Vol. VIII No. 11 - Tuesday
March 17 - March 23, 2009

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

Chiang Mai FeMail 
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Women Working Together

Love your life…whatever happens


Women Working Together

A celebration of International Women’s Day

Members of Chiang Mai’s fairer sex celebrate International Women’s Day
in the city centre on Sunday, March 8.

CMM Reporters
March 8, International Women’s Day, was celebrated in Chiang Mai with an event co-organised by Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, the city’s mayor and the Migrant Assistance Programme (MAP), an NGO working with labour rights for migrants. Following a march from Thapae Road to the Three Kings’ Monument by hundreds of women, including representatives from MAP, Mpower and We Get Together (a group of migrant women workers), Dr. Duentemduang presided over the event’s opening ceremony.
Kanchana Dee-ud, director of MAP, stated that migrants, especially women, were exploited by their employers and treated unfairly by government officials, who ignored their human rights. Continuing that specific working hours and overtime payments should be defined and agreed, she said, ‘Government offices should also provide interpreters to facilitate their dealing with migrant workers and to ensure that they are treated fairly.’
MAP’s Jackie Pollock called on the Thai government to halt its policy of deporting Burmese migrant workers, and asked that the rights of all women, including migrant women, be guaranteed as a significant part of the government’s economic drive. In her speech, she noted that, ‘Migrant workers are important for Thailand’s economy, particularly given the present problems caused by the global economic crisis. Deportation may lead to a change in the destinations of migrant workers, causing a negative effect on Thailand’s economy.’
A representative of We Get Together added that the current situation of all migrant workers is delicate because of current government restrictions. ‘We are in constant fear of arrest and deportation,’ she said. ‘Next year, there will be no re-registration for migrant workers, meaning that our future here will be even more difficult.’ She also called for equality of pay between male and female workers, and for migrant workers to be provided with access to travel outside their immediate area, education and public medical services, and suggested that the job of domestic worker should be registered under Thai law, thus giving protection of rights as with other occupations. The majority of an estimated 100,000 legal and illegal Burmese workers in Chiang Mai are Shan. Many women work as domestics, but cannot legally register as Thai law does not recognise domestic work as a job. The women, therefore, have no option but to work illegally.
After the speeches, the International Women’s Day celebrations at the Three King’s Monument continued into the evening with performances and music, ending with the ceremonial pulling by hundreds of women of a huge truck over a 10 metre distance, signifying that the power of women working together can drive the social and economic aspects of society.

In Honour Of Women
Women who walk miles to feed their families
Thank You
Women who love when no love is returned
Thank You
Women who dance the stories of the ancients
Thank You
Women who lose their children and keep on going
Thank You
Women who speak their truths to educate others
Thank You
Women of beauty who know their power is to share
Thank You
Women who mother when mothering
is called upon for healing
Thank You
Women who love men enough
to respect their differences
Thank You
Women who love themselves enough to come forward
Thank You
Women who know the truth of their soul
Thank You
In Honour Of You
We Honour Women
And Say
Thank You

Joana Ukali
[email protected]


Love your life…whatever happens

Elena Edwards
South Australia is a great place to live, especially if your home town is100 kilometres outside the city of Sydney. Close enough to be able to take advantage of all the city offers, far enough away to love living in the country. When you both have jobs and enough coming in to feel comfortable; when your son and daughter are in their teens and doing well at school, you have time to dream your dreams and make your plans for early retirement and that trip of a lifetime.

Maggie and Mark Allensbach stop off in Chiang Mai on their trans-continental trip.
Until, like Maggie Allensbach, you suddenly discover, in your mid-forties, that you have stage 4 breast cancer – a lump the size of a small walnut lodged just behind your nipple, with smaller lumps already forming which have spread to your lymph glands. After the diagnosis, Maggie had her breast and her lymph glands removed. Once she had recovered from the operation she embarked on a six-month course of chemotherapy which made her so ill she hardly left her bed for the duration of the course. Shortly afterwards, she discovered that a new drug which prevents the disease from re-establishing itself was not available from hospitals in her area due to its high cost. Shocked and furious, she contacted others with breast cancer, and formed a women’s pressure group. As a result, the drug became available, and, after a year’s course, Maggie was declared cancer-free! The final step was a breast reconstruction, involving her own tissues taken from her back and an implant made from a new version of silicon, guaranteed to cause no adverse reaction.
Naturally, the entire experience caused Maggie and her husband, Mark, to rethink their priorities, resulting in the bringing forward of their dream trip of a lifetime from ‘when we retire’ to ‘Right Now!’ The women’s pressure group had campaigned for access to the life-saving drug, and had also raised funds for breast cancer awareness, particularly amongst younger women. Some of the group had been in their 20’s and breast feeding their new-born babies when their cancer was diagnosed! The first part of the couple’s trip, therefore, was planned to cover a huge area of Australia, and to concentrate on awareness and fund-raising in the communities they visited.
Selling up, sorting out and saying goodbye completed, Maggie and Mark set off…on every guy’s dream motorbike, a huge BMW 1200 cc monster, loaded up with everything they would need for the next 14 months at least. The first leg of their trip was carefully planned to include Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Nepal, North India and the Himalayas, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and Italy, ending up in Switzerland, from where they had emigrated to Australia 26 years previously. They will arrive there, if all goes well, in October, meeting up with friends and family, and, in December, their son Rafael (24) and daughter Dominique (18) will fly in from Oz for the biggest Christmas party ever! They plan to winter in Switzerland, with, hopefully, Mark (a talented chef) finding work for the season, and continue with their awareness and fund-raising activities. Then, if funds allow, they will travel to Canada, down through the USA and on to South America, finally returning to Australia by boat some time in 2010.
Last week, having begun the trip on December 10 last year and ridden all the way up the east coast of Oz, across to the middle of that vast country, then up to Darwin to catch a flight, Maggie and Mark arrived in Chiang Mai via Cambodia, Laos, the Golden Triangle and Pai, and settled comfortably in a small guest house surrounded by trees and flowers (plus a sheltered, safe place to park the BMW) close to the River Ping. Maggie had already contacted the Chiang Mai Mail by email. This writer met up and hugely enjoyed several hours of animated conversation with this remarkable and amazingly well-organised couple! The photograph shows the panniers and containers attached to the bike, with everything they need stowed inside-including a string of 124 Nepalese prayer flags, all with messages, best wishes and love from their Australian friends (and one from us) which will be hoisted at a temple site high in the Himalayas some time very soon.
Maggie told the Chiang Mai Mail that she had never felt negative about her illness; she had been determined to beat it, whatever it took. She had decided early on that life was for living, and that no way was she going to miss out on her ‘trip of a lifetime!’
Well into that trip, she recounts hers and Mark’s experiences so far with a huge grin, and clearly can’t wait to get to the next destination. Having left Chiang Mai on Monday 9, heading for Bangkok, where they will take a plane to Nepal, they are both hoping to visit Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama has made his home, and looking forward to placing those prayer flags 5,500 feet up in the massive mountains whose foothills surround Chiang Mai. We wish them well, and hope they will keep us in the loop with some photos and tales of their journey.

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