In October 2013 I had the pleasure of traveling to Myanmar on behalf of my LexisNexis Legal & Professional colleagues to help embed the rule of law as a cornerstone of the country’s transition to democracy. We are working with various parties within the country, helping them rebuild this nation. Our input is welcome and valued, and we are using our expertise to really make an impact, which is so fulfilling.
On my trip to Myanmar we organized a Constitutional Awareness Workshop for 100 lawyers in Yangon. We partnered with experts from the Bingham Centre for Rule of Law to create relevant and useful content in English and Myanmar which focused on the country’s 2008 Myanmar Constitution, comparing it with other constitutions around the world. We delivered a ‘Train the Trainers’ style workshop, empowering Myanmar lawyers with the skills to conduct similar workshops on their own. The workshop facilitated lively debate on the constitution and the need for reform, featuring both academic and practical discussions amongst participants.
People ask me, “How do you know what to do? Doesn’t this overwhelm you?” and my reply is always the same – the world is full of injustice, challenges and problems; pick one, work hard to understand it, then work to find a way to solve that problem. When you do, you are part of an amazing journey in life, one that takes you away from the daily grind and into a world of change, hope and possibilities.
At LexisNexis, we believe in meaningful legal education which will build capacity in a sustainable manner. The people of Myanmar had been shut off from the world for decades. They weren’t used to being heard. They didn’t know what to make of this dialogue but they quickly warmed up to the notion. They were free to debate, to say what they thought, and that was liberating. Their eyes lit up, they were bolder, louder. It was an incredible transformation.
We discussed the right to vote, freedom of speech and assembly, the right to be free from torture and slavery. They didn’t know what the other democracies were like and I was happy to share a bit of the outside world with them.
At the end of that day, one lawyer stood up, held the constitution up with her hand and said to me, “I am sad for my friends who missed this. I am empowered. Just as we go to the villages and give vaccinations to women and children, we should go to the villages and teach the people about the constitution, because this is like a vaccine.” It was perfectly described. I was humbled.
Empowered with the knowledge and skills they acquired during this workshop, these lawyers then participated in a bus tour across six cities around the country where they conducted similar workshops for thousands of their fellow citizens. We started with 100 lawyers. We are now going to change the lives of 63 million people.
Myanmar changed my outlook on life and it changed the way I viewed LexisNexis and what we do. Anyone can donate money. At LexisNexis, we have the power, the network and the expertise all around us to provide access to laws and to empower people with knowledge of the law. This is what we do every day. We can stand together with heads of state and help shape the legal landscape of nations for the better. I have been privileged to be part of this transformation. We want to change the world, and we will.