On This Day

When Myanmar’s Women Were Given a Seat at the Table

By Wei Yan Aung 23 August 2019

YANGON—On this day 98 years ago, a mass women’s meeting in Yangon called on the colonial governor to send female representatives to the Burma Roundtable Conference in London, which would discuss Myanmar’s partition from India. The demand was made because the only representatives on the list of attendees were men.

Daw Mya Sein, the first Burmese woman to graduate from Oxford University and the daughter of then-Home Affairs Minister U May Oung, attended the conference in November in 1931. She was 27 years old at the time.

Daw Mya Sein served as a representative of Asia to the League of Nations and as a representative at the Geneva Women’s Conference; she was recommended for roundtable attendance by the British government and by several international women’s organizations.

In the colonial period, Daw Mya Sein took an active part in education and in social and women’s affairs in Myanmar, leading the Burma Women’s Council.

From 1950-60, Daw Mya Sein was a lecturer of history and political science at Rangoon University. After her retirement, she became a visiting professor of Burmese history and culture at Columbia University in New York.

She died in 1988 at the age of 84.