Burmese Women Honored for Activism

By Nyein Nyein 24 October 2014

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Two Burmese women activists and an advocacy group will accept awards from the N-Peace Network alongside other Asian peace activists at a ceremony in Bangkok on Friday evening.

N-Peace, a network of peace advocates active in six nations, is honoring 11 advocates from seven Asian countries with the N-Peace Awards 2014, for their work in advancing women, peace and security. The network is not active in Burma, but it does maintain contacts with Burmese advocacy groups.

The Burmese women are also participating in a two-day N-Peace workshop prior to the award ceremony.

“We reflect on, and find solutions to, the persistent challenges of peacebuilding in Asia,” Naw Ohn Hla, leader of the award-winning Burmese advocacy group, told The Irrawaddy.

Her Rangoon-based Democracy and Peace Women Network (DPWN) will be honored as winner of the “Thinking Outside the Box” category. Cofounded in 2012 by Naw Ohn Hla and Ma Thandar—both former political prisoners—DPWN raises awareness of human rights among farmers and campaigns against domestic violence. The former is of particular value in Burma, where land disputes and confiscations make headlines regularly.

Ma Thandar made headlines of her own earlier this week when she held a press conference to bring attention to the disappearance of her journalist husband. On Friday, she found out that her husband, Aung Kyaw Naing, was killed by the Burma Army.

“There is still more work to be done in boosting awareness of marginalized people’s rights as we, people of Burma, are still under the suppression of the authorities and face human rights violations,” said Naw Ohn Hla, whose group is active in lower and central Burma, and in Karen and Mon states in the country’s southeast.

Winning individual awards are a young peace activist named Wai Wai Nu and minority women’s rights activist Mi Khin Khin Kyu.

Wai Wai Nu is a former political prisoner and currently a peace activist and defender of the rights of marginalized women. Along with a Pakistani man, Shah Zaman, she is co-winner of the “Peace Generation: Young Women and Men Building Peace” award.

Khin Khin Kyu, an ethnic Mon woman who is also known as Kun Chan Non, will be honored under the category “Untold Stories: Women Transforming Their Communities,” together with four other women from Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal and Pakistan.

The N-Peace Awards were first launched by the UN Development Program (UNDP) in 2011 to recognize and profile women and men leaders and activists effecting positive change from the grassroots to national levels in Asia.

Coordinated by the N-Peace Network across Indonesia, Pakistan, Burma, Nepal, Afghanistan, and the Philippines, the awards spotlight women and men who demonstrate leadership in building peace and community empowerment.