At the end of 2020, a young woman in Myanmar, 14-year-old Ma Sabai, captured hearts here in Australia when we shared her story, in her own words, about the struggle she experienced coping with menstruation, and the help she received from Burnet.
Ma Sabai had no access to sanitary products, experienced a lack of privacy and facilities at her school, teasing by her peers, and had a general lack of understanding and knowledge of adolescent health.
Her life changed when, through her school, she was able to access the Burnet Menstrual Health program, which provided menstruation packs to girls as needed, as well as health education classes. As a result, Ma Sabai was able to take control of her own health.
Ma Sabai gave us permission to share her story so other girls would not experience what she went through. Her story helped to promote the work of Burnet’s Myanmar team and raise urgent funds so they can continue to improve adolescent health outcomes and education.
“Burnet’s work to support menstrual health in Myanmar changed Ma Sabai’s life,” said Dr Phone Myint Win, Burnet Myanmar Country Representative.
“And the many people who donated to support Burnet’s adolescent health work in this country are changing the lives of other young women just like her. I want to thank each and every person who donated for their compassion and for their generosity.”
Your response to Ma Sabai’s story was amazing. Not only did our supporters very generously send financial support to ensure Burnet’s Adolescent Health Programs in Myanmar continue, but some also took the time to write personal messages to Ma Sabai congratulating her on being brave enough to share her story, and offering encouragement and kind words.
Before the end of the year, we sent your messages to the Burnet Myanmar team. They translated them into Burmese, put them into a booklet and took them to Ma Sabai as a gift. Below are just a few of the things you had to say to Ma Sabai:
It was lovely reading about you and how the Burnet Institute has improved your life. You are a lovely young woman, hardworking, and with a good future ahead of you. Do the best you can at school. Education is very important. Denise Shakespeare.
All women and girls need to feel safe and secure about their bodies I was impressed to read of your courage and desire to help other girls. Else Foster.
I wish you all the very best for your future studies and leadership training. I believe that whatever you choose to do in life, you will be an encouragement to your peers and to young people who come after you. All the best. Kate Aeberli.
Wishing you a very safe journey through these difficult times. Chase your dreams and have a wonderful life. Margaret Willersdorf.
We here in Australia want to encourage you to lead and help your people. We think of you and wish you the very best. My mother was born in what was the capital, Rangoon, but she left years and years ago. But I am still sentimental about Myanmar. Lily Kahan.
You are one brave young lady. I admire you for helping other young ladies too. Marilyn Rae
“I feel very happy and very encouraged to see the messages,” said Ma Sabai.
“They are heartful and inspirational. I am very thankful to everyone who donated. You are helping me and my friends at school, and lots of others as well. Thank you.”
Your messages of hope could not have come at a better time. Just like many others around the globe, Ma Sabai and her family have been severely impacted by COVID-19.
In late 2020 there was a positive case found near her family home, so the surrounding houses were immediately put into lockdown, including hers. The family could not go out to work, or make it to their usual spot to collect drinking water, and were forced to borrow money to buy water.
In early 2021 Ma Sabai’s family were released from lockdown, and were able to go back out to work. Ma Sabai continues to do her regular chores to help the family, collecting firewood and helping cook meals. She also continues her role as ‘cowgirl’, minding the cows, and collecting water and grass for them.
Even though schools in Myanmar are currently closed due to COVID-19, Burnet has adapted the sexual and reproductive health classes to continue via distance learning.
These lessons now include not only the usual menstrual hygiene management information, but also information about how to guard against COVID-19. As 2021 progresses, in addition to continuing menstrual hygiene programs (in schools or via distance learning), we will also commence work on mental health and wellbeing programs.
It’s not too late to support Burnet’s Adolescent Health Program in Myanmar.
By supporting Burnet’s work in Myanmar to improve adolescent health, you are not only empowering the young people Myanmar today, but supporting the development of programs and expertise in the local community to empower the young people of the future.