i-Women – Inspiring Women app, getting inspired by Zwegabin Mountain

17 Aug 2015

Let me begin with a short story.  There is a very famous mountain in Myanmar’s Kayin State called Zwegabin. Millions inside Myanmar know that Zwegabin means ‘Not to give up!’. This weekend as I stood at the foot of Zwegabin Mountain, my heart filled with the thousands of years of inspiration that has come from this beautiful name ‘Not to give up’. I thought of all those who have come to this special mountain to look for strength. Some may have looked for strength to regain purpose in their difficult lives. Some may have come to Zwegabin to offer thanks for having won over a big problem because they followed the message of the mountain not to give up. Whatever people’s reasons for climbing this mountain, people come here to gain strength. iWomen app is following in the great tradition of Zwegabin Mountain.

iWomen - Inspiring Women is a new android mobile phone application for Myanmar women living in rural areas being developed by UNDP with support from UNDP Innovation Fund. iWomen app is the heart of a peer support structure connecting 22,000 women from 2,000 villages across Myanmar. iWomen app will pilot virtual mentorship harnessing the power of peer-to-peer support amongst rural women.

Across the world all cultures recognize that we human beings need essentially three things in our lives to stand any chance of happiness:

1. We need enough food and money to survive.

2. We need education, training and employment so we can be self-sufficient in life.

3. We need strength of mind and character to weather the difficulties of life and the inspiration to be creative to make happiness for others and ourselves.

iWomen app wants to bring in more ‘’strength of mind and character’’ by enabling the rural women of Myanmar to both have inspiring women writing to them using an app and to peer-share inspiring stories of their own difficulties and victories through the iWomen app.

Why do we human beings need inspiration and encouragement so much?

We are social beings and without the grooming of spirit from each other, we are not at our best. In Prof. Sendhil Mullainathan recent book "Scarcity’’, this social scientist gives us focused empirical evidence using examples of how when we humans are under pressure emotionally through a scarcity of money or time or health, instead of our minds opening up options on how to overcome these problems, our minds close in narrowing our options blocking us from coming up with creative solutions. For example, those facing money troubles more often make bad financial decisions. Those with time management problems make decisions that worsen their lack of time crisis. Those in bad health often further deteriorate their health by not putting the brakes on what is causing the bad health in the first place. The opposite of closing in on ourselves is opening up to new ideas. How then do we best introduce people in a situation of scarcity to new ideas or solutions?

iWomen  - Inspiring Women app will tell people’s true life stories, written in their own words, to simply create examples of how we can win in life, how we can also become good financial managers, maybe business women, maybe a village leader. Some of the stories already collected for the iWomen app are exactly that, women who started in very difficult circumstances and went on to achieve absolutely incredible things with their lives.

Zwegabin is a beautiful mountain that has inspired many. iWomen app wants to be a little like Zwegabin, beautiful and inspiring.