The Irrawaddy

Workshop Promotes Gender Equality in a Federal System

YANGON — Civil society representatives discussed how to improve gender equality and empower women, girls and sexual minorities in a federal system during a two-day workshop in Yangon that wrapped up on Wednesday.

The Gender and Federalism workshop was organized by the Forum of Federations (FoF), a global network on federalism and devolved governance, and drew some 70 representatives from local non-government groups working on gender equality, governance and peace.

FoF gender officer Ma Phyo Nay Chi said the forum aimed to promote the idea that gender issues be taken into account in the formation of a federal system.

“Gender equality is important under all systems. Gender issues needs to be taken into consideration along with the creation of federalism,” she said.

A pilot workshop on gender and federalism was held in Yangon in September, followed by the first official workshop in Mandalay in January.

Ma Phyo Nay Chi said the FoF also planned to conduct similar workshops in other states and regions.

Establishing a federal state was one of the ruling National League for Democracy party’s 2015 election promises. In its election manifesto, it pledged to work for a genuine federal union built on the principles of equal rights.

“In building a federal union, we need to consider addressing gender inequalities and ensure women’s rights within the system,” Ma Phyo Nay Chi said.

She said a decentralized system would allow for greater recognition of different cultures but cautioned that in such a system some of those cultures might encourage inequality between genders.

Professor Sandeep Shastri from India, one of the speakers at the workshop, stressed that empowering women and ending gender discrimination within a federal framework required the uniform application of policy across the country at all levels of government.

Ma Aye Mya Hnin Phyu, from the Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process, said it was also important to increase women’s participation in the peace process while at the same time building up the capacity of those women taking part.

“There are similarities between federalism and gender equality — both prioritize equity and justice. But we need to be patient with both processes,” she told The Irrawaddy.