INTERVIEW: ‘Gender equality is crucial to a culture of peace’

  • By Phyo Thiha Cho / Myanmar Now
  • 18/07/2018

Daw Khin Ma Ma Myo, director of the Myanmar Institute of Gender Studies (Phyo Thiha Cho / Myanmar Now)

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NAYPYIDAW — A gender equality proposal, outlining a 30 percent women’s quota in the peace process, was submitted to the “political” breakout session of the just-concluded Union Peace Conference in the capital Naypyidaw.

The conference ran 11-16 July and marked the third instalment since 2016 of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s “21st Century Panglong” series of conferences, which aim to inject life into a flagging peace process between the government and ethnic armed groups. Gender equality was also discussed in the “social” breakout session.

Women made up 120 delegates out of 700 delegates at the conference, or 17 percent, up only 2 percent from the previous year’s conference.

Daw Khin Ma Ma Myo, director of the Myanmar Institute of Gender Studies, was one of many conference participants who hope the peace process can lead ultimately to a re-drafting of the military-written 2008 Constitution, to allow greater equality across ethnic groups and across genders. Myanmar Now spoke to her on the sidelines:

  1. Is there anything special about the third ‘Panglong’ conference compared to the first two?

A: Everyone is discussing national policy, and, this time, there are more observers and more women.

How has the discussion on gender equality been?

[We discuss] what needs to be done regarding gender equality, gender-based violence, gender discrimination, and the relationship between gender and power. We need a policy on gender equality. Once we agree on the policy, we can discuss the details later.

How important is gender equality to the peace process?

This [conference] is for our federal future. We need peace in the country to form a federal union, and we need to promote a culture of peace to build a peaceful nation. Gender equality is crucial to a culture of peace, and relates to fundamental rights.

Do you think this conference has been meaningful, despite many of the more contentious political and security issues, besides gender, being off the table?

If we are talking about politics, we need to question what politics is. Politics is about people. If the rights of women—who comprise half the population—are not considered as politics, the politics of this country will never be perfect.

Women’s participation in every sector means participation in politics, too. If you think violence against women and the security of half the country’s population is not a political issue, I think there’s something wrong with your thinking.

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