In our culture, we, women are defined as a secondary sex. I still remember the words of the male villagers during my first visit to meet with their community. We were trying to collect the numbers of women-headed households for an assessment. It was in a meeting with the whole village. The men said, “We cannot accept the word ‘Women-headed household’. No matter who earns the main income, even if the husband is disabled or an alcoholic, women can never be the head of a family. Only the husband can control the family. Don’t spoil our society with this stupid word ‘Women-headed’.”
We returned with a blank in the column named ‘Women- headed households’. While riding the motorbike on the way back I was repeating in my mind, “Gender equality is not a concept, it is necessary.”
This experience drove me to be a Women’s Rights Program Manager with Partners Asia. Through Partners Asia, a small donor organization, I am supporting women’s activities and women’s organizations that are fighting for gender equality and women’s rights in Burma.
Burma is under democratic reform. The military backed civilian government approved around 200 laws in the last 5 years. Most of the laws are to repress activists and minorities. These laws are threatening Burma’s fragile transition. Among these laws is the Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Law. This law is blocking the freedom of choice of Burmese women and repressing women. Without the permission of a local authority, Burmese women cannot get married to men of another faith. Our government is protecting women as birds in birdcages and they are using us as pieces on a chessboard in their political game.
Women are Persons, not pieces on a chessboard and not birds in birdcages. So, LADIES, don’t let yourself be used as pieces on a chessboard in a government’s political game. Don’t let yourself be protected as birds in birdcages. Don’t let yourself be blocked from freedom and equality.