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Photo: Claire White

Karen Young Womens

Leadership School:
Evaluating nine years of impact

KWO / IWDA Evaluation Summary

Photo: Karen Womens Organisation

This evaluation looks at the impact of the Karen Young Wonens Leadership School (KYWLS)
program on graduates over nine years (2001 2009/10). IWDA also gave feedback and
recommendations on how to make the program stronger in the future.


1. To find out how KYWLS facilitated the

empowerment of participants.

There were some factors that limited the interpretation

of the evaluation results. There were also factors that
hindered the evaluations timely completion.

2. To find out how graduates of KYWLS influenced

their respective communities views of womens
participation, gender equality and womens rights.

1. Three of the evaluation questions did not reflect the

evaluations objectives.

3. To find out what impact KYWLS participants have

had on the organisations they worked with.

2. Some of the questions were not fully answered or

not answered at all by the participants.

4. To help Karen Womens Organisation with future

planning, monitoring and evaluation of KYWLS.

3. The IWDA staff members who originally started the

evaluation left their jobs before its completion. The
research report was completed by subsequent IWDA
staff members.

IWDA and KWO worked together in drafting the
purpose and the questions for the evaluation. They
mutually agreed on who to interview and how the
evaluation would be conducted. KWO staff managed
the interviews, and IWDA produced the report.
Of the 194 KYWLS graduates, 42 were interviewed.
Camp leaders, district leaders, project staff, community
members, KCBO staff, and KWO staff were also
interviewed. In total, 102 individuals participated in
this evaluation.

4. Language barriers and long distance communication

also posed a challenge. It was hard to translate the
interviews from Karen to English. Because of
distance,the report could only be validated through
email exchanges, and later, a visit by an IWDA staff
5. There was a long period that passed between the
time the participants were interviewed and the time
the report was written by IWDA.

Key Findings
1. Internal empowerment
This refers to womens feelings of safety and
confidence to talk about their opinions to their
husbands; their confidence to make decisions that are
different from their parents and knowledge of their
rights. This was a very significant outcome of KYWLS.
a. Graduates gained public speaking skills and
knowledge on womens and human rights. These
developments made them want to participate in
community activities.
b. Graduates learned valuable communication
and management skills which helped them gain
self-confidence. Community-Based Organisation
(CBO) leaders said that the community needs these
graduates as they bring in new ideas.
c. Graduates have better leadership skills. Working
with the community gave them the opportunity to
improve their leadership skills.

2. Access to and control over

resources and the ability to make
This refers to shared power at the household level, and
the womens independence to make certain decisions
directly affecting them. Questions on the graduates
influence over food, education, money, training and
property were not directly asked, which limited this
evaluation. Instead, the following were covered:
a. Graduates preferred age to marry was within the
legal requirement in Thailand and in Burma:
Under 20 years old: 0
20-25 years old: 10
25-30 years old: 31
30 years old and above: 0
Dont know: 1
In the absence of comparison data between the
graduates preferred age to marry and the actual age
to marry, it is hard to determine whether they indeed
exercised a controlled decision over their age to marry.

Marriage appears to have been meant as a destiny

rather than a choice. It is important to include single,
co-habiting without marriage, and same-sex
relationship, in the array of possible choices.
b. Number of children the graduates want to have:
17 graduates were already married, so it was
assumed they already had children
None or 1 child: 0
1 - 2 children: 7
2 - 3 children: 19
3 - 4 children: 15
5 or more children: 0
Dont know: 1
One of the evaluations goals was to find out if the
graduates had decision-making control over how many
children they plan to have (family planning). However,
this cannot be completely determined since the
graduates control to make such a decision was not
assessed. In future monitoring and evaluation, it is
important to determine their independence in decisionmaking. It would also be interesting to find out if those
who were married and had children would continue
their community work.

3. Improved gender relations at

This refers to womens feeling of safety and confidence
to talk about their opinions to their husbands; their
confidence to make decisions that are different from
their parents and knowledge of their rights. This was a
very significant outcome of KYWLS.
a. The graduates felt confident to freely share their
ideas in family decision-making, which truly reflect
their awareness of their rights as women. This must
have resulted from the KYWLS staff members use of
encouragement and empowerment approaches.
b. Parents supported their children (KYWLS graduates)
in making decisions for themselves. They were very
proud of their children and the work they do for the

c. Graduates said they had more control over decisionmaking in their families after KYWLS.
Some graduates even had total control over decisionmaking/family planning in their families (which could
cause them to have too much responsibility). There
should be a shared responsibility between the man
and woman in decision-making and family planning.

Although these factors may not be a direct

consequence of KWO and KYWLS work, the
communitys growing appreciation of womens rights
and changing gender roles at home, allowing women
to engage in public spaces, could have contributed to
womens increased voice and visibility.

