NAYPYIDAW — Burma’s female politicians are optimistic that the increased number of women elected to the Union Parliament will spur the next government to take action on a number of prominent and neglected issues.
During a two-day roundtable discussion held in Naypyidaw by the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracies (DIPD), more than 40 women leaders and politicians from 19 political parties, including the National League for Democracy (NLD) and other small ethnic parties, gathered to discuss women’s engagement in the political process.
Nan War Nu, an outgoing lawmaker for the Shan National Democratic Party, who lost her bid for re-election in November, told The Irrawaddy that she is confident the new government will be able to conclude the peace process, which would be crucial for women and children still living in camps for internally-displaced persons.
“In order for these IDPs to go back home, we need peace. I believe that an NLD-led government can achieve this. A related issue will be confronting violence aimed specifically at women and children,” she said. “The quality of candidates will speak for itself. Quantity won’t matter. We’re just waiting to see what they can do.”
Cing Ngaih Mang, an Upper House MP-elect for the Zomi Democracy Party in Chin State, said that women had powerful roles to play in national politics, particularly in ethnic areas.
“As a mother and a female politician, I can help them [women in ethnic areas] promote and better their own lives. If more women have voices in Parliament, the outlook of women in these areas could become stronger,” she said.
Though more than 100 female NLD candidates were elected in the recent election, some are worried about how their political roles might be overshadowed by party chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi.
During the election campaign, a party edict required NLD candidates to gain the approval of Suu Kyi and the party’s central executive committee to speak on most issues. Rival parliamentarians say that NLD lawmakers should work to serve their constituents and other MPs, rather than prioritizing the instructions of the party leadership.
“Candidates should work for the people. We’ve attempted many times to help women through the Parliament but we weren’t successful,” Khin Saw Wai, a Lower House lawmaker for the Arakan National Party, told The Irrawaddy. “I believe this second session will be better than the first because more of the parliamentarians will be women.”
Zin Mar Aung, the NLD’s elected MP for the Lower House seat of Yankin, agreed that the next parliament in Naypyidaw would benefit from the greater proportion of women elected to public office.
“If more women can participate in important political decision-making, this will be a positive step for Burma’s transition,” she said.