How should we build workers’ media? With a small staff and volunteers, the MAP radio in Thailand provides both critical information and much-needed entertainment to migrant workers from Myanmar, while navigating logistical and political hurdles. Its experience offers important lessons.

In a tiny rental room around the Muang Mai market in Chiang Mai, Pee Lek, a 50-year-old migrant worker from Myanmar is sewing at home. As she works, MAP radio FM99 plays in the background, sharing news in Shan state and about the renewal of work permits.

Despite the inclusion of nondiscrimination protections based on nationality in Thai labor law, Mae Sot is known as a black hole of labor abuse for the many Burmese migrant workers who produce apparel there. Burmese workers in Mae Sot face a range of workplace violations that often go unreported and uncorrected due to their status as migrants. In 2019, the minimum wage for garment workers in Mae Sot was 310 Thai baht (US$10.15)1, but most migrant workers were paid well below that rate. In addition, Burmese workers face poor factory conditions, uncompensated overtime, and are not provided a weekly day off to rest. Since migrant workers can find better employment opportunities in Thailand and are able to send money to their families, they are hesitant to speak out against poor treatment. Factory owners further exploit migrant workers2 by offering short-term contracts that can easily be terminated or not renewed if workers advocate for themselves. In the Worker Rights Consortium’s recent investigation of the Kanlayani factory,3 the troubling labor dynamics for Burmese workers in Mae Sot were on full display with negative consequences for the workers involved.


The Kanlayanee Case

A case that started almost by accident has resulted as a rare success. As the Mae Sot border area is an area known as a “black hole” for labor rights, it is no accident finding a factory that exploits its workers in this area. However, the Kanlayanee factory was not on MAP’s radar. The things that happened were, in part, because of MAP’s long-standing presence and interventions in the area.

WRITER: Hena Lee

Strengthening community and family supports is a key requisite for addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the migrant community. Relevant community-mobilization activities include women’s and men’s support groups, dialogue groups and community education and advocacy. Since 1999, MAP Foundation has organized Women’s Exchange programs as a way to support and empower migrant and refugee women, and GBV has always been a prominent issue for the program. After twenty years of working on the issue, migrant women and MAP recognized that engaging men and boys to the GBV program is essential for a long-term effect of the intervention. Hence, in August 2019, MAP facilitated the first Men’s Exchange: Training of Trainers (ME-TOT) event. The ME-TOT project aims to train men peer leaders to initiate groups for men in the community where they can talk about male socialization and gender roles and the effect this has on their relationships with women. Following that event, in October 2019, MAP organized two events in Mae Sot: the second ME-TOT and Women’s Exchange: Training of Trainers (WE-TOT).

Men’s Exchange: Training of Trainers (ME-TOT)

To complete the ME-TOT course, participants must attend two training workshops from MAP, which is supported by the Canada Fund. After implementing the first Men’s Exchange (ME) in each community, twenty men peer leaders met again in Mae Sot to attend the second ME-TOT event from the 22nd to 24th of October. They come from six different communities - Myawaddy, Chiang Mai, Mae Sot and refugee camps Mae La, Nu Po and Um Phiem. Since two of the previous participants could not make it this time, two new peer leaders replaced them.

Picture 1

Figure 1 Two participants are discussing the outcomes and challenges of Men's Exchange in their community

WRITER: Emma Harlan 

A Men’s Exchange program might not seem like an obvious step in a mission to end gender-based violence within the migrant community. Shouldn’t the focus be on the empowerment of women? Well, after twenty years of working on the issue through MAP’s Women’s Exchange programs, migrant women have realized that they should be able to work with the men in their lives—not in opposition to them. However, in order to do that, the men were going to need some training.

On August 3rd and 4th, MAP ran the first ever Men’s Exchange: Training of Trainers (TOT) event. With support from Canada Fund, this project aimed to “combat gender-based violence among migrant and refugee women through social networking and capacity building.” The event worked to tackle the issue of gender-based violence in a new way--by getting the men involved in the process. Over two days, men peer leaders from five different locations bordering Thailand and Myanmar worked to develop the skills to run Men’s Exchange (ME) events in their own communities.