4 March 2019
In 2017, THET established an office in Yangon to deliver programmes and projects that support and focus on health workforce development. This International Women’s Day we caught up with Dr Thinn Hlaing to find out how she has found her time as Country Director so far.
I am a Chemical Pathologist and Metabolic Medicine Physician by training. I worked as a consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust until 2016, when I decided to return to my home country, Myanmar. The new democratic government had won the election and I wanted to take part in the process of “Time to Change”. Having been trained in the UK for sixteen years, I have to admit that adjusting to a different environment was challenging. There were obvious physical differences in terms of infrastructure and resources as well differences in terms of practices, perspectives and opinions. Myanmar is a country where men are undeniably regarded as “superior” by tradition and in religion. This is witnessed in our everyday lives, for example in the place of women’s rights in the legal system and our representation in ministerial and leadership roles. However, I remind myself that things have progressed , not marginally but significantly – maternal mortality rates have dropped from 520 deaths per 100,000 births in 1990 to 200 deaths in 2010 (UN 2016). Access to education and the representation of women in the labour force have similarly increased over the years.
I am in the second year as a Country Director at the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) and am working closely with in-country and UK colleagues in the development of Myanmar UK Health Alliance (MUKHA). The core objective of MUKHA is to align the two countries’ priorities and to work together to support Myanmar’s MOHS in the implementation and delivery of the National Health Plan 2017-2021. Although the focus of our work is system strengthening, my hope is that the impact of our work will be wider reaching. I would like to see an improvement in safe and easy access to healthcare for women, especially in marginalised areas, as well as the creation of opportunities for women to progress in their careers. Every effort must be made collectively – nationally and internationally- to lobby policy makers to specifically address issues such as violence against women, poverty, illiteracy and equal rights. After all, having a healthier and educated work force which women are part of is an asset to any country. It not only helps to bring balance and harmony to everyone’s lives, it is also a key part of the nation’s political equilibrium and peace process.