw office).

In this date, KNWO-Loikaw will hold its Karenni State Women’s Voice conference at Kay Htoe Boo hall, Loikaw. The conference highlights the results of a community consultation carried out by KNWO-Loikaw covering Kayah State’s seven Townships.

The conference will gather around 350 delegates from the seven townships and circa 100 guests and representatives from State Government, Parliamentary, Political Parties, Ethnic Arm Organization International, local and Community based organizations in Myanmar and Thailand, respectively.

The event will throw light in women peace and security issues exposed by villagers during community consultations. Those issues include political, social, economic, security and land right and natural resources.

Khu Oo Reh, Vice Chair from Karenni National Progressive Party will share an update about Myanmar Peace process. Among the notable and well-known personalities within the circle of international and local organizations are Thin Thin Aung, Poe Nge, Nang Phyu Phyu Lin, Naw May Oo, Show Ei Ei Tun and Khu Khu Ju. They will speak about the five pillars of framework for political negotiation with gender perspective.  Thin Thin Aung, Women’s League of Burma advisor  and board member will be the conference moderator.

The opening ceremony will start at 8:30 AM where all delegates and guests will do a processional march to mark the opening of the conference. Representatives from KNWO will do the ribbon-cutting ceremony.


For details, please contact:

Mie Mie – 09254222060

Mu Ree  – 09250694803

Maw Pray Myar – 09780120325

KNWO organizes sewing training for women in need.

As part of a vocacional education program, KNWO is promoting a sewing training from August 2nd to September 22nd 2016.

The training is the first of this kind in the region. It was designed to provide craft skills for women living in Kayah state rural area. Program end goal is to give participants alternatives to generate extra income for their families. KNWO leadership expects that it can serve to help to raise local families out of poverty in the long term.

Cutting and sewing instructions on the white board. 

The selection criteria included woman IDP Women (Internal Displaced People), those women victim of Gender Based Violence (GBV), married and unemployed women and women living in rural areas. Another selection requirement is age. Participants are requested in the age range between 18 and 50 years old. The racional behind this selection is to ensure that the training opportunity is given to those individuals that need it the most. In total, 25 women are attending to Basic sewing training.

Basic sewing training is the first of a double module sewing course. Advanced sewing course is estimated to start in October and run through the month of November. These dates are under discussion with partner organizations and will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Students practicing during the class.
One of the sewing machines.

Bamboo Handcraft training


KNWO staff organized a Bamboo Handcraft Training from July 4th to July 15th 2016.

21 women from the townships of Loikaw, Mae Sae, Baw Lae Kae, Pa Soung and Shar Daw attended to the course.

Trainees were married unemployed women from 18 to 50 years old. The staff gave priority to IDP women (Internally Displaced People) and women victim of GBV (Gender Based Violence).

The course is part of vocacional education series whose goal is to give women the tools to increase their family income.

Students practing bamboo handcraft during the training.

What is next?

KNWO staff is building a network with local retailers to ensure women producers have contacts to sell their bamboo handcrafts. Goods will start to be sold in the region in the month of September 2016.

Picture frames made during the training.
Wallet made during the training.