Kataerina, 35 years old, from Pyin Soung village in southern Shan State, Myanmar (Part 1/2)
Kataerina, a Kayan (also known as Padaung) woman from Pyin Soung village in the southern Shan State, is now 35 years old and has three daughters. Her life seems smooth for now, but it used to be tough and full of struggles for food, education and freedom. Kataerina’s story echoes so many voices from the people of Burma (Myanmar), who have had to endure child labour and an ongoing struggle for basic living standards. From armed conflict to being locked up and nearly killed by Burmese soldiers, Kataerina’s struggles finally led her to the Thailand-Burma border where she now lives in the Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp in Mae Hong Son Province.
When Kataerina lived in her native Pyin Soung village, both the Burmese government and ethnic Kayan leaders were controlling the area. Poppy, an essential ingredient for opium, has been cultivated in southern Shan State and northern Karenni State for more than a decade. “The Burmese government is not good. And our ethnic people [also] tortured us. When I was young, the fighting happened and my house was broken. All the trees were destroyed.” “We faced many difficulties and had to struggle a lot. […] My parents are not educated people. So, they just did farming. I just attended primary school until grade two. I just know A B C D. My parents couldn’t support me to go to school and there was no one else who could work. I quit the school and worked for my family. Even though my parents did farming, it was not enough food for the whole family. Because I worked, my family could eat daily. I sold things and helped my parents.” Kataerina didn’t have her own shop, so she could only go around and sell things from village to village on foot. She was 14 years old at the time. “I did trading. But some places we couldn’t go and buy things. […] There was one place, where if I would go and sell my goods I would get a higher price, but I was not allowed to go. The road was slippery and there were many leeches in the rainy season. I had to climb down and up the mountains.”