Women Candidates on the Rise for YCDC Elections

By Zue Zue 1 March 2019

YANGON — More women candidates (16 percent of total candidates) will be contesting in the upcoming Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) election at the end of this month.

Of a total 272 candidates registered for the election, 44 are women aiming for city committee seats, head of township positions and township committee seats.

According to the YCDC Election Commission, 105 people will be elected to YCDC positions. Six of them will take YCDC central committee positions and the 99 others will be elected to the 33 township committees. There are three township committee members for each township. The deputy mayor will then be appointed from the elected YCDC members.

The candidates canvassed for one month from Feb. 28 to March 29.

“We welcome having more women candidates on the list. Not only the candidates, we women need to be elected to serve as committee members,” said Daw Khin Lay, director of Triangle Women’s Support Group.

She said the majority of people focus on parliamentary elections, but the local ward, village and city development committee members are the one who deal directly with the people on a day-to-day basis in solving problems related to litter, water and taxation. Therefore, she said, having women in those positions is crucial.

“I totally agree that women would do their best to solve these challenges if they are elected. Women face similar challenges in their daily life and thus they will be able to do it well,” she added.

When compared to the 2014 YCDC election in which 32 women contested alongside 261 men, the number of women candidates this year rose from 11 to 16 percent. “But it is still not adequate,” said U Kyaw Htin, program director of the Yangon-based New Myanmar Foundation, which is raising awareness, holding workshops and advocating for the amendment of Yangon City municipal laws. The foundation also plans to monitor the upcoming YCDC election, especially the success of the women candidates and the contribution of women voters.

“According to the ratio of Yangon’s population, women candidates should make up half [of the candidates]. More women should contest for these important positions in the YCDC,” he said.

He said women’s perspectives are important in dealing with the urban development works including litter, markets and drainage systems that are important issues for urban families. He is confident that the city’s development performance would be better and said research shows that when women mayors are elected, capacity and performance rises.

In the new YCDC law, everyone above 18 years old is eligible to vote, which didn’t happen in 2014. During the 2014 YCDC election, only one person per household, meaning the head of a household, was allowed to vote.

Many women’s rights activists believe that this new provision to the YCDC law gives the women candidates a better chance.

Ma Htet Htet Tun, a professional model and candidate running for election told The Irrawaddy that she is preparing to prove that she can be trustworthy.

“Being a model, people are worried that I may be more interested in putting on makeup than serving in this kind of [role]. I would like to prove [them wrong] and will try to earn their trust and fulfill their wishes. I want votes from the people who believe in me.”

She will contest for Yangon’s Constituency Number 3, which covers 12 townships. She also has her sights set on the position of deputy mayor.

“For the city to be clean and developed, everyone who lives in Yangon needs to change their minds, their commitments and follow [good] leadership. I want them to change. If they change these thoughts, not only on the litter issues, but I believe everything else will change too,” she added.