The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is a sovereign state. The military junta in place since 1962 was officially dissolved in 2011 following a general election in 2010 and a nominally civilian government installed, though the military retains enormous influence.
Since then the nation’s human rights record has been improving. Myanmar’s most prominent human rights activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, and many other political prisoners have been freed and the country's foreign relations and human rights record have improved rapidly. Trade/economic sanctions imposed by other nations have been eased.Myanmar is rich in gems, oil, natural gas and other mineral resources.
Despite this, Myanmar remains economically poor, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement and isolation.
Historically, Myanmar once had a matriarchal system and women held unique social status.
In more recent times with deteriorating economic climate, families have increasingly prioritized the rights of males over females to limited resources. These changes affect the access of women to nutrition, medical services, vocational training, and other educational opportunities. Forced labour (including child labour) and human trafficking are common.
1865. Sisters of the Good Shepherd were invited to take over the mission, schools and boarding facilities for young boys and girls, from the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition who were assigned to mission in Upper Myanmar.
1965. After nationalization, the sisters went to Thayetmyo, north of Yangon, Pyay Diocese and took charge of the girls in the boarding section, engaged in outreach programs in neighbouring villages and worked in the leper colony. In 1967, the ministries were returned to the Diocese.
1966. Due to the nationalization of schools, all the missionary sisters had to depart from the country leaving behind ten local young sisters in initial formation who after one year were brought out of the country for international apostolic experience and formation.
1967 to 1973. There were no Good Shepherd Sisters in Myanmar.
1973. Nine sisters, out of the ten, returned to Yangon to refound the Congregation. The sisters began to engage in teaching catechism (children and youth) in two parishes, teaching English in Minor and Major Seminaries, work with the Chaplain of the University Catholic Students.
In 1976, the Sisters founded a new community in Magyikwin village, Bago Division, in order to begin the village development programs and pastoral work.
In 1983, the sisters were invited to open a Good Shepherd house in Mandalay, the former capital of Burmese Kings, in order to develop programs proper to Good Shepherd sisters. Sisters provided temporary shelter for the single mothers and facilitated their reintegration to their own society and reconciliation with their families.
In 1990, another foundation was made in Loikaw, Kayah State to develop programs for holistic formation of local girls. The Sisters were requested by the Bishop to assist in the formation of two newly started congregations.
In 1997, a group of sisters moved to Hopin, Kachin State, in order to work with women and girls at risk of prostitution who are working in neighboring Jade Mine. The sisters regularly do the home visits meet the families and accompany them in dealing with their social problems. The holistic formation is provided regularly to the local women/catechists and youth groups.
In 1999, a new community was set up in Yangonywa village, Shan State near Thai-Myanmar boarder in order to develop income generation projects for women and girls to prevent them from crossing the border and engaging in sex trade in Thailand. Sisters also set up programs for people affected HIV/AIDS and drug addicts. A boarding house and a daycare center were also opened for the children.
Education – scholarship programmes, boarding schools, day care programmes for street children and HIV/AID affected children.
Vocational, Skills and Leadership training for women and girls at risk of being trafficked.
Healthcare – dispensary, temporary shelter for the sick and terminally ill persons, HIV/AIDS care and support programme and home base care program, hospital visits, moral and spiritual support.
Programmes for single mothers- shelter and vocational/skills training and income generation projects.
Prison ministry – visitation to the men/women prisons and care and support for HIV/AIDS affected people.
Pastoral work – collaboration with the bishops and parish priests, teaching catechism, adult baptism/ marriage preparation, organizing and animating various groups in the church (women /children/youth/parents/catechists and parish councils).
Outreach programs – conducting awareness sessions on current issues (trafficking, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, Gender equality, Pro-life, Ecology, Justice and Peace, Micro-credit).
With its realities and limitations, the Good Shepherd Sisters in Myanmar network with NGOs, GOs, FBOs (Faith Based Organizations) especially Buddhist monks and Church and Religious Social Services Organizations in order to reach out more effectively to people in need.