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Girl-led Placemaking in Myanmar

PHOE WA The Myanmar Times APRil 26, 2019

Owning the city’s public space. Phoe Wa/The Myanmar Times

It is strange to see urban space with mango, coconut, fruits and other trees in an otherwise concrete township. Eight teenage girls are running among the trees taping up posters. On each one, a bold design. There are not advertisements. Only representations of what the authors like. That is their way to say this space is theirs.

Starting two months ago, they have taken over the trees and made them their own. This is the Girl-Led Placemaking Area, a city space designed by girls for girls.

Now, they are ready to take the project public and show it to the media, making it perhaps the youngest girls’ media conference in Myanmar. Yangon has less open public space than other Southeast Asian cities. In addition, girls use public space less often than boys.

“There is very little space for girls in Yangon, now we are creating one for them,” Ma Eaint Hmuu San, 13 and in the Gril-Led Placemaking project, said.

Doh Eain is collaborating with girls aged 10 to 19 to design and build inclusive public spaces in Yankin and Hlaing Thar Yar, with support from The SPRING Accelerator. The projects aims to put girls at the centre of a Placemaking process by building skills and confidence, developing a vision for a space in their neighbourhood and implementing their own public space designs.

In 2018, local heritage group Doh Eain was accepted into The SPRING accelerator along with four other Myanmar businesses. The SPRING accelerator works with growth-oriented businesses on innovations to transform the lives of adolescent girls, by helping businesses improve or develop products through ‘human centred design’.

This project is run in five steps; discover, design, develop, deliver, and depend. The girls got the chances to travel around downtown and learn how the alleys were made as part of the first step.

“I want to help and be involved in that kind of organisation after seeing the amazing valley gardens downtown made by Do Eain,” one participant said.

The girls reported that their parents were not sure at first, but have come around to the idea after hearing about how much effort and organisation was being put in.

In-line with inclusive design focus and recognising the restrictions girls and women face in relation to access to public space and participation in decision-making, the team has also modified the process to focus extra attention on girl impact by working directly with them.

On March 7, fourteen girls were enrolled into the Yankin Placemaking project and on March 17, fifteen girls were enrolled into the Hlaing Thar Yar initiative.

“This project was a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between girls and the build a place for them. Not only looking at the problems girls face but also how girls themselves would change the built environment given the chance.

Historically Placemaking has been somewhat gender blind. Thankfully the fields are now intersecting and the SPRING Accelerator made it possible for Doh Eain to be part of this moment in Placemaking. We believe girls will be key in making sure cities are more inclusive as the world continues to urbanise,” Anna Cullinan, Urban Designer of DohEain, said.

Through the design workshops girls will learn how to conduct site audits, prepare scale drawings and budgets, develop a vision for the site, generate and refine ideas collectively, visit locations around the city for inspiration and work with Doh Eain’s community engagement officers, architects and construction team to implement their very own public space designs. Putting girls not only at the centre but as the drivers of the Placemaking process offers the opportunity to build skills, confidence and have fun, according to the mission statement.

The sites in Yankin and Hlaing Thar Yar were selected with the support of local representatives, communities and organisations.

For the Hlaing Tha Yar site, a cooperation agreement was reached with Girl Determined and Colourful Girls. The idea is to be able to work directly with the Members of Parliament, Ward Officers, General Administration Department and Yangon City Development Committee.

More details about the project can be found on Facebook and Instagram by following the hashtag #inclusivedesignforgirls

From: THE MYANMAR TIMES (Myanmar) Friday April 26, 2019


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