Women’s Participation Will Bolster Chances for Peace: Report

By Zue Zue 18 January 2018

YANGON — A report on policies and strategies for promoting gender equality in Myanmar was released in Yangon on Jan. 15.

The joint report was produced by the Salween Institute for Public Policy (SI) and Women’s League of Burma (WLB), a coalition of 13 ethnic women’s organizations engaged in promoting women’s rights in Myanmar.

The report provides wide-ranging recommendations for policymakers and activists to promote the role of women in Myanmar’s peace process, nation-building and different levels of the legislative and executive branches.

It explains the importance of gender equality and advantages of women’s participation in leadership and decision-making, said officials of SI and WLB.

The population of women is significantly higher than that of men in Myanmar, and if women are treated as the weaker sex, men will have to bear the burden of their female counterparts in the long run, argued Shine Ko Ko Lwin, a manager of SI.

“So, will we men bear their burden or give them a hand and work together as equals? Don’t bear that burden. Working together as equals is beneficial to us,” he said.

The four-part report elaborates on the benefits of increased participation of women in politics and decision-making, arguing that it could further cement peace agreements and bolster post-conflict rehabilitation and administration processes.

“Women and children are hit hardest by clashes. So, it is fair to say that women want peace the most. But still, they are neglected. Without the voices of those who have borne the brunt, there will be no permanent peace,” said Mal Soe Soe Nwe who is on the policy-making committee of WLB.

Around half the peace agreements worldwide collapse within 10 years after the signing, but truces tend to last longer with higher women’s participation in the process, said Ying Lao, a deputy director with SI.

“So, we can draw a conclusion that Myanmar’s peace process is shaky now because of low women’s participation,” she added.

The report also identifies the legal, societal, and institutional barriers that bar women from taking important roles.

“There is a societal belief that politics and leadership aren’t suitable for women. Even women have that notion. We need to change that,” said Ying Lao.

Though political parties fielded women candidates in the 2015 election, voters tend to prefer men to represent and lead them, she claimed.

According to UNESCO statistics, 34.2 percent of women and 25.7 percent of men have completed a high school education in Myanmar, while 80.5 percent of those with master’s degrees and 80.8 of doctorate degree holders are women.

This figure indicates that the number of educated women is much higher than that of men in Myanmar, and the notion that women’s participation in politics and decision-making is low because of the low number of educated women is wrong, says the report.

The report is designed for stakeholders such as the government, Parliament, ethnic armed groups, Tatmadaw, political parties, civil society organizations, media and international agencies.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.