Women Hold Dialogue on Peace Process Inclusion

By Nyein Nyein 29 February 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — As part of a push to include more women in Burma’s peace process, women peace advocates held a three-day strategic dialogue with civil society leaders who are working toward the advancement and empowerment of women.

Members of the Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process (AGIPP) brought women from different backgrounds to Chiang Mai, Thailand for the dialogue—which ended on Monday—on the theme of “More Women in the Peace Process Equals Sustainable Peace in Myanmar.” AGIPP, a network of the eight women’s groups, has been actively advocating on the topic since last year.

Dialogue facilitator Nang Raw Zahkung, who is the deputy director of the Nyein (Shalom) Foundation and a steering committee member of AGIPP, told The Irrawaddy that the meeting in northern Thailand “aimed to share the views of the women in the peace process” and to develop “a collective approach to mobilize for the inclusion of more women.”

Nearly half of the fifty participants were parliamentarians, peace facilitators or female representatives from ethnic armed groups.

Drafted in late 2015, soon after the country’s so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement, the draft framework for political dialogue promoted a 30 percent quota for women’s inclusion in future peace talks.

“We aim for our representation to reach this 30 percent quota, as now there is not yet such a proportion,” said Nang Raw Zahkung.

Doi Bu, a former upper house lawmaker from Kachin State’s Unity and Democracy Party (UDPKS), said that women need to be ready to take part in the process.

“Even though women are more than half of the population, we tend to think of staying behind, mostly in the political arena and the peace building process,” she explained. “In addition, men also need to be reminded to be inclusive of women’s participation, as they are the decision makers, even sometimes making decisions to let their wives, peers or daughters to go to such a meeting.”

The outspoken ex-lawmaker was one of the parliamentary delegates to Burma’s Union Peace Conference in January, and will continue serving as delegate from her political party, of which she is joint secretary.

Nang Phyu Phyu Lin, the current chair of the AGIPP, said that “it is very encouraging that more women in some states, such as Shan [State], are also participating in the joint ceasefire monitoring team.”

She said that recommendations from the women’s strategic dialogue would be shared to the stakeholders in the Union Peace Conference.

But, for the nationwide effort, the general consensus is that there remains much work to be done.

“We must be interested not only in family affairs, but also in the community and in ethnic affairs,” Nang Phyu Phyu Lin said. “We must participate from the community level on up; without the representation at the community level, we cannot be at the high decision making level.”

The women’s dialogue on gender inclusion was also joined by foreign researchers and experts on the issues of gender quotas and gender content in peace processes and ceasefires. During the session, women also met with leaders of the ethnic armed alliance the United Nationalities Federal Council.