Karen activists welcomed the appointment last week of a woman to a senior role within the Karen National Union, but they also emphasized the ongoing need to expand women’s presence in the body’s leadership.
The KNU's Hpapun district chapter held its 10th congress from September 11 to 16, establishing a new executive committee at the meeting.
The new cast will be chaired by Padoh Saw Htal Dal, the body’s former secretary, and will also include Brigadier General Saw Mu Hal as vice-chair, Padoh Saw Ka Lo Mu Traw as secretary and Padoh Saw Lay Taw as joint secretary.
Naw Pae Wah, the chair of the Hpapun district Karen Women’s Organization, was among several new faces elected during the KNU district committee’s reshuffle.
“There have been many changes to the executive committee. The former secretary ran for chair position. The joint secretary was elected as secretary. A remarkable thing is that a woman has been included,” said Padoh Saw Pha Waw, another of the newly elected committee members and head of the KNU’s district-level Revenue Department.
The 33 district-level standing committee members were elected from among 50 candidates during a secret ballot held at the congress.
Naw Say Say Hal, joint secretary of the Karen Women’s Organizations lauded the election of a female representative, but added that more work needs to be done to balance representation within the KNU. Activists have previously called for at least a 30 percent female participation rate. The quota is outlined in the political dialogue framework.
“We feel overjoyed that a woman has been elected to the district-level EC. We hope there will be more cooperation and connection concerning women’s affairs in the future,” she said.
Female leaders have also been elected to the KNU’s district-level committees in Thaton, Doopalaya and Hpa-an, as well as to central-level committees.
In addition to the committee overhaul, the six-day Hpa-pun congress also reviewed the agenda over the past two years, and discussed the current political climate in Myanmar.
The KNU Central’s joint secretary Padoh Saw Hla Tun and officials from Thaton, Taungoo, and Nyaunglebin districts have assisted in the KNU’s Hpa-pun District Congress as the ballot commission.
A total of 108 military and civilian representatives, representatives of village groups, and observers from Lu Thaw, Bu Tho and Dwe Lo townships under Hpa-pun District attended the congress.
The six-day congress covered a review on the tasks carried out by Hpa-pun District within the two years, the submission of reports by respective departments and townships, re-inspecting the income and outcome of the district, and current political situations in Myanmar. Future district-level plans include conducting a local census, issuing documentation to local residents, finalizing the measurement of district and township border lines and implementing the Salween Peace Park, which was approved in early 2017.