Daw Aung San Suu Kyi | Leader, National League for Democracy | Rangoon, Burma
"Here is what I want most for my people: I want the security of genuine freedom and the freedom of genuine security. I would like to see the crippling fetters of fear removed, that the people of Burma may be able to hold their heads high as free human beings. I would especially like to see our young people stride confidently into the future, their richness of spirit soaring to meet all challenges."
Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, is an international icon of Burma's struggle for democracy. She is leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years.
Zipporah Sein | General Secretary, Karen Women's Organization | Thailand
"We Karen women have lost all our rights—the right to an education, the right to health and food, even the right to live. Our children are born under attack; small babies do not have the right to cry, because they might reveal the whereabouts of their family...
It is my sincere and heartfelt wish that my people and I will be able to live a life without war, a life of peace and security. I feel we have a long way to go; peace is still a very distant dream for us.
Women's definition of peace goes beyond the mere end of war and fighting. We want a genuine peace, a peace with justice, a peace where there is no violence or domestic violence. Even if there is no war, if there is still domestic violence, women cannot be happy with this kind of peace." (Women's World)
Originally from Eastern Burma, Zipporah Sein has documented human rights violations committed against her ethnic Karen people by the Burma's army for more than two decades. The General Secretary of Karen Women's Organization, which has been in operation since 1949, Zipporah is a key leader in the movement for democracy.
Inge Sargent | Former Shan Princess | Boulder, Colorado
"I have a lot of faith that the underground will overthrow the regime and unite all the ethnic groups. What all of them want is a peaceful and thriving democracy, and I think the underground will do it. Of course, in the underground, there are many, many women who do the major work. They will free the country and give Daw Aung San Suu Kyi her rightful place.
My organization, Burma Lifeline, is committed to helping refugees who have fled from the terrible regime survive in neighboring countries. After the cyclone, we established a way to bypass the military so that the victims can receive direct aid. We have sent well over $100,000 this year, by begging and pleading. We are working out of Thailand, where I am persona non-grata. You can get 17 years in jail just for having my book if you are Burman or Shan, or any other nationality." *(As told to World Pulse's Ramya Ramanathan)
Married to prince Sao Kya Seng, Austrian-born Inge Sargent was the princess of the Burmese state of Hsipaw from 1954 to 1964. During a 1962 coup, after the Burman army imprisoned her husband, she was placed under house arrest for two years before she escaped to Austria. Today, she is an impassioned advocate for the rights of Burma's people and the founder of Burma Lifeline, a nonprofit committed to raising awarness and funds for Burma. She is also the author of Twilight Over Burma, a memoir of her life.
Dr. Cynthia Maung | Founder, Mae Tong Clinic | Thailand
"What we do at the Mae Tong Clinic is provide health care and education for the displaced people at the border while improving relations between local and international communities. We established our clinic in 1989, one year after the military put down the pro-democracy movement. The number of people we treat increases year by year. In 2008, we have had almost 700 patient visits so far. We are also providing education to migrant children.
We need to change the government and the political system in Burma, and to do this we need to see more effort from community organizations in neighboring countries. We urgently need strong, long-term financial and technical commitments from the international community as well. We need to document all of the suffering and the human rights violations inside of Burma. We need peace, justice, and collaboration." *(As told to World Pulse's Ramya Ramanathan)
Shortly after the 1988 uprising, Dr. Cynthia Maung, a Karen woman, left Burma to run the Mae Tong Clinic, which provides medical treatment to more than 20,000 Burmese refugees and migrants annually. She has received numerous awards, including Southeast Asia's Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership and the Jonathan Mann Award for her work in human rights and global health.
Edith Mirante | Project Director, Project Maje | Portland, OR
"In a country where grassroots organizing is discouraged to say the least, local cyclone relief efforts have nonetheless sprouted up relentlessly. Supported by the few foreign aid groups previously able to operate in and around the Delta region, these local staff members, Buddhist monks, church workers, teachers and health workers have tirelessly brought whatever help they could to the people of the Delta — makeshift clinics, emergency food distribution, crucial water purification and rainwater collection materials, shelter tarps. They have been a lifeline.
And the people of the storm-swept region, we must remember, are not just numbers — the awful abstraction of the body count — they are not just victims. They are monks, they are mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, they are farmers, they are merchants, they are dancers. They are survivors. They are our heroes too." (PulseWire.net)
Edith Mirante is a nationally recognized expert on Burma and the founder and director of Project Maje. She is also the author of two books, Burmese Looking Glass and Down the Rat Hole.