New Political Party Aims to Put Burma’s Women in Power

By Lawi Weng 16 October 2014

RANGOON — A group of politically minded women in Mon State have formed a party to contest general elections in 2015, with the express goal of securing more seats for women in both houses of Burma’s Parliament.

The Women’s Party was founded on the principle of gender equality and aims to increase female representation in politics by creating an inclusive and welcoming space for women of all ethnicities to participate in governance.

Party Chairperson Mi Layaung Mon, also known as Than Shin, told The Irrawaddy that she and a few party leaders met with the Union Election Commission in Naypyidaw on Tuesday to discuss the measures necessary for official party registration.

“The commission is very interested in this because it is the first time women have had their own party in our country,” Mi Layaung Mon said. Their primary intention, she explained, is to give voice to women’s concerns and promote equal rights by ensuring that women hold more parliamentary seats. “There are many women in this country, with many different interests. Some want to work in civil society, some want to be business women. Others want to join politics—they can join our party.”

Committee members are still working on a constitution, which Mi Layaung Mon said will be carefully drafted to empower ethnic women and will establish the party as a potential network for women all over the country who wish to enter politics.

Mon State is an ethnic state in eastern Burma with two dominant political parties: the All Mon Region Democracy Party and the Mon Democracy Party. The state has a population of about two million, but estimates on the total ethnic Mon population in Burma vary widely, with the discrepancy not likely to be resolved until the full results of this year’s census are released.

Political unity has become a priority for many people of the Mon minority, but the possibility of a merger between the two main parties does not seem likely before the 2015 elections. Mi Layaung Mon said that she rejects the suggestion that creating a new party for women will divert support from ethnic parties. Even though most ethnic people want less fractured politics, she explained, there is a need for diverse female leadership, which a new party could address.

Mi Layaung Mon referred to a growing movement in Burma demanding a compulsory 30 percent female representation in both houses of Parliament. The Women’s Party will be fully devoted not to a particular platform or policy agenda, but to securing this representation for women, regardless of ethnic or religious identity.

“Some people treat women as equals, but some people do not want to give us our rights. We want to send a clear message to the women of this country that if we want our rights, we need to fight for them ourselves,” said Mi Layaung Mon.

In its current form, the Women’s Party has nine executive and 15 central committee members.