Khin Thida Soe is a human rights activist and peace-facilitation advocate. She has been working in her home country of Myanmar on interfaith, peacebuilding, human rights, and humanitarian issues in the Rakhine State and mostly in conflict-affected areas for the last several years. Thida started her career as a businesswoman and teacher at an international school and later found her way into the non-profit sector focusing on the nexus of mediation, humanitarian and peacebuilding.
She was born in a small town where the community was religiously and ethnically diverse, yet respectful of one another’s differences. Over time, tensions began to rise between community members, and minority groups began feeling insecure. With this rising sense of insecurity came increased tension between Buddhists and Muslims. Thida decided that she needed to encourage dialogue between diverse community groups – religious or otherwise. Since 2014, she has been working with NGOs, such as the Nippon Foundation, People in Need, DanChurchAid, and Christian Aid, focused on social cohesion by improving relations between diverse community members through dialogue facilitation and mediation. When she first started out, she didn’t realize that what she was doing was mediation. The very first experience that she facilitated mediation was when she was working in the humanitarian sector and she successfully mediated between hard-line actors and government counterparts for aid distribution in the mixed control areas.
Mediation was relatively new in Myanmar but is growing in popularity. Thida came across MBBI in 2016 and participated in the International Peace Training Institute (IPTI) as a part of the South East Asian cohort. The experience of attending the training and the mentorship she received has been invaluable to her work and opened her eyes to the potential of mediation, “The training was very good, leadership and mediation especially. Working in the peacebuilding sector is really important.”Upon returning to Myanmar, Thida made a point of training her colleagues in mediation techniques, conflict analysis, and facilitated numerous mediations and community trainings, engaging religious and civil society leaders. Through her firsthand field experience, she has come to recognize the importance of knowing herself and is aware of the necessity of dialogue when searching for ways to resolve community issues, “If you know yourself, you will be able to try to understand others. Unless you try to understand others, you cannot feel. After knowing yourself, you will be able to identify issues not only at the personal level, but also in the family, community, and area. We are not able to find solutions without dialogue.”
Promoting the Culture of Dialogue
Over the years, Thida has focused on intra-inter ethnic and interfaith issues by facilitating dialogues, capacity building and forums along with training community members/leaders and local civil society organizations on leadership, dialogue facilitation, mediation and project management In her current “Culture of Dialogue Project” funded by Investment Fund, each time a training session is held, at least two different marginalized ethnic minority groups are included in the session. By gaining the trust of religious community leaders, some of the female community members have been able to attend the sessions. The trained youths become more resilient and are able to facilitate the regular dialogue sessions to discuss finding solutions on the issues that they face, and they will likely face. Thida also coaches youths to be more confident and assists them in finding creative ways to solve their challenges. She acknowledges the importance of focusing on positivity and encouraging youth to not give up on their dreams. Through her dedicated work, Thida contributed her team to have the project extended in Rakhine State to further assist youth through a peace education program funded by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.
Thida currently works as a Programme Manager in Peacebuilding and Social Cohesion at Christian Aid and works closely liaising with various stakeholders, civil society organizations, community leaders and groups. She focuses on the community peacebuilding through dialogue and her organization support the peacebuilding sector through humanitarian assistance and development program in conflict-affected areas. Thida continues to work with vulnerable groups, including internally displaced people (IDPs) and finding ways for youth to continue their education in government-controlled areas. For the future, Thida would like to become an ambassador and continue to improve the environmental, resolving conflict and humanitarian situation through comprehensive dialogues for the most vulnerable people in Myanmar
Article by Kylea Shropshire, MBBI Writer