Phyu Phyu Thi: Destined to lead the fight on disinformation. When she was young, she wanted to become a pilot. However, women were not allowed to attend pilot training in Myanmar at that time. Which forced her to give up her dream.
Later on, she realized that she liked being surrounded by people. She planned to enroll in a hotel and tourism course, but her family denied her the opportunity. Her parents believed that women were not supposed to work in the hospitality industry that exposed them to a lot of hazards.
It was Phyu Phyu Thi, co-founder and program director of Myanmar ICT for Development Organization, who went through these experiences. These events in her life made her understand the limitations imposed upon women. But she successfully navigated these restraints and is now paving the road so that more women can follow her path.
Of Peaceful Days
All’s well that ends well for Phyu. She discovered a new passion in research and writing, which brought her into the media world and earned her a scholarship at Chiangmai University. She took a master’s degree in social sciences, opening up doors to the development and research field. She became a social worker and with her research skills helped to elevate the discussions on peace and development in Myanmar.
One highlight of her involvement in the peace efforts is her book “Of Peaceful Days”, published in 2018. Together with two other writers, the book compiles stories about people of different religions living in harmony. “Since the communal violence erupted in Rakhine State in 2012, old friends have become strangers. The country has been rocked by ‘divide and rule’ practices using religion as a tool,” the Myanmar Times wrote in regards to her book.
The book project was initiated by MIDO, an organization that sees peace as an important component of a country’s development. It focuses on the use of Internet and communications technology (ICT) in the promotion of human rights, and social and economic progress.
With the pervasiveness of disinformation in the society of Myanmar today, MIDO and Phyu have a lot of work to do.
Sorting out family issues and managing time between work and household duties, all the problem-solving and the multi-tasking train women to be effective leaders
The Role of Social Media
A report published by an UN independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar highlighted the significant role of Facebook in the spread of hate speech leading to serious human rights abuses. A number of outbreaks of violence in the Rakhine State, where over 700,000 Rohingya civilians had been forced out, has been attributed to the spread of false information. Political analysts also expect that hate speech and disinformation campaigns will become more virulent in the run up to Myanmar’s parliamentary elections in November 2020.
In Myanmar, Facebook is by far the biggest social media platform. In spite the problems it has caused, Phyu does not advocate for more laws, which could be abused for political purposes, but instead calls for balance of the protection of personal security and freedom of expression. She believes that education is the key – an integration of media and information literacy in basic education, and fact-checking trainings that reach out to communities like underdeveloped ethnic regions who are most vulnerable to false information.
Destined for Greater Heights
Phyu shares that her work has become perilous, but the risk is worth it if only to secure peace and development. This is the kind of sacrifice that women make, the value of selflessness that is a true leadership strength.
“I let go of my first ambitions because of my love for my family. The sacrifice led to me to achieve something as big, if not bigger,” imparts Phyu. “Sorting out family issues and managing time between work and household duties; all the problem-solving and the multi-tasking train women to be effective leaders,” she explains. She is thankful for her supportive husband, and adds that men should be partners in raising a new generation of leaders.
Although Phyu never became a pilot, she’s surely flying high.