NAYPYIDAW — Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has called for more women leaders in her country’s government and Parliament, which have long been dominated by men.
Speaking in Naypyidaw on Friday, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and parliamentarian told a forum of female lawmakers from around the world that women in Burma continue to face widespread discrimination and lack sufficient representation in politics.
“Many people say Burmese women are perfectly equal in society—it’s not true,” said the 68-year-old chairwoman of the National League for Democracy (NLD). “Women are underrepresented in government.”
According to official statistics, of 200 ministers, union ministers and deputy ministers in Burma, only four are women.
“It’s because women lack access to education. Women in some other countries are in a similar situation,” Suu Kyi said. “Women are not playing a role in political life.”
Twenty women lawmakers from Asia, Latin America and Europe joined Burmese women lawmakers at the forum to promote female leadership. The event was organized by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) political foundation of Germany.
Suu Kyi called for greater gender equality in her country’s 659-seat Parliament, which includes only 20 women lawmakers.
“I would like to see more women parliamentarians involved in the political field. Burmese women are capable in this field,” she said. “There is very low involvement of women in the legislature in this country. … It’s because we have been under the military [dictatorship] for half a century.”
She added, “The Constitution was drawn by the military government, and by male military parliamentarians, so it should be amended to reduce gender discrimination.”
Suu Kyi, who was elected to Parliament in by-elections last year, said she drew strength as a child from her mother, who raised her and her two brothers.
“My father died when I was 2 year old. I grew up with my mother. She was very capable, very principled. She told us who our father was and asked us to be proud of him,” the democracy icon said. “She was absolutely essential.”
Burmese participants at the forum included women lawmakers from the NLD, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and other smaller parties.
Phyu Phyu Thin, a member of the Lower House, said women lawmakers faced challenges in Parliament. “Sometimes older male parliamentarians discriminate against us, acting as though women parliamentarians are young and under experienced,” she said.