As millions of women around the globe took to the streets or rallies to commemorate the 106th International Women’s Day, the Karen Women Organization rose to the occasion to demand that more women are involved in the Karen National Union leadership and that they take part in the political decision making at all levels.
The KWO released a statement offering their solidarity with all women, “who choose to resist oppression, especially those who survive in conflict zones, as we have done for generations.”
The KWO statement in line with the International Day’s theme – Be Bold for Change – demanded to “more women in the KNU leadership.”
The KWO demanded that the Karen “community and leaders to encourage and actively promote women in leadership positions.”
The KWO wants to see “more women genuinely participating in Peace Talks in Burma.”
The KWO wants a stop to “harassment of women, verbally and physically” and urged all people in the community to put an end to it. The KWO stressed that “Harassment is a tool used by men to keep women down… if you do it, or see it, take action to stop it.”
The KWO demanded that the “KNU and the Myanmar Government fulfil their commitments to a basic quota of 30% women’s participation in decision making at all levels and especially in politics.”
The KWO said it will hold both the KNU and the Myanmar Government accountable and wants to see concrete action plans from the KNU and from the government in how they will achieve its pledge of having a “basic quota of 30% women’s participation in decision making at all levels, especially in politics.”
The KWO statement said that many Karen women leaders have been left out of history books, despite their sacrifices, contribution and achievments and it was time that they were recognized for their efforts in resisting the oppressors.
The KWO said that “women have worked tirelessly to make change, to serve the best interests of the people, who faced great danger with courage and humility. They are women who have made enormous personal sacrifices, lived with poverty, cared for children and family members and for neighbors. All of you know these women. They are our mothers and sisters, our aunties, daughters and grandmothers.”
KWO made reference to the women who took the place of men as “village chiefs who stood bravely in the place of men in times of conflict. They are the teachers and health workers, the students and workers, the leaders and members of organizations. Karen women have made and continue to make essential contributions to the processes of change.”
The KWO pointed out that the work of Karen women “is often not noticed, and not praised. We often are kept out of the decision-making positions, kept away from the tables of power.”
The KWO statement also highlighted that the conflict in Burma had forced many “Karen women…and Karen people have struggled for a life of dignity in [refugee] camps [for more than30 years]. Refugee life is never an easy one and is becoming harder and harder for us as basic services and resources are being reduced each year.”