As Myanmar gears up for its upcoming elections, the country faces a challenge: After half a century under an authoritarian regime, many of Myanmar’s 30 million potential voters have never participated in a fair democratic election.
Thousands of librarians are mobilizing to help their communities prepare. Some people do not even know that they are eligible to vote. Others are unfamiliar with how to correctly fill out a ballot. And because some of the political parties’ symbols are similar, it can be difficult to distinguish between them.
Using resources from civil society organizations, the Ministry of Information, and the Union Election Commission, librarians lead election-day role playing workshops on how to correctly complete ballots and discussions on voter rights. With support from IREX’s Beyond Access initiative and Ooredoo, librarians in 55 communities provide widespread access to the MayPahSoh (Let’s Vote) app through library tablets and a free internet connection. They conduct outreach in the streets, markets, and shops to reach as many people as they can.
Through these activities, Myanmar’s librarians — who already serve as trusted information sources throughout the country — are working to increase voter turnout, reduce the number of invalid ballots, and drive broad participation in this new democracy.
Learn more about IREX’s work with partners Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation (MBAPF) and Ooredoo.