The Day Burma’s 1st Female Minister Took Office
By Wei Yan Aung 16 March 2019
On this day in 1952, Mrs. Ba Maung Chain become Myanmar’s first female minister in the Union government when she was appointed Karen State minister, a post she occupied until March 4, 1953.
Born to a family of respected Karen ethnic leaders, Claribel Irene Po—who was more commonly known as Mrs. Ba Maung Chain after her husband, road construction chief engineer U Ba Maung Chain—was a prominent peace negotiator between Karen armed groups and the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League government during the civil war in 1949, a year after Myanmar regained independence.
She became the first chairperson of the Karen State government upon the establishment of Karen State in 1951, and later served as a trustee of the All Asian Christian Association, dedicating her life to the propagation of Christianity. Mrs. Ba Maung Chain died in 1980.
In Myanmar’s political history, there have been only four female ministers in the Union cabinet from 1952 to date, including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who serves concurrently as foreign affairs minister. After Mrs. Ba Maung Chain’s appointment as Karen State Minister, it would be another 62 years until the state in southern Myanmar got its second female minister, with the 2016 nomination of Daw Nang Khin Htwe Myint as Karen State’s Chief Minister—the regional chief position.