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Myanmar: Women’s association of all religions work for community development

Saint Columban nuns in Myanmar established an association of women of all religions. It works for community development.

Some years ago, Roselyn Tin Tin Shwe, a Catholic woman, joined a women’s association that includes members from various religions.
But, she did not know that one day she will lead that association that Saint Columban Catholic nuns founded in Mandalay Catholic Diocese, Myanmar.
As an association of women of all religions, it works for community development in the country for the last 15 years.
The nuns engage in activities such as helping men and women in education and small-scale business start-ups for families that are having a difficult time with their incomes.
During the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, they supported poor families of all religions with basic food and other necessary items for survival.
In the mentioned association, the leader is Roselyn, a teacher, who joined the group because she received an invitation from Sister Katharine.
In the beginning, Roselyn was just participating as an ordinary member. Later, she was given a leadership responsibility.
Now, Roselyn leads all the female members in education-related saving and loaning activities.
“In those saving and loaning activities, we lend money to the members who want to start businesses with zero interest rate,” she said.
“The women are required to pay us back what they can afford. We save the money for them while they are paying us in a piecemeal manner. When they are all paid up, we withdraw that amount and give it to them,” the woman leader added.    
For the smooth functioning of the association, seven members are teamed up with a female leader, who guides the rest.
When it comes to education, the association motivates children with or without parents.
“When they get into good universities, we continue to support them. There are students among the top ten ranks in universities such as courses in engineering, computer technology, and pharmacy. We continue supporting them,” Roselyn said.  
During these years, the association does not want the youth who do not go to school but motives them to learn vocational and life skills to be employed, instead of doing nothing in life.
“So, we are trying to run life-skill classes for them. Now they are attending sewing classes. Some undergo to be a nursing assistant and others in computer and phone repairing classes,” Roselyn shared.
Being a teacher, she guides them to be responsible. She volunteers to share her experiences and abilities with them.
“When we are working with women from all religions, we overcame everything by thinking that we are doing something good for each other,” she said.
Since the members of the association collaborate with members of every religion, they learn a lot about traditions from each other’s religious customs and practices.
“We get friends not only in this country but also from overseas. These are the benefits of working with believers of all religions. Before, I did not know that there are Hindu nuns as well,” Roselyn said.
Everyone in the association helps other members. The Hindu nuns or members of other religions invite colleagues to visit their sacred places or places of worship or religious festivities with a spirit of mutual respect and understanding.
“When we have Covid-19 cases and protracted lockdowns, they help us. When they have problems, we reciprocate them,” she said.
When there are other social or formal events, the members help each other.
“There are days when an entire family cannot cook because of the illness. They provided rice and groceries to that family. They gave them to the whole neighborhood,” Roselyn said.
“I consider that I am witnessing my Christian faith by being a part of the association. As a woman, I feel happy doing what I am doing right now” she told RVA News.  
A girl named Thandar Win, who undergoing nursing assistant training from this association, said that she thanks God and the association for this opportunity, especially Sister Katharine.

“I am amazed when I get this opportunity. I know that the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition (SJA) are helping me out in my education. They are contacting many people to help me with a job or livelihood training,” said Thandar. “But I did not expect much like this. Everything is taken care of and nothing to worry about.”
The association paid for her education and that of others as well. The SJA sisters help with her other personal needs and medicine kits as well.
“When I go to the training, there is a ferry bus which comes to fetch in front of the SJA convent where I stay. It is very much convenient for me. I can follow the lessons in the nursing classes,” she said.
During free days when there are no classes, Thandar helps the SJA nuns at their nursery school.
“I am happy and feel the love of God who allowed me to meet with SJA, the Columban Sisters, and the said association. Soon, I hope that I can contribute something to the church and society as my effort to pay it forward,” Thandar said.
The association and the nuns who are working together for a common cause is an example for society to create the peaceful environment needed in this very day, she added.


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