Trading Places: A Gendered Assessment of Barriers to Livelihood for People with Disabilities in Rural Myanmar

Ms Aye Aye Myo1, Ms May Thinzar Phyo2

1Social Policy And Poverty Research Group (spprg), Monywa, Myanmar, 2Social Policy And Poverty Research Group (spprg), Monywa, Myanmar

Recent research suggests that, globally, women with disabilities encounter multiple forms of discrimination and exclusion from mainstream society when compared with their female peers and men without disability, particularly in rural areas. Myanmar’s poverty reduction programme places a strong emphasis on rural livelihoods, but progress is hampered by inequalities linked to gender and disability. Whilst the existence of gendered barriers to inclusion of people with disabilities into rural development activities is known, less is known of the intersectional processes by which the barriers arise and are maintained, and of the change processes required to address them. This paper draws on data from an action research project conducted in northwest Myanmar, which identified and addressed physical, attitudinal, social and institutional barriers to inclusion into a government-led rural development project.  Action research enabled a critical analysis of the power hierarchies embedded in normative processes of project implementation both by government and by communities, where a combination of tiered knowledge, an emphasis on managerial efficiency and an absence of space for critical appraisal undermined policy efforts aimed at achieving inclusion. Conversely, the research also illustrated the powerful impact of narratives as key stimuli for change. These point to the need to look beyond technical solutions for achieving gender/disability inclusion, and instead highlight the need to critically appraise ordinary operational procedures which tend to maintain existing power dynamics and priorities.


Aye Aye Myo works as Project Manager of Inclusive Development of Enable Existing Actors Project (IDEA) implemented by the Social Policy and Poverty Research Group (Myanmar). She has worked in community based inclusive development projects for people with disabilities for over 10 years.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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