Student Portrait

My name is Mu Sel, and I am from the Kayaw ethnic group. The Kayaw people, who live in the hills of Kayah State, have been disadvantaged historically and are less developed in education, economics and politics compared to other groups in Myanmar. Even though we are a small ethnic group, I am proud to be Kayaw and to live in Myanmar.

I describe my life as a hyacinth floating on a river because I have passed through many different phases. Some were rough and difficult to overcome, while others were smooth. My life has changed at every step. When I was young, I faced many difficulties, but each taught me to be stronger and more confident. My plan for the future is to become a member of parliament where I’ll use my voice to affect public policy, as well as lobby and encourage other members of parliament to do the same. In order to achieve this goal, I am studying public policy.

When I was very young, my parents moved to Thailand to work as migrant workers. I lived with my grandmother for my first 16 years. Because I was living in poverty and didn’t live with my parents, I had low confidence and therefore felt too depressed to participate in religious, social or cultural activities. Even though I would have enjoyed participating in community activities, the community was unwilling and looked down on me because of culture stereotypes and my poverty status. It was a challenge that prevented me from being involved in community activities. However, I did not give up.

When I was 16, I went to Mae Hong Song, Thailand, to see my parents during a school holiday. Unfortunately, when I arrived I found that both of my parents faced difficulties with their jobs. My mother had given birth to a new baby. My father had just been released from prison after being arrested because of his illegal migrant status. My thought at the time was to work for one year to save money and live with my parents. However, Mae Hong Song had few job opportunities, so I left my parents to work in Chiang Mai.

 About Mu Sel

  • Age: 41
  • Ethnicity: Kayaw
  • Country: Myanmar

 School & Program

  • Rangsit University
  • Bachelor’s, International Relations & Development
  • Graduated

Goals & Dreams

  • Become a member of parliament
  • Advocate for community development

 Loan Details

  • Loan Amount: $1,150
  • Amount Left To Fund: $0
  • Contract Duration: 10 years
  • Status: Repaid in Full


What Others Are Saying About Mu Sel

In 2005, I joined the Burmese Women’s Union, a community-based organization, where I worked to raise awareness about women’s rights, gender equality and democracy. I gained knowledge and many skills from the experience. I organized trainings on domestic violence, sexual harassment, our constitution, voter education, human rights and women’s rights. In addition, I ran an awareness campaign on sexual harassment and organized an event on International Violence Against Women Day.

I want to be an educated person to promote my ethnic culture, traditions and literature. I strongly believe that my work experience will make me a good candidate for election and winning a seat in parliament. Although I have faced many difficulties in life, all the challenges became strengths and helped me achieve my goals. I was so excited to become a university student, a dream I’ve had since childhood. Something I didn’t expect to happen became real, and I believe a university degree will allow me to work effectively in community development and improving gender equality in my country.

I believe we must promote more women to be in leadership roles and participate in all decision making levels of politics. We must also use the capacity of women in the peace and national reconciliation processes. I hope to be a leader of women and to become a member of parliament someday to make policies and laws to help other women. Graduating from university will help me achieve my dream.

Written by Mu Sel with editing assistance from Beth, one of Zomia’s volunteer editors.

Mu Sel

Mu Sel

“I want to be an educated person to promote my ethnic culture, traditions, and literature.”

Q&A With Mu Sel

Survey Fun

What is your favorite memory?
My childhood
How would your friends describe you?
What is the one thing that isn’t taught in school but should be?
Critical thinking
What is/was your favorite subject in school?
Politics and public policy
What skill or ability do you most wish you had (but lack today)?
Technical skills
If you could do anything you wanted now, what would it be?
Organize training for Myanmar Members of Parliament for capacity building
Where would you most like to travel?
England, Japan and USA
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Shan Tofu, Shan noodles, mohingha and hin tote
What’s your dream job?
Lobbying and advocating to local and international organizations for community development
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Senior advisor for public policy and development