Myanmar’s society does not support open dialogue. It is a culture “to keep one’s own business to oneself”. Sharing one’s success story is seen as boastful behavior; talking about personal struggles and how they were managed is often portrayed as unnecessary. However, less talking, less understanding of each other, and less sympathy for others means more suffering.
To address this issue, the Myanmar office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and “Call me Today”, a startup providing mental health assistance, started to organize an Open Mic platform. Participants are invited to communicate how they overcame their life challenges. By storytelling, the goal is to facilitate dialog, address social challenges, and change restrictive norms. For example, participants share how they handle societal stress, how they overcome stereotypes and social norms, or how they escaped gender-based violence and family discrimination. Other attendees gave inspiring examples that empower women to achieve their life goals. Of the many brave participants, a total of 13 shared their stories. Among them are the following:
“I was sold in Shanghai by my own mother. She did this because I outed myself as LGBTQI+. I had a traumatic experience with my family and my relationship. I struggled to manage these traumas and later found a way to overcome it. I want to share this story to empower those in a similar situation to mine.”
“I am a single mom. Society looked down on me. My family felt embarrassed about my situation. Now, I am away from all these social and family pressures and have become a successful female writer. I would like to tell my story to inspire other single mothers.”
Participants are trained in public speaking and storytelling, but are also supported by mental coaches. After each talk, experts of the relevant fields discuss learnings and possible pragmatic solutions to help other affected persons.