Guest Column

An Open Letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Women's Day

By Wouter Jurgens 8 March 2019

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, a day in which we mark the key role that women play in our societies, in Myanmar, in the Netherlands and all around the world.

Much has been accomplished in securing equal rights for women, ensuring equal opportunity for women and ensuring that women everywhere around the world can participate in all aspects of society. With the #SheDecides initiative, the Netherlands contributes to promoting sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls, creating a movement that is vibrant and active.

Much has been accomplished, but many challenges remain. Therefore we must aim for #BalanceforBetter, the theme of WWD2019. It makes clear that a better balance is not only needed but that we all stand to benefit if we are able to accomplish this goal. A balanced world is a better world.

In Myanmar many people, women and men, look up to your picture on their wall. They look up to you as you embody the hope that people have for a better future in Myanmar. However, as you have said yourself, a better future requires peace in Myanmar. While women are usually not the cause of conflict, they should be part of the solution. There can be no sustainable peace without the input and participation of women.

Women should be given the opportunity to express what they need from the peace process, how they want peace to be shaped. Women represent half of Myanmar’s population. Their voice cannot be excluded. And they should not only speak on “women’s issues” or “gender equality.” Their perspective counts on any topic. Just as much, we need to hear men speak on all issues, including about gender and women’s issues.

You have fought for democracy and human rights for the better part of your life. You are a role model for many women in Myanmar. As state counselor and chair of the Union Peace Conference, you are in a position to set an example for a Myanmar based on diversity and inclusion. So if we want #BalanceforBetter in the peace process, then let’s not just talk about quotas but amplify powerful female voices, give them a platform, a seat at the table. All of Myanmar will benefit.

Wouter Jurgnes is the Netherlands’ ambassador to Myanmar.