More than 400 women gathered at a peace forum in Hpa-an, the capital of Karen State, for three days of discussion on peace and security for women, and to commemorate the International Day of Peace on Thursday.
The Women’s Forum for Peace—held from Sept. 19-21—focused on sharing experiences through panel discussions relating to peace and security, internally displaced persons, violence against women and the women’s efforts in Myanmar’s current peace building process.
This year, participants included parliamentarians, the director of the government department of social welfare, and ethnic minority representatives from groups including the Akha and Wa, according to the organizers. Also present were members of the Women’s League of Burma, Gender Equality Network, Women Organization Network, and the Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process.
Those present said they had joined to show their solidarity for the women’s movement for peace, said Lway Poe Ngal, the general secretary of the Women’s League of Burma, which co-hosted the forum with the Karen Women’s Empowerment Group. This year’s theme for the forum was “Together for Peace.”
“We have to work harder and work more” to achieve peace and maximize women’s involvement, said Daw Zin Mar Aung, the Lower House lawmaker representing Yangon’s Yankin Township.
Daw Zin Mar Aung and other women lawmakers joined the second session of the 21st Century Panglong peace conference in May and participated in the discussions for each of five key sectors: politics, economics, social issues, security, and land and the environment.
Daw Zin Mar Aung said the political dialogue framework calls for the inclusion of 30 percent women among the representation, and that she has seen that “both the government and the legislative sector are trying to practice it.”
“But we still have to try to include more women, because there were around 17 percent women representatives in the last Union Peace Conference,” she said, referring total of 154 women out of 910 delegates and technical support persons, she said.
However, according to the government figures released after the Union Peace Conference, there were only 15 percent of women in delegate roles as their calculations indicated there were 105 women out of 700 delegates.
One of the aims of the current peace forum, Lway Poe Ngal added, is “to gather recommendations” for the government’s National Strategic Action Plan for the advancement of women, which was set for a ten-year timeframe, from 2013-2022.
“The voices of the ordinary people need to be heard by the decision makers; thus we invited members of Parliaments and the department of social welfare,” Lway Poe Ngal said, referring to inclusivity in the government’s national action plan.
The WLB, an alliance of thirteen ethnic women’s organizations in Myanmar, is a longtime advocate for women’s empowerment, women’s political leadership and participation in the peace building process.
“There is still no peaceful situation in the conflict zone, no stopping of war, and violence against women still continues,” Lway Poe Ngal said.
The advocates will organize an event for the International Peace Day on Thursday, with women planning to wear clothing with the slogan “No Women, No Peace.”