(“Jane”) Pawadee is a woman who knows her own mind and
speaks it eloquently. She was born in rural Chiang Rai province,
but her family moved to Phrae when she was quite young. She
attended kindergarten through high school there, and then came
to Chiang Mai to go to college. She was admitted to the School
of Architecture but her mother had other plans for her talented
daughter. The family is Christian, and mom wanted her to be a
minister. Somehow the fit wasn’t right, although Janejinda, as
a dutiful Thai daughter, tried her best to please her mother.
The Student Christian Movement was active on her campus and Jane
began to attend meetings. Here, finally, she found her fit.
The Student Christian Movement (SCM) is a
worldwide organization that educates students on social concerns
all over the world. Jane had been raised in the Thai educational
system. She was accustomed to taking notes. She was not
accustomed to asking questions or exploring issues on her own.
The SCM encouraged her to think. She knew she couldn’t solve
all of the problems of the world, but she could help solve the
local ones. “Think globally, act locally”, she learned.
She began to look at women’s issues, and
realized that she couldn’t separate women’s issues from
children’s issues. She was particularly concerned about what
happened to Thai women who went abroad. She knew that many of
them did not find the better life they had been told was there,
that many found themselves in prostitution, or battered or
indentured to their employer.
She graduated from college, and went to work
in the women’s department of a nongovernmental organization
based in Bangkok. She was sent to a rural northern province as a
field worker, a hands-on position helping to provide educational
counseling in a vocational program for at risk women. She spent
a great deal of her time working in a village that has a long
history of involvement in sex trafficking. It had become all too
easy for the village headman, elders and families to turn their
heads while their daughters went to work in brothels. The money
was quick but the damage to both the village culture and the
girls was great. It was an unhappy learning experience, but a
valuable one as Jane began to think of her future.
From this NGO, she went to work for the
Foundation for Children in Bangkok. The foundation had
advertised for a male staff person, but she applied anyhow. Much
to her surprise, she was hired and spent the next six years
working in eastern Thailand. She and her colleagues provided
nutritional education through school agricultural programs in
the region. They also educated children and teachers alike about
children’s rights and child abuse. At that time, children
rarely confided in their teachers, and Jane became a confidant
to many youngsters who had suffered abuse. She learned both the
resources and the failures of the welfare system.
She received a scholarship/internship at the
Social and Economic Institute in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to do
research on the street children there. It was a dangerous time.
Some groups thought that the children were simply disposable
criminals. Jane came to know many of the children well. She
struggled with the language as well as the danger on the
streets. It was different from anything she had ever
experienced. Then she woke up to find that the police had
murdered “her” kids. They had simply shot them on the
street. Demonstrating protesters painted outlines around the
little bodies. When the bodies were carried away, the painted
outlines reminded the world of this terrible injustice.
She came home to Bangkok and helped a friend
in business for a few months. She needed time to recover. She
traveled in Burma and saw that part of the world. Then she went
to work for another NGO that was doing research on human rights
and tribal people. She had Thai, Karen, Lahu and H’mong people
on her staff. For six years, she worked in tribal villages,
assisting women and children, working on issues related to land
rights and interfacing with other organizations. She built
bridges with people and organizations. She spent a great deal of
time lobbying, and began to understand the value of a legal
Still she knew that she could do more. And
she began to think that she could help better if she were an
attorney. So Jane moved to Chiang Mai, took a job with another
NGO, and began to go to law school after hours and on weekends.
As though she didn’t have enough
accomplishments, Jane is also a court-certified interviewer for
children and young people. She is on duty two times a month, and
works with the police department and court officials
interviewing children and young people who have been sexually or
physically abused. She has great empathy for child victims, and
understands their ambivalence and confusion when the people who
abuse them are trusted and loved adults. But she also interviews
juvenile perpetrators of crime, and admits that she is
occasionally uncomfortable when they have been perpetrators of
violence. Still, she treats them with the respect that she
accords all of those with whom she works, and has never been a
Jane hopes to be a licensed attorney soon, with the freedom
to make her own way practicing law. That may or may not be what
she decides to do. She thinks she will always want to work in or
with nongovernmental organizations. She’s a born advocate.
It’s in her blood. The important thing is that she will have
many options, and that her personal values will guide her in
making the choices. The SCM proclaims that members “act in
solidarity with the oppressed to resist structures of domination
and realize justice in the world”. You can be sure that
Janejinda Pawadee will continue to advocate for those who cannot
advocate for themselves, and that she will do it effectively.