Parents and/or husbands support them in finding

work outside the home. This showed positive gender

4. Empowerment at the community

This refers to organisational capacity strengthening,
as caused by the graduates contribution.
a. The number of graduates working at KWO and
other CBOs itself showed significant contribution,
although the evaluation was not able to determine
the depth of contribution. Of the 42 interviewed
graduates, 79% (33) work with KWO, and 7% (5)
work with CBOs.
The significant number of graduates working in the
community, the skills and knowledge they gained
through KYWLS and during their two years of work
in the community, the gained confidence to work in
the community and advocate for womens rights, are
all seen to contribute to improve womens status at
the community level.
It is important to sustain the graduates community
participation, increase their likelihood to stay with
CBOs following their two-year placement, and
advance their positions into community leadership
b. Community leaders agreed that Karen women
have increased their participation in the community.
This may be due to KWOs initiatives on raising
gender awareness; graduates two-year engagement
in the communities per KYWLS
requirement, and continued engagement following
the two-year placement.

Photo: Karen Womens Organisation

Photo: Manon Van Zuijlen

Photo: Karen Womens Organisation

5. Changes in the community

This refers to the increased gender awareness in the
community, as a consequence of KYWL graduates
a. Having more women leaders has created
opportunities for other women to be leaders. Women
being leaders and being seen in the community create
more awareness of womens issues.
The evaluation was not able to determine the extent
of graduates influence in community life, but their
presence and positive contribution was felt by
community leaders.
The roles of graduates working with KWO:
30% - KWO leadership position
18% - Project Staff
52% - Office Staff
b. Graduates inspired other young women to
participate in the community. As graduates learned
more about womens rights, they became advocates
for their own rights at home and in their community.

Several interviewed leaders expressed an awareness of

womens rights and that women should have equal say
in decision-making. This attitude should be encouraged
in order to sustain an enabling environment.
Some community leaders did say that they lack
knowledge on womens rights and gender equality
therefore they should be assisted in gaining awareness.
It is recommended that ways to increase general
community awareness on womens rights be promoted.
It is important that women are able to not just express
but more importantly, and achieve their rights.

6. Graduates contribution to the

organisations they work with
This refers to organisational capacity strengthening,
as caused by the graduates contribution.
a. Graduates said school learnings were directly
applicable to community work. Subjects such as
human rights, womens rights, and gender equality
were the most useful subjects they learned in KYWLS.
Some graduates also said that management and
leadership were the most useful.
b. The subjects that graduates learned in KYWLS
helped them in community projects and office work.
c. Graduates are seen as possible future leaders.
Graduates gained knowledge and skills to help the
Karen people.
d. The graduates are seen as good (young) workers:
Community leaders said that they see a benefit to
having the young women trained by KYWLS and that
KYWLS graduates are better than those who have not
graduated from KYWLS.
Community leaders also said that there is still work
that can be done to develop the graduates skills.

Photo: Manon Van Zuijlen

Conclusions and
1. Graduates gained confidence in communication,
mainly public speaking. Their increased awareness
on womens rights was exhibited through greater
participation in certain family decisions, such as
family planning and to a limited extent, the use of
They have also gained autonomy to decide over
engagement in paid work and community activities.
Further research would be needed to assist in
determining the graduates independence in
deciding over preferred age to marry and number of

Photo: Karen Womens Organisation

2. Graduates studied mainly womens rights, gender

equality as well as organisational and program
management. These proved to be useful both in
their community work and paid work.
3. Graduates working in the community after KYWLS
gain experience and use the skills they learned
during KYWLS. It is recommended that KYWLS
continue mentoring graduates and share authority
with senior leaders.
4. Graduates should be involved more in senior roles
that are not traditionally held by young women
Photo: Manon Van Zuijlen

5. Increase gender awareness advocacy to community

members, especially to community (district, CBO)

6. Recommended improvements for future

and evaluation of KWO programs:
a. When asking if a women is married, or not, include
options such as divorced, widowed, unmarried and
same-sex partnership.
b. Continue to encourage household members to
equally participate in housework and care work.
c. Make clear the idea of access to and control of
resources in relation to gender equality and womens

Photo: Claire White

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Photo: Karen Womens Organisation

Photo: Claire White


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Photo: Karen Womens Organisation


1300 661 812
PO Box 64, Flinders Lane, Vic 8009, Australia
Level 4, City Village, 225 Bourke Street,
Tel: +61 3 9650 5574
Fax: +61 3 9654 9877
ABN 19 242 959 685

PO Box 19, Mae Sanany, 58110,

Mae Hong Son Province, Thailand.
T: +61 3 9650 5574
F: +61 3 9654 9877