In 2011, half a century of military rule came to a end in Myanmar, signalling hope for a democratic future, free from discrimination and inequality. Five years on, little had changed for women. Deep-rooted prejudices and attitudes continued to exclude women from the decision-making process —from the village council to the country’s parliament.
The Circle supported an Oxfam project that gave women the opportunity to change the face of politcs, giving them the chance to play a leading role in shaping their country’s future.
In the run-up to the elections, Oxfam worked with local partners in the regions of Yangon and Ayeyarwady to help strengthen women’s groups, giving women the skills and confidence to become local leaders and teaching them how to effectively build their debating and fundraising skills, to enable them to run effective election campaigns.
Despite the statistics, the women of Myanmar are slowly but surely turning up the volume to get their voices heard: on 8 November 2015 the country held its first open general election in 25 years and 800 out of the 6000 candidates were women —that is about eight times more than ran for the elections in 2010.
Last year, the activities of this project included:
• The creation of 25 women’s groups which informed their communities about their right to vote, about opportunities to hear local candidates talk and about the rights that women are entitled to under national and international laws, and supported candidates and campaign organisers to run successful campaigns. The groups were added to the Women’s Organisation Network and a workshop was held for the network, in order to encourage collaboration between the new and the existing groups.
• 149 mobilisers were trained to work with women’s groups and developed plans to support women’s political participation.
• 300 political activists, women candidates and campaign organisers took part in a workshop were various political topics were discussed, such as the structure of the parliament, Myanmar’s current political situation, ways to politically engage the people of their communities and laws which guarantee women’s rights.
• 60 local and national candidates were provided with materials aimed to develop their fundraising and debating skills.
Pyone Pyone Zin’s story
“In 2014, I was given a chance to attend a training about gender, women’s rights, and women’s involvement in politics. After I came back to my home town, I shared my knowledge with other women. As some women were interested in working for women’s rights, we formed a women’s group. Now over 30 women are part of the group. Our vision is to share our knowledge and to conduct the trainings in five different villages. Moreover, we hope that, by conducting refresher training, more activists will emerge in every nearby village, to be involved in women rights and the fight for gender equality. In 2015, I was chosen as a village mobiliser. I received training, and then trained village facilitators and women group members. I have educated 13,000 people in our township on their right to vote. When I provide voter education, I am continually campaigning for people to vote for women candidates.
“After I carried out voter education training, one woman participant said to me ‘I did not know that women have the right to vote before, and that women have equal opportunities as men’. I would like to tell everyone that they have the opportunity to vote for candidates, and a say in electing a leader who will bring changes to our country.”