Sunday, March 8 marks International Women’s Day. This is a moment to honor every woman that has fought for equality, dignity and human rights. It is also an opportunity to remind ourselves of how far we have to go to achieve gender equality, not only in Myanmar but globally.
Today, the UK and Norway would like to take this opportunity to shine a spotlight on those women who play a critical role in achieving peace. Around the world, we have seen how women work as agents of change for peace. Whether it’s Libya, Colombia or Nigeria, women play a huge role on the ground, in reducing the impacts of conflict.
In Myanmar, we have seen that women are often the first responders in the aftermath of conflict, and we have seen how they have brokered harmony and peace in their communities. Women’s organizations in Myanmar are documenting human rights abuses, providing services to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, and negotiating ceasefires. We also appreciate the government of Myanmar’s commitment to this agenda, driving forward progress through its National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women. However, too often, women remain excluded from formal processes and efforts to prevent, resolve and rebuild after crises.
The UK and Norway are working in Myanmar to help promote women’s inclusion and meaningful participation. This is part of our general approach to the global Women, Peace and Security agenda. Whether it’s the UK’s support to local women’s organizations through the Paung Sie Facility, Norway’s support to state-level women, peace and development action plans through UN Women, or our common work with the Alliance for Gender in the Peace Process through the Joint Peace Fund, we are committed to empowering women and shifting the terms of engagement for gender equality and sustainable peace in Myanmar.
We are doing this because evidence tells us it is the right thing to do. Women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution improves outcomes, before, during and after conflict. Indeed, if women’s organizations participate in peace agreement discussions, agreements are 64 percent less likely to fail.
In the last Union Peace Conference (UPC), only 22 percent of the overall participants, including observers, were women, and only 17 percent of delegates were women. This does however mark an increase from previous years. In 2018, the UPC established a principle encouraging 30-percent involvement of women in every sector. It is the right time to move beyond a rhetoric of inclusivity, and act for equality. We are hopeful that women’s participation will increase to 30 percent and that the voices, needs and views of women and girls are better incorporated into agreements at the next UPC.
Today, we express our gratitude for the hard work being done by women in Myanmar at the grassroots and in their communities. We are thankful to those men who are allies, and who recognize the strength of women. Today, we call for bold action, because without gender equality and women’s rights, there is no justice or peace.
Dan Chugg is the British ambassador to Myanmar. Tone Tinnes is the Norwegian ambassador to Myanmar
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