Burma

Women Underrepresented in Formal Peace Process, Study Finds

By Nyein Nyein 7 March 2019

YANGON—More than 670 women are contributing to peace building in Myanmar, representing nearly 400 organizations, but only about one quarter of them serve as delegates to the formal Union Peace Conference process, according to the “Women Contributing to Peace” map released on Wednesday.

The study, conducted by Nonviolent Peaceforce and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), collected data from August 2018 to January 2019. The map, intended as a quick guide, lists 674 women from 383 organizations who contribute to peace building.

The maps, compiled for each state and region of the country, include well-known women leaders as well as peace advocates who are less visible. They include government officials, parliamentarians (of both the Union and state parliaments), representatives of civil society organizations, political parties, ethnic armed organizations, and the media and private sectors. Most of them participate in peace negotiations in five key sectors: economics, land and environment, politics, security and the social sector.

The map is, by necessity, incomplete, and will be updated gradually. They are designed to help peace process observers understand who is engaged, but the authors do not claim that it includes everybody.

“I hope you will treat this map as a tool, not as artwork,” said Teresa McGhie, the director of USAID Mission in Myanmar, at the map’s release.

The joint release by USAID and Nonviolent Peaceforce highlighted that, “By illustrating the wide range of women and organizations engaged in peace-related activities across the country, these maps counter the claim that there are no women in Myanmar with the expertise needed to resolve longstanding conflicts.”

During the launch, there was a panel discussion focusing on the next steps for peace and security in Myanmar involving women with expertise on security, peace and gender and ethnic affairs.

A screenshot of the infographic ‘Women Contributing to Peace’. / ISP-Myanmar

Daw Khin Ma Ma Myo, the director of the Myanmar Institute for Gender Studies, who also participated as a delegate to the security sector discussion in the Union Peace Conference sessions, said the current peace process needs to be reviewed in order to overcome the current deadlock and to draft genuine basic principles that actually reflect the democratic federal Constitution.

She said, “The current deadlock will be slowly overcome, as everyone understands that peace is necessary for the country, but what the stakeholders need to do is to rethink how and by when they are to achieve peace.”

Sharing her own experience of being a UPC delegate, she said the key stakeholders, including the armed forces (the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, and the EAOs) and the political parties are upholding their position papers and defending them, so that is another factor contributing to the deadlock.

“Thus, the dialogues in those multi-stakeholder conferences [UPC] are not actual negotiations,” she said, adding that the back-channel or sideline talks, or small-scale talks prior to the main conference, are important in peace talks.

Countering the claim that Myanmar has few women who have the capacity and skills to take part in the peace talks, other panelists highlighted that mindsets need to be changed to acknowledge that there are many resourceful women in the field.

U.S. Ambassador Scott Marciel told the audience during his closing remarks that as Myanmar has a lot of women with “knowledge, expertise and willingness to contribute to the process,” it is important to include those women in the formal peace process and in all the discussions and dialogues.

“Around the world, research has shown that including women in the peace process greatly increases the chance that it succeeds and lasts,” the ambassador said.

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