Award-Winning Burma Peace Advocate: ‘The Process Needs More Women’

By Nyein Nyein 5 April 2017

An advocate lauded for her contribution to Burma’s peace process earlier this week has stressed that women should be involved in “every single step” of the country’s journey to stability.

Ethnic Kachin peace facilitator Ja Nan Lahtaw was honored by the European Union in its Schuman Awards, along with human rights educator U Aung Myo Min and the late prominent lawyer U Ko Ni.

One of only a handful of women privy to the inner workings of the peace process, Ja Nan Lahtaw told The Irrawaddy that women’s organizations and networks should work harder to help put more women in positions of power.

“Women need to take part in every stage [of the peace process]—not only at the key decision making level but as key players and supporters in general,” she said.

Ja Nan Lahtaw, who won an N-Peace award in 2015, is the director of the Nyein Foundation, known as “Shalom,” a long-time development organization that operates as a peace facilitation group. She is among a small cadre of professionals working as technical advisers to the process.

Her recognition, she said, was also because of her advocacy for more women to participate in the process. Despite the low number of women involved in the dealings, she explained, the idea of women taking part is being well received by leaders, including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Reflecting on the Schuman medal, she said, “It has given me the strength to move forward with the work I am doing, despite all the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Schuman Awards—named after former French Foreign Minister and founding father of the European Union, Robert Schuman—were established this year to recognize the merits of those in Burma defending peace, democracy and human rights, according to the EU delegation website.

EU Ambassador to Burma Roland Kobia said the three awardees “had dedicated their lives to working towards a better future for their country and all the people who call Myanmar their home.”

“They are ambassadors for peace, democracy, human rights and equality,” he said. “With this award, the European Union would like to honor the important work of our first Schuman Laureates.”