There has recently been a turning point for women in our country. There will now be twice as many women Members of Parliament in government. To be more precise, the number of women Parliamentarians in both the upper house and the lower house increased by 13% as a result of the November 2015 election. While this is not a satisfactory number, it is an improvement.
At the same time, the Peace Negotiation Process recently accepted the long-time call from women activists to include a critical mass, or 30%, of women at the peace table. This is another improvement. The lack of inclusion of women in the nationwide peace process has been a concern since the negotiations began in 2011. The negotiations have been wholly male-dominated, with only a small percentage (around 0.3%) of women who can monitor and pressure the men at the table to include gender perspectives.
Despite these two important changes, there is a long way to go for gender equality in our country. The improvements I mentioned above are all about the numbers. Numbers are only a benchmark. It is not about participation or representation. These women leaders also have to fulfill the role of mothers or housewives at the same time. Theirs will be a challenge of qualitative involvement in the political, economic and social arenas. The next task for all of us—women activists and leaders—is to urge the new government to create a platform that supports the full and effective participation of women across all sectors.
Finally, under these conditions, it is important for me to share the advocacy skills I learned from the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship program as much as I can to all woman activists and leaders in my environment. I believe these skills will be very helpful to ensure we have complete and meaningful participation of women.
Htet Htet joined us in Ottawa for the 2015 Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. She completed six weeks of communications and advocacy training alongside two young women activists from South Sudan and Honduras. Htet Htet is now continuing her work to defend women’s rights in Burma.
Catch up on the 2015 Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program blog to learn more about Htet Htet