suddenly it’s friday and i haven’t written since monday. we have, however, been on the go quite a bit, visiting various groups around west delhi. i think the score with delhi is 3-2:
-the rain got me via mini-floods the day i didn’t wear my rainboots
-that same day i slipped on the stairs at the BCD office and got myself some lovely bruises
-today was suddenly hot and my feet roasted in my rainboots, and my czech colleagues made fun of me all day
-i’ve mastered the back streets enough to know my way around and even say hi to the same locals i see every day
-i’ve not yet succumbed to delhi belly (knock wood)
but it’s not about me that i should be writing, rather the people i’ve met here. on tuesday we went to the mizzima news agency, one of whose founders is soe myint, who at one point in his ‘activist career’ hijacked a plane from thailand to india, after having lived on the border as a member of the student army. he now runs mizzima, a burmese exile media agency, in new delhi. they do undercover reports with journalists inside burma, have a news website, and even do a weekly radio drama for soldiers in burma. our three czech journalists – honza, jaromir, and martin – are doing a mutual mentorship program at mizzima. they learn more about burma and how exile media works, and then share tips on their respective areas of reporting – tv, radio, and print/online.
the BCP team left the journalists at mizzima and went to a meeting with the ambassador at the czech embassy. the embassy used to be much bigger, but after the czech and slovak republics split, they basically cut the embassy in half. the ambassador recieved us and asked all about our program here in delhi, including both our microgrants (www.mikrogranty.cz) and the journalists’ mentorship. you may ask: what’s the connection between the czech republic and burma? why does BCP get funding from the czech ministry of foreign affairs? the czech republic has a program called “transitions” – the idea being that the CR went through the transition from totalitarianism to democracy and thus is able to help other countries do the same; burma is a priority country in this program. vaclav havel has also been a long supporter of the free burma movement, and was actually the one who nominated ASSK for the nobel peace prize she received. we’re lucky to have the czech ambassador coming monday to open our media workshop at the press club of india.
the rest of the week has included visits to different groups that have received microgrants from BCP. these include several women’s unions that teach weaving and sewing so that women can earn a living, and also offer language classes for burmese children; two free medical clinics for refugees; two organizations printing news and literary magazines in ethnic languages, and a group selling burmese fast food as a means of making a living. having heard the stories of many refugees here, i understand why these projects are so important. burmese refugees may have to wait one or two years to get a refugee status determination interview, and while they are waiting they have no right to work, to get healthcare, or to security. while some refugees get jobs with local indian businesses, they are often exploited. it’s not safe for women to walk alone after dark, and some are widows that need to look after their children at home. so having the opportunity to work for a burmese ‘company’ (of course all in the informal economy) or to work from home is essential. To date so far in 2010, there have been 50 documented cases of violence against refugees, with many more going unreported as the police often do little when such cases are reported. one of the groups we visited provides emergency help to people who have been victims of violence, taking someone from an indian (not burmese) NGO with them to the police station to lodge a complaint, and providing funds for medical care at a hospital. the two medical clinics provide a tremendous service but of course lack funds for a sufficient amount of medicine and cannot be open every day of the week.
all the people from these groups have been so grateful and extended truly heartfelt thanks for the funding they received, in particular those that received their first-ever grant from BCP, and were able to start up a project. it doesn’t really get any better than that.