Promoting female leadership in peace, politics and local administration will benefit the entire country, activists reiterated at a three-day forum held this week.
Around 300 representatives from around the country attended the September 19 to 21 Women’s Peace Forum in Hpa-an, which was organized by the Social Welfare Department, the Women’s League of Burma, and the Karen Women’s Empowerment Group.
Naw Thet Thet Tun, director of the KWEG, said the forum aims to lead the way to greater involvement of women in peace and decision-making throughout the country. Discussions revolved around women’s peace and security, issues around displaced people and refugees and women’s views on the current peace process.
Daw Nyo Nyo Thin, a women’s rights activist and former MP, said women are regularly side-lined and marginalized, but are more than qualified to take up top roles.
“Women don’t get any roles because they are not given to them,” she said.
“Women who are demanding greater women’s participation are all qualified people. They have shown how capable they are in various sectors,” she added.
Myanmar has among the world’s lowest rates of female representation in politics, with just 10.5 percent of parliamentary seats – including the military’s quota – held by women, according to the Asia Foundation. Women MPs also face discrimination and assumptions that they are not as qualified or educated as their male colleagues, and are further limited by political party structures dominated by men, and lacking policies to promote women’s participation.
In the peace process, women’s voices are still largely excluded. Rights groups have been pressing the government to adhere to a 30 percent quota for women’s inclusion since nationwide ceasefire negotiations began in 2011. The number was agreed to at the first Union Peace Conference in 2016, yet none of the subsequent conferences have come close to meeting the target.