Monday, September 25, 2017

Peace process will not be ‘sustainable’ without women

The national ceasefire accord could be a watershed moment in the peace process but more input from women is needed if the results are to be long-lasting, participants at a forum in Nay Pyi Taw have heard.

On October 31, senior government and UN officials, parliamentarians, development cooperation partners and civil society representatives met in Nay Pyi Taw to mark the first Myanmar observance of UN Open Day on Women, Peace and Security.

The open day – held to commemorate UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security, signed on October 31, 2000, but not yet implemented in Myanmar – recognised the government’s efforts to address women’s priorities in different aspects of the peace process.

But participants also urged the development and implementation of a National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325, and warned that women, due to their social roles, are both disproportionately vulnerable to conflict and uniquely suited to – but too often excluded from – participating in peace-building processes.

Daw May Sabe Phyu, coordinator of the Kachin Women’s Peace Network, said women can bring their unique experience to bear on all aspects of the peace process, including providing early warning of conflict, defusing and mediating disputes, building trust and addressing sexual and gender-based violence. But she also noted that women are seldom involved in peace talks.

“Why do women need to prove themselves to get involved in the process? Traditional and social norms are keeping women aside. I don’t believe there will be a sustainable peace without meaningful participation of women,” Daw May Sabe Phyu said.

Daw May Sabe Phyu said women are often excluded from involvement in peace-building because of responsibilities at home, including child-rearing.

“People say it is very simple: Why don’t women come and join the peace talks? Due to social norms, women have to take care of many duties at home. They can’t go and join the peace table easily like men can,” Daw May Sabe Phyu said. “In reality, women are not formally asked to join the peace talks or agreement.

“We do not mean to speak on behalf of women. We wish women to speak for themselves.”

Daw Dwe Bu, a Pyithu Hluttaw representative, said she believes women are better at negotiation and mediation than men but their skills are being neglected due to social and traditional customs.

“During my three years in parliament, I have just had the chance to join the peace talks only this year, and only because I nagged for it through these years,” she said.

As well as the need for women’s involvement in peace talks, forum participants discussed the cost of conflict on women’s lives, with specific focus on violence, including sexual violence, against rural ethnic women and girls and those in IDP camps, where there is inadequate legal, medical and psychosocial response or systematic documentation.

U Aung Tun Khine, deputy director general of the Department of Social Welfare, said women’s participation in government institutions and ministries is creeping up but still isn’t hitting the targets set for senior positions. From 2008-09 to 2010-11, the percentage of women in government roles rose from 51.42 percent to 52.39pc, but women in senior posts only grew from 32.52pc to 36.61pc.

“We all need to encourage and advocate [for] more women’s involvement in development,” he said.

UN resident coordinator for Myanmar Ashok Nigam told The Myanmar Times that Myanmar needs to learn from the experiences of other countries on promoting women’s participation.

“It is not just at the top level; we have to work and ensure the commitment continues all the way down to women’s organisations who work at the grassroots level,” he said.

“We must protect women and girls from all forms of discrimination and violence and address their priorities in conflict-related relief and recovery policies and programs, especially economic recovery.”