MOULMEIN, Mon State — Several hundred Mon women from across Mon State gathered in the state capital Moulmein (Mawlamyine) on Thursday for the 12th Mon Women’s Day, encouraging local women to take a greater role in leading their communities.
In a statement released Thursday, the Mon Women’s Organization (MWO) urged the government and all state and non-state armed groups “to take responsibility for the lack of women actively participating” in the peace process, in building a federal state, and in the development of the rule of law in the country.
Mon women stand united with other ethnic minority women in Burma—particularly in conflict areas—to halt human rights violations against women and children, the statement said.
The event has been organized annually by the Mon Women’s Network—which the MWO operates under—for the last 12 years on the birthday of the 14th century Mon Queen Mi Jao Bu (or Shin Saw Pu).
Although it is 700 years since the time of Queen Mi Jao Bu, she was not publicly honored until the 21st century. Mon women launched the Mon Women’s Day in 2006.
“We are proud of our ancient queen and we honor her, but before commemorating her birthday as women’s day, we consulted the Mon elders in the state for approval,” said vice chairwoman of the MWO Mi Kun Chan Nom.
She was awarded the N-Peace Award by the N-Peace Network in 2014 in recognition of her efforts to advance the rights of ethnic minority women in Burma.
The event takes place on a different date each year as the MWO use the traditional Mon calendar, which is different from both the Roman and Burmese calendars.
The MWO share the demands of other female activists fighting for equality in Burma—to have at least 30 percent female participation in political leadership and the peace building process.
A strong and united voice of women is needed for Burma’s political transition to be a success, the MWO statement said.
Mi Lawi Han, the chairwoman of the MWO, urged women to be “a strength” in Mon national affairs as well as in building a federal union. Women’s strength is key “to achieve the equality that all the ethnic minorities want,” she added.
“Women need to try harder in working towards peace and security—taking Queen Mi Jao Bu as a model that women have the ability,” she said.
The Mon Women’s Network is a strong civil society network in Mon State with members in most of the state’s ten townships.
The network is dedicated to raising community awareness for the betterment of women’s rights, prevention of violence against women, and the participation of women in leadership roles within society.
“It was delightful to see more Mon women and men take part in celebrating Mon Women’s Day than ever before,” said Daw Tin Win, a local woman from Ye Township, who also volunteers with vulnerable women.
It was the result of public events highlighting issues to communities, especially with regards to empowering women, she proudly said.
Like other cities in Burma, Moulmein hosted an International Women’s Day event on Wednesday, organized by the department of social welfare and attended by Mon State social welfare minister U Htein Lin, other government staff, and members of local civil society organizations.
Daw Khin Than Htwe, chairwoman of local CSO Mon State Women and Children Upgrade Conduct Team, said the CSOs participated in Wednesday’s event to show solidarity with local and international women.
She said that all people, regardless of gender, must empower women to secure leadership roles in order to achieve the UN’s target of having a “50-50 planet” by 2030.