Today, the International Day of Rural Women (15 October), a social entrepreneur from Myanmar will celebrate her recent award-winning status as a creative rural woman.
The Rev Mai Ki, the first ordained female minister of the Mara Evangelical Church in Myanmar and Tearfund Inspired Individual, was awarded the annual prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life by the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) for her work to tackle poverty and famine in formerly oppressed Chin State, Myanmar - which many opponents of the regime there still prefer to call Burma.
Mai Ki grew up in an illiterate farming family in a remote village in Burma. Blessed with exceptional talents and skills, and through sheer perseverance, she progressed to obtain a Masters in Theology in India. However her heart remained in the hill country rural villages of Burma, an area oppressed by the Burmese military regime for many years and recently victim of a severe famine, and she returned there after completing her studies.
With a spirit and passion for social interventions and female empowerment, Mai Ki has inspired and led a number of other community based initiatives to tackle poverty, including promoting animal husbandry, community healthcare projects, skills and training courses and disaster and management relief. Her work has a strong emphasis on women taking the lead in developing themselves and their families.
The award honours creative and courageous women around the world for their contributions to improving the quality of life in rural communities, for protecting the environment, imparting knowledge and standing up for human rights, development and peace. Since it was established in 1994, WWSF has awarded 395 prizes in over 120 countries.
Because of her work to tackle poverty through social enterprise in Myanmar, Mai Ki was selected to be part of Tearfund’s Inspired Individuals initiative in 2012. The Inspired Individuals Initiative seeks to identify, resource and connect social entrepreneurs – change agents whose unique vision has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of people living in poverty.
“We could not be more proud of Mai Ki,” said Gary Swart, Inspired Individuals Director at Tearfund. “We’re incredibly pleased that other organisations like WWSF are starting to recognise her hard work and dedication to people living in poverty, she truly is an inspiration.”
“I feel really great hope,” said Mai Ki. “God is answering the prayers of believers in Myanmar. As a rural woman, wherever I go I see people having hope and trusting each other. We don’t have change yet, but in our hearts, we do."