Helping Thai Women Take Leadership Roles

Pateemah Poh-itaeda-oh, Founder and President of WePeace, works with women in Thailand.
Pateemah Poh-itaeda-oh, founder and president of WePeace, works with women in Thailand.
USAID Sapan Program
Campaign promotes women's roles in society and governance
“A key part of this journey has been understanding the importance of awareness, both of the self and of how to inspire power in yourself. If you are not a problem solver, you will be part of the problem.”

Sept. 2014—Women living in the Deep South of Thailand struggle to be accepted as community leaders, and many still need to fight for basic rights. The Women for Peace Association (WePeace) is working to ensure that women’s issues—such as access to education and freedom of expression—are addressed.

With support from the USAID Sapan Program, WePeace trains local women to improve their communities through scorecards that keep track of activities promoting open government and government-funded literacy training. Sapan is the Thai word for “bridge.”

WePeace’s founder and president, Pateemah Poh-itaeda-oh, is a teacher by profession who transitioned into advocacy after feeling a sense of responsibility for affairs in the Deep South. She lost four family members in the ongoing civil unrest that has claimed thousands of lives over the last decade. Working in a region plagued by violence, where only men are traditionally recognized as leaders, proved daunting to her. But when WePeace joined the Empowering and Engaging Women in Governance Initiative under the USAID Sapan Program, she received training, took part in national meetings and acquired the skills to regain her confidence.

In 10 years, Pateemah built WePeace into a leading organization for women’s rights in the region. “A key part of this journey has been understanding the importance of awareness, both of the self and of how to inspire power in yourself,” she said. “If you are not a problem solver, you will be a part of the problem.”

WePeace began as a local service provider offering economic and legal assistance to other community organizations while promoting the principles of accountability and transparency. Soon, however, the organization became a leading advocate in a national campaign for women’s rights.

Six other women-led NGOs have worked to broaden the results of the Thai Government’s Women’s Development Fund, which provides grants to local women in need. The grants are designed to promote women’s roles in society and business as well as their overall quality of life.

With assistance from Sapan, WePeace continues to grow, with 23 members elected in the past year to work with local administrative bodies in the Deep South.

“Women’s leadership has not been something acceptable in this region,” said Pateemah. “USAID Sapan helped us mature as an organization so that now when people think of empowering women in the Deep South, they think of WePeace as the first organization.”

Since 2010, the USAID Sapan Program has worked with seven civil society organizations, including WePeace, to help increase women’s participation in governance and policy decision making in Thailand. Women involved in the program’s networking and training activities have provided their own workshops to more than 1,000 participants and held public events reaching more than 8,000 women around the country on how they can promote good governance.


Follow @USAIDAsia, on Facebook, on Flickr, on YouTube