The 2013 elections for both the KRC and KnRC saw several major achievements in women’s representation in leadership roles, but one of the examples for this was set in the previous elections in 2010.

When the votes were counted following the Karenni Refugee Committee elections in 2010, Shally Than, who had never run for a camp management position before, topped the polls.

This was a stunning success for Shally Than, the first woman to be elected as camp leader in either of the KnRC-managed camps (Ban Mae Surin and Ban Mae Nai Soi).

For someone who claims to have never been interested in politics or camp management, Shally Than has taken on the task like a seasoned veteran.

While she recalls that the task at first seemed daunting, support from the KnRC and TBC in terms of leadership training, community management, planning, communications, and financial management was key to making her more confident in her new role.

In March 2013, Ban Mae Surin suffered a devastating fire, the worst ever in the refugee camps. Thirty-seven people lost their lives, more than 200 were injured, and more than 2,300 people were left homeless.

Shally Than worked tirelessly alongside many other members of her communit. For two months she went to bed well after midnight and then got up at 4 or 5 am the next day. “In my life I experienced six fires,” she said, “but this one spread very quickly and surprised all of us. I learned a lot on how to cooperate with residents, organisations, authorities”.

“We received help from many people, but it was a big loss and very sad for me. I will never forget it”, she added.