Forum Calls for Stronger Support of Women in Media, Peace Process

By Nyein Nyein 6 July 2016

RANGOON — While media coverage of women in peacebuilding has become comparatively more comprehensive than in past years, it remains a challenge to secure an interested audience on such themes, said participants of a media and civil society forum in Rangoon on Wednesday.

The forum, entitled “Women, Media and Peace,” highlighted the role of women in Burma’s peace process as well as their presence in the media. The discussion panel included representatives from the Nyein (Shalom) Foundation, the Women’s Federation for Peace, Myanmar ICT Development Organization and the Eleven Media Group.

Activists at the event urged media to support women’s roles in peacebuilding, pointing to a lack of stories which highlight female voices and concerns. Rather than simply reporting on events, media trainer Myint Kyaw told The Irrawaddy that he recommends journalists strive to cover issues—like those concerning women and peace—from “more interesting” and innovative angles.

Yet Nay Tun Naing, executive editor of the Eleven Media Group, said that part of the problem lies with media consumers, who continue to be more “attracted” to stories about women as victims, rather than as leaders.

Despite this perception, Nang Shan, coordinator of the Nyein Foundation’s Social Integration for Peace program, said she believes that media content focused on women’s inclusion in politics has improved in recent years—in both quantity and quality—and she hopes to this coverage continue to expand.

“Women’s involvement in peace would create a more sustainable peace,” she said, but added that challenges remain despite women’s ongoing efforts to be part of the country’s political future.

Women’s groups have been demanding greater participation in the peace process since it began under the government of ex-President Thein Sein in 2012, an effort acknowledged in the country’s nationwide ceasefire pact of 2015. But a 30 percent quota of women in political leadership, which has also been floated, has yet to gain the traction that some activists had hoped for.

In Burma’s upcoming Union Peace Conference, scheduled for August in Naypyidaw, a framework envisioned by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has placed social, economic, land and women’s issues outside of the main agenda. The conference will focus mainly on political and military themes, with other topics reserved for a parallel forum for civil society organizations (CSOs).

Nang Shan said she will persist in fighting for greater inclusion at the historic event.

“The CSOs’ voices in the peace conference need to be heard, and we are trying to find a way for it.”

In a consultation to prepare for the upcoming peace conference, five women, from both the Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process (AGIPP) and the Civil Society Forum for Peace (CSFoP), have been invited to give input on the issues raised by ethnic armed group leaders, but are not invited to be physically present at the peace talks.

Since Burma elected its first civilian-led government in a 2015 general election, female parliamentarians represent just 13 percent of the legislature. State Counselor Suu Kyi serves as the only woman in the Union’s executive branch leadership, and women serve as just two of the chief ministers of Burma’s states. At the village level, women make up only 0.2 percent of the administration.