MAWLAMYINE, Mon State—Women from Mon State calling for their rights and needs in peace and development will soon have their concerns developed into an action plan, Myanmar’s Minister of Pa-O Ethnic Affairs Daw San Wint Khine said.
From August through October 2017, more than 1,300 women from across the state participated in local consultations organized by the Mon State government, parliament, and civil society groups with the support of the Norwegian government-funded UN Women Myanmar.
Through discussions held at 10 townships in Mon State, women voiced cases of inequality they have faced and their concerns and priorities they wish to have addressed regarding peace and development in their state.
Discussion participants included administrators, village heads, officers from the department of social welfare and rural development, teachers from government schools and police officers.
Minister Daw San Wint Khine said there were demands from participants at village, township and state levels for laws prohibiting gender-based violence to be passed and for perpetrators of sexual violence to be punished without impunity.
Mon State has seen an increasing number of rape cases against minors aged 16 years old and below, according to local women’s rights groups. Yet, the rights activists stressed, in many incidents, the rapists aren’t punished as they are not taken to court because instead the case is settled through negotiation, often involving compensation.
During the discussions late last year, women also demanded sexual and reproductive health awareness programs and training at community level, Minister Daw San Wint Khine said.
In discussing the issue of economic challenges, women voiced demands for guarantees of equal [daily] wages between men and women, as well as to enact laws guaranteeing women’s safety in the workplace.
In education, women called for an end to the practice of assessing male and female students’ matriculation exam scores differently for university acceptance and to open training centers for orphaned, homeless and vulnerable youth.
A 30 percent quota of women in village administration was also demanded for the women’s participation in leadership.
“We will develop an action plan to implement their demands,” said Daw San Wint Khine.
The needs and priorities identified by the women regarding peace and development in their state were presented to the Union government this year and they are awaiting approval to develop an action plan, she said.
“I hope to launch the action plan at the end of this year,” she added.
A regional lawmaker from Thaton Township, Daw Khine Khine Lei, who chairs the Mon State Parliament’s Women and Children’s Rights Committee, said education for young girls in the state should be a priority in the action plan.
Many young girls have been forced to drop out school and go to neighboring countries to work to support their families, she said, adding that this can consequently be connected with trafficking cases, forced marriage and adolescent pregnancy.
Ma Cherry Soe from Mon Women’s Network said that after the action plan is drafted, she hopes it will address gender-based discrimination and violence in the state which women face in their day-to-day lives.
The women’s rights activist said turning the policies into actions would be most important.
“It is important for the action plan not only to be on paper but also to be implemented,” she said.