“It feels good when they ask me for my help, when people need me, especially since I know I can be of assistance and make a difference.”

Interview with Sandi Swe, volunteer at a quarantine centre, Myanmar


14 CLEAN MMR Quarantine center worker

Sandi: April should have been a month of festivities, celebrating Thingyan – the Burmese New Year – but this year has been unlike any other, because of the measures Myanmar has taken to curb COVID-19. As the news of the global pandemic spread, Myanmar’s migrant workers began to return home, and the country has prepared for mass returns by providing safe quarantine last few months, so aside from cleaning the facilities, we were not that busy and I thought this pandemic was almost over: until now, that is. The rate of return is increasing again, and 100 to 200 migrants are arriving every day.

In the minds of many people, the issue of migration and returning migrants has been linked to COVID-19. This job has allowed me to understand the migrants at a deeper level, the challenges they face currently, their anxieties about the present and the future. I believe I understand their situation more clearly and I certainly feel empathy for them. I want to support these people. It feels good when they ask me for my help, when people need me, especially since I know I can be of assistance and make a difference.

Before the pandemic, I didn’t have any experience in this type of work, but the fact remains that nothing could have prepared me or anyone else for this global emergency. I have found time to contemplate how the job empowered me and enriched my life, emotionally, physically and mentally. I have more energy now, and I have to learn to take care of myself and my health, especially if I am to provide more help to others. Before COVID-19, I stayed home most of the time, but working in this environment has shown me that I like to work with other people.

I pray every day for the pandemic to end quickly. I know I am okay, and it has not affected me too much, but there are others who have lost income and opportunities. I pray for them as well.

The ILO-UN Women programme “Safe and Fair: Realizing women migrant workers’ rights and opportunities in the ASEAN region”, under the global EU-UN Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls, supports front-line service providers to ensure essential services are available for women migrant workers who subject to violence in both normal and COVID-19 times. More: www.spotlightinitiative.org/safe-and-fair

This story was re-structured based on the original article: https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/11/1076212

More contacts of service providers are available in the Service Directory for Women Migrant Workers in the ASEAN region: https://bit.ly/services4wmw  

Interviewed by: May Thu Ne Win

Written by (original article): Lesly Lotha

Edited by: Gihan Hassanein