Civil society and media organizations have called for 30 percent women’s participation in the 21st Century Panglong Conference, the government’s next union-level peace event, at a forum held on July 6 at the Park Royal Hotel in Yangon.The forum, titled ‘Women, Media and Peace in Myanmar,’ aimed to raise awareness about the importance of women’s participation in the political dialogue phase of the peace process.
“We heard that, if it is necessary, the political dialogue framework will be amended but we don’t know if this will happen. If [the representative groups] amend the framework, we urge inclusion of 30 percent women. We urge them to require women’s involvement, not just try for it. But we actually had to demand a lot for them to even include the phrase ‘We will try for involvement’ [in the current framework],” said Daw Nang Shan, program coordinator for Social Integration for Peace with the Nyein (Shalom) Foundation.
The framework for political dialogue, drawn up by the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) under the Thein Sein administration, serves as the structure for the Union Peace Conference slated for late August. According to representatives of the nationwide ceasefire agreement signatory groups, the UPDJC will meet this month to analyze the framework, including the commitment in Chapter 2 to work towards 30 percent women’s participation in the dialogue.
“When we look at it, we find that men are considered the heads of households but women are actually the ones doing everything at home. If a woman leads her household, why can’t she lead other sectors? We are calling for 30 percent involvement because we don’t have that. If we already had this opening, we wouldn’t have to ask for it,” said Daw Thuzar Tin, the director for the Women’s Federation for Peace (WFFP).
The WFFP director added that although there has been a sharp increase in women’s participation in media and civil society groups, hovering around 80 percent of coordination roles, their presence in leadership roles remains weak.
Some activists, including General Secretary U Sai Nyunt Lwin of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), asserted that 30 percent in the peace process was not enough, given women’s broad involvement in other sectors.
“Why do they only request 30 percent? They should ask for more. They should at least attempt that. My view is that [participation] should be granted based on qualifications. If there are 100 women and 100 of them are qualified, they should be leaders. If they have the qualifications, they should not only be 30 percent.”