Female Candidate Wins Local Election in Mon State

By Lawi Weng 18 January 2016

RANGOON — Former school teacher Mi Ja Lon Htaw was elected head of Tarana village tract in Mon State’s Kyaikmayaw Township on Sunday, a rare victory for a female leader in a local administrative structure traditionally dominated by men.

The 41-year-old ethnic Mon woman successfully contested Sunday’s local level poll against three male counterparts.

“Two hundred and twenty people voted and I won 140 votes. I felt very happy when I found the people supported me,” said Mi Ja Lon Htaw, a former Mon language teacher with the Mon National Education Department.

“I worked a lot for my community’s development. This was how the people got to know me well. This is why some people encouraged me to run in the election,” she said.

Mi Ja Lon Htaw said her first priority would be to obtain electricity for her village. She also vowed to tackle local corruption, citing instances where villagers gave money to administrative heads to secure recommendation letters to travel and obtain ID cards.

According to a June 2014 paper by The Asia Foundation, “Women’s Participation in the Subnational Governance of Myanmar,” women accounted for only 0.11 percent of ward and village tract administrators around the country.

“Women and Local Leadership,” a report issued by the UN Development Programme in Myanmar in November 2015, established that, following the passing of the Ward or Village Tract Administration Law in 2012, only 42 (or 0.25 percent) of 16,785 elected ward or village-tract heads were women.

After the country’s recent general election, the number of female MPs in Union Parliament will more than double on current figures, a percentage that will nevertheless remain well shy of the 30 percent representation for women that is widely cited as the figure to strive for globally.