History of YWCA
The first idea of a YWCA in Myanmar (then Burma) was suggested as far back as 1891 by the Honorable Emily Kinnaird, daughter of one of the founders of the YWCA at a meeting on her visit to Rangoon (now Yangon). She, with a group of girls from the Karen School in Rangoon, tried to take the initiative but nothing concrete was done until Miss Agnes Hill, General secretary of the India National Committee, visited Rangoon in 1899. Meetings were held in a Presbyterian pastor’s home attended by leading ladies of Rangoon, most of them foreigners. They began to realize the need of an association to meet the new demands life would make a on women in the changing social and economic conditions of the time. In June 1900 the Rangoon YWCA was officially recognized as a branch of the India National Committee which in turn was affiliated with the World YWCA thus making members of the association in Burma members of a world-wide Christian international women’s movement.
The most urgent need then was for a hostel for young women who were beginning to leave the seclusion of their homes to come into Rangoon in search for further education or gainful employment. In 1902 the YWCA building in Brooking Street (now Bogalayzay Street) was dedicated. The efforts of Miss Lindsay, the first General Secretary, Dr. Cote, the First President, and the generous donation of four thousand pounds by Mrs. Macgregor, a patient of Dr. Cote, made this possible. Later the hostel was repaired, extended and maintained by voluntary contributions and government grants. In 1907, a Holiday Home was provided for work-weary members in Thandaung, moved in 1919 to Kalaw.
From 1900, onwards members were scattered all over the country but there was continuous activity only in Rangoon where Bible study, physical education, recreation, music, home arts, business training and employment service were given.
In 1938, branches were organized in the district towns. Those in four towns were showing great promise when war swept the country in 1942 and disrupted everything. The foreign staff evacuated to India and though the Association remained an integral part of the National YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon, normal work in Burma was impossible. During the occupation the building on Brooking Street was used as a night club and the local members were scattered all over the country.
In May 1945, the very month of British reoccupation the YWCA Triangle was hoisted again under Miss Jean Begg, Director of Welfare Work for Service Women for the Southeast Asian Command. The first membership reunion party was held in December 1945. The old General Secretary, Miss Estelle Amaron, resumed her work with local staff and the National YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon and Pakistan, generous gifts from members in other lands and the help of Association Welfare Workers made possible reestablishment and rehabilitation. From 1945 to 1950 the Blue Triangle was seen at Devon Court, 67 Signal Pagoda Road (now Alan Pya Payar Lan) at Burma House, 72 Sandwith Road (now Nawaday Lan), U Wisara Road and at the Silver Grill in succession. Only in June 1950, when the Association celebrated its Golden Jubilee, was the building on Brooking Street reoccupied.
Out of the seven local associations reorganized after the YWCA started to function again five were well established. In May 1950, with these five associations, the YWCA of Burma left the protection of her parent, the National Committee of India, at the Quadrennial Conference in Bombay.
In October 1951, at the World YWCA Council meeting in Beirut, the National YWCA of the Union of Burma (now the National YWCA of Myanmar) officially became an active national movement affiliated with the World YWCA. The firs General Secretary is Daw Sein Tin, the oldest member of the staff who was responsible for the development of the local associations in the new YWCA. Its first President was Mrs. Ba Maung Chain (Claribel San C Po), the first national to hold the office of president of the Rangoon YWCA. She also had served as Vice-President of the World YWCA, on the Executive Committee, and Chairwoman of the Mutual Service Committee.
After forming give local associations in Rangoon(Yangon) Mandalay, Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin), Taunggyi and Moulmein (Maw La Myaing), a new group was formed in Hinthada with senior and junior members who were of different races, nationalities and denominations.
Today, the YWCA of Myanmar has (11) local associations—Yangon (Rangoo), Pyay, Taungoo, Pathein, Mawlamyaing, Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin, Taunggyi, Myitkyina, Lashio and Pyar Pone. YWCA is the oldest women’s organization in Myanmar and has been serving people from all walks of life with various development projects/ programs for women to become empowered and serve the communities as change makers.