The Secret My Village Women Share

Shin Myint Mo

Shin Myint Mo is an amateur photographer from Eastern Shan State in Burma, working for the NGO World Vision.

Her essay is about the plight of young women in border towns of Shan State, where half of all young women become prostitutes in Thailand to escape rural poverty. She met her subject – who remains anonymous in this photo essay for her own safety – while teaching grade school in a village near the Thai border. The girl was fourteen years old. “I thought of her as my little sister,” she says.

The girl, however, ran away from home to Thailand and became a prostitute. The girl recently returned to her village in Myanmar now, eight years later, as Thai policy towards illegal and under-age sex workers has become more strict. Upon her return, she threw a big party, inviting all the villagers, at her expense, as is expected – a sign of her new economic status in the village, returning home with substantial savings.

Shin decided to photograph the girl in order to tell a story about dignity and awareness. She says, “Everyone knows, and most have older relatives who had the same fate as sex workers, but the subject is taboo. It is a hard tradition to break. I hope to raise awareness with my photo essay.”

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