Zin Mar suffers from a deformity on her left leg. She was born in Kya-inn-Seikgyi Township in the Karen State of Burma. When she was 6 months old, she had a very high fever followed by violent seizures. She was taken to the village clinic and the doctor injected her with medication, which subdued the fever and the seizure. However, one month after the visit to the clinic she had an abscess on her upper left thigh where the doctor gave the injection. The abscess grew to the size of an egg, eventually breaking the skin. Unable to take her to the hospital for a check-up due to the high cost, her family removed the lump from her upper thigh at home and used traditional medicine to heal the wound.
Zin Mar attended school until grade 4. As she grew older, Zin Mar’s family noticed she was not standing normally or walking as fast as the other children. She was unable to walk without holding onto things and when she did walk, she could not go very far. They also noticed her left leg was gaining less muscle when compared to her right leg. Though they were concerned, they could not take her to a clinic as they had no means of transportation and it was too far and would be too costly for them. As she grew older, her left leg became deformed and the scar from her abscess never disappeared.
When she turned 10, a neighbor made crutches for her so she could stand on her own. However, Zin Mar outgrew these crutches a long time ago and currently she has to hold onto a family member to stand or walk. She is very self-conscious of her condition and rarely leaves the house. She hides her condition from her friends and other visitors by sitting in a chair and wearing a long dress. She cannot help with chores that require her to stand so she will help doing tasks such as laundry where she can sit, but unfortunately this also causes pain in her left leg. She also reports having a chronic headache and pain in her upper eyelids.
Although Zin Mar is lighthearted and uses a sense of humor to brighten the mood during her interview with BCMF, she has experienced a series of unfortunate events throughout life. An accidental fire engulfed her entire village in Karen State and it was burned to ashes. Her family left their village in despair and arrived in the town of Myawaddy on the Thai-Burma border in search of work 12 years ago and have since settled there.
When asked about income, she jokes and tells us she is “already retired.” Her mother owns a little wooden shack to sell betel nut (a traditional Burmese snack) and earns 200,000 kyat (US $200) per month. Her father works as a day laborer, earning between 70,000 kyat – 100,000 kyat ($70 – $100 USD) per month, depending on the season (the road conditions during the rainy season make it difficult for him to carry products, reducing his employment opportunities). Zin Mar lives with 9 other family members, but they are all unable to work due to various conditions. Her grandmother had a stroke a few years ago, her uncle is partially deaf, and her aunt has a mental illness. Though her other uncle went to find work in Malaysia, he was arrested there for working without a permit and returned to Burma. After the incident, her grandmother demanded that he stay home and take care of her. Her 5 siblings work as day laborers in Mae Sot when their employer needs them, an opportunity that does not present itself very often these days. When work is available, the boys are paid 120 Baht (US $3.80) and the girls are paid 100 Baht ($3.20 USD). All of their income combined is barely enough to meet their monthly expenses.
When asked about her future, Zin Mar says she wants to take care of her family, but moreover, she does not want her family to worry about her well-being when they can no longer take care of her. She wants to be able to support her family by working and helping with chores while standing and walking on her own. Her wish is to one day have her own store and sell products to support her family and her dream is to go to the market on her own.
Zin Mar is currently being fitted for an orthopedic brace and undergoing physical therapy in Chiang Mai.