The US State Department has recognized the parallel National Unity Government (NUG)’s deputy minister for women, youth and children affairs, Ma Ei Thinzar Maung, for her human rights and pro-democracy activities with the International Women of Courage (IWOC) award.
Established in 2007, the award honors women who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength and leadership to bring about positive change to their communities, often at personal risk and sacrifice.
The 27-year-old is one of 12 women to receive the IWOC this year. Other winners include lawyers, human rights defenders, women’s rights activists and parliamentarians from Nepal, Bangladesh, South Africa, Iraq, Brazil, Liberia, Libya, Moldova, Romania, Vietnam and Colombia.
A human rights activist since 2012, Ma Ei Thinzar Maung was the first female president of the student union of Yadanabon University. She was among several students who were arrested and faced violent crackdowns in 2015 for seeking changes to an education bill that limited academic freedom.
She has been involved in minority rights, including for the Rohingya, and has demanded an end to conflict in Kachin and Rakhine states.
The State Department announced [on Tuesday which is also international women’s day] that Ma Ei Thinzar Maung is an inspiring and influential pro-democracy voice, who emerged as a symbol of peaceful public resistance after the February coup, who worked to support peaceful activism like the civil disobedience movement and engagement with young people after the coup.
Ma Ei Thinzar Maung faces an arrest warrant and is in hiding but she remains committed to democracy and continues to work for a strong, inclusive and democratic Myanmar that respects human rights, the State Department said.
The award will be presented virtually next week. The State Department has recognized more than 170 women from over 80 countries with the IWOC.
Other IWOC recipients from Myanmar include the current NUG foreign affairs minister, Daw Zin Mar Aung, in 2012 and women’s rights activist Daw May Sabe Phyu in 2015.
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