To mark International Women's Day 2016, for which the official theme is #PledgeForParity, we are profiling some of our female peacebuilders around the world and asking them: What can gender parity mean for peace?
Myat Thandar Ko, Myanmar
Myat Thander Ko is a Programme Coordinator for our work in Myanmar.
Briefly describe your professional background and what you are currently working on.
I have a Masters degree in International Development, and more than 18 years of experience in working in senior management for private businesses and the humanitarian sector.
As Programme Coordinator for International Alert in Myanmar, my current work involves developing a country strategy. I identify fundraising opportunities and implement programmes and activities. I also provide development consultancy and training services to other local NGOs.
What are the challenges and opportunities for gender equality in your country?
Many NGOs and local organisations are implementing empowerment programmes for women and there has been a lot of research conducted into gender equality in Myanmar. International donors are also providing gender awareness training to communities and promoting gender sensitivity in their development projects, while some organisations are advocating for policies (such as the National Land Use Policy) to be more gender sensitive.
While this points to a number of opportunities for bringing about gender equality, some big challenges remain in Myanmar. Gender discrimination still exists, especially in ethnic regions due to strong cultural and religious traditions. While Myanmar signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1997, it remains weak in practice. And although the ministry of social welfare has created a women’s welfare department to provide support for women, young girls and children, there is still a lack awareness of gender issues among government ministries.
Another challenge is the widespread assumption that organisations implementing empowerment programmes