A group of politically minded women in Mon State recently formed a party to contest the general elections in 2015, with the express goal of securing more seats for women in both houses of Burma’s Parliament. The Women’s Party applied to the Union Election Commission (UEC) in Naypyidaw on 14 Oct. to register as a political party.
Party chairperson Layaung Mon talked to The Irrawaddy about Burma’s first ever Women’s Party, which she said is founded on the principle of gender equality and aims to increase female representation in politics by creating a space for women of all ethnicities to participate in governance.
Why was the Women’s Party established?
Mon women have been engaging in women’s activities under the name of the Shin Saw Pu Organization in Mon State. Some of them are interested in business and some in social welfare works. They engage in the works they are interested in. Then, some are interested in politics and the idea of establishing a political party came into our mind. Looking at the Parliament, the role of women is very limited. In many areas, women can outperform their male counterparts. Therefore, with the aim of advancing women, the party was formed on 8 October. Then, we officially applied to Union Election Commission on 14 October to register as a political party.
What is the main objective of the party?
We aim to contest the general election in 2015 for the advancement of women. In certain cases, women do better than men. Women are not inferior to men as regards education. But women are rarely given the chance to take up decision-making positions. Women will be able to prove their importance if they enter politics. We will work to ensure true gender equality.
What difficulties did you encounter in forming a party for only women?
There were many difficulties. We received no assistance from any organization. Again, there is no financial support for us. We run the party with the money from our businesses. Only a few have helped us with forming the party. Perhaps, they think women can’t do it. [But] we’ll show how much women are capable of through this party.
Why was the party named the Women’s Party?
At first, we thought of giving it the name ‘Mon Women’s Party’ as it was founded by Mon women. Then we realized that the name would be limited to Mon nationals. We give the name women’s party because we want to represent all ethnic women. Since we are the first party representing women, we will cooperate with all women and then invite ethnic women and women’s organizations to join our party.
Are women very interested in the party?
Many women in all 10 townships in Mon State who have heard about our party are interested in it. In some townships, some have already showed their interest in joining our party. We plan to form township committees in those townships. After we map out the detailed organizational structure, we’ll launch campaigns to increase membership. We’ll also rally support of women in other ethnic regions.
Have you drawn up the organizational set-up of the party?
We’ve roughly developed the party’s structure and will continue to work on details. We will draw up an inclusive structure as we represent not only Mon women but all ethnic women. We are willing to change our organizational structure if some women organizations that would communicate with our party in the future don’t think it is good.
In which major constituencies will your party contest the coming election?
We’ll contest the coming election, representing entire Burma. We will mainly contest in Mon State and Tenasserim Division where there are many Mon people. If women from other ethnic regions join the party, we’ll help them contest in their home regions.
What difficulties did you face in registering the party?
No particular difficulties. The UEC only asked us to submit documents to certify that party executives are real ethnic people.
Where is the party’s head office?
Our party is temporarily headquartered at Shin Saw Pu Company in Moulmein, Mon State.