Activists Launch Campaign to Raise Awareness of Violence Against Women

By San Yamin Aung 20 November 2013

RANGOON — Activists will gather at People’s Park in the former Burmese capital on Sunday to take part in coordinated events worldwide urging an end to violence against women, event coordinators said.

The United Nations has designated Monday as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The day is also the start of a period of events to promote gender equality, a campaign founded in 1991 by the US-based Centre for Women’s Global Leadership.

At a press conference in Rangoon on Tuesday, Chan Nyein Aung, president of Charity-Oriented Myanmar, said the civil society organizations organizing events in Burma hoped to get the public involved.

“We are doing national level ceremonies and talks about gender equality and violence against women involving prominent persons from politics, business and the arts,” he said. “This event is specially intended to involve the public in the movement.”

Sunday’s ceremony will run from 3 pm to 6:30 pm, and will involve games, music and other performances. The event will begin 16 days of campaigning on Sunday, leading up to Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, in which activists hope news articles, as well as slogans and cartoons in the media, will address the issue of gender violence, said Shwe Yee Win, project manager at women’s empowerment group Phan Tee Eain.

“We will also do a ‘white campaign’ during the 16 Days of Activism. The white campaign is wearing white shirts or white accessories during the 16 days. It is intended as an individual movement to end violence,” May Sabai Phyu, from the Gender Equality Network, said.

In 2012, 22 organizations were involved in marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This year, 27 groups are involved, including the Myanmar Disabled Women Organization.

Organizers said violence against women was frequent in Burma, but that there were no reliable figures about the scale of the problem, partly due to a lack of reporting.

“Some people don’t understand that they are abused, and some don’t complain about that since they are afraid that it will hurt their pride,” Shwe Yee Win said.

She added that the Gender Equality Network was leading work to improve the situation, in particular by amending outdated laws that leave women vulnerable.

“In the existing law, if a man grasps a hand of a girl who is a stranger on street, they will be fined only 10 kyat [about US$0.01]. [The law] is not really appropriate now,” said Nandar, a trainer at Equality Myanmar.