Livelihoods and Community: Sustainable Solutions for the Forgotten Rohingyas and Host Communities in Mae Sot

The Livelihoods and Community Solutions (LCS) project, implemented from January 2013 to July 2015, aimed to promote livelihood opportunities and the socio-economic self-reliance of marginalised Myanmar Muslims and vulnerable Thais in targeted communities in Mae Sot, Tak province. The project also aimed to strengthen and to facilitate relationships, understanding and cooperation between marginalised Myanmar Muslims, Thais who lack access to economic opportunities in local communities, neighbouring Thai communities, NGOs, CBOs, and local government authorities. The LCS Project ran parallel to the DIBP-funded project “Reducing the vulnerabilities of Myanmar Muslims through Community Outreach and increasing their Access to Social and Health Services” which was implemented from 2010 to 2014 with a broader focus on health services, environmental health and livelihoods.

The project has succeeded in promoting better livelihood opportunities for marginalized ethnic minorities in Mae Sot. One of the key successes of the project was the Household Support Fund (HSF) initiative which played a key role in encouraging parents to send their children to school. The initiative enabled children from marginalized Myanmar Muslim and economically vulnerable Thai families to receive an education. IOM also organized a total of 6 community outreach campaigns to raise awareness and promote the importance of education for children with the aim to prevent school drop-outs and increase the number of children from target communities enrolling in both formal and informal education institutions. As such, the project goal of increasing awareness on the importance of children’s education for sustainable community development and expanding educational opportunities for marginalised and disadvantaged children was achieved.

Socio-economic self-reliance was another key component of the project. IOM encouraged capacity building by providing vocational trainings for Myanmar Muslim women. These trainings were focused on bead jewelry making, bag sewing and cooking with the aim of enabling the women to undertake home-based income-generating activities while fostering a sense of community in Mae Sot. A job fair was also held to raise public awareness on the products that Myanmar Muslim women in communities are capable of producing. The activities constituted a major step forward in the economic empowerment of marginalised Myanmar Muslim women in developing their ability to be self-reliant and contribute to the household’s welfare.

Vocational training was also provided for youths to enhance ability to become self-reliant and act as agents of development in their communities. The courses focused on building Thai language skills and leadership skills and were very well-received. These skills are of vital importance in improving their prospects for employment opportunities, earnings and integration into the labour market with satisfactory wages.

IOM adopted a partnerships-based approach in implementing the project. Building upon each other’s strengths, IOM worked closely in collaboration with numerous NGOs, community-based organizations and agencies of the Royal Thai Government. A Project Steering Committee (PSC) was formed with the participation of these organizations to discuss best practices and provided guidance in the implementation of project activities.

IOM will build on the achievements and enhance the efforts made during “the Livelihoods and Community Solutions” project and “Reducing the vulnerabilities of Myanmar Muslims through Community Outreach and increasing their Access to Social and Health Services” project by incorporating lessons learned and applying best practices to the follow – up project  “Promoting stability, well-being and harmony for Myanmar Muslim and host communities in Thailand” which has a broader geographical coverage Tak Province as well as the Provinces of Phang Nga and Ranong and places greater emphasis on local capacity building including through training of trainers (TOT) and financial support to third parties.

IOM Thailand is currently implementing another phase of this project. For more information, visit our community stablization page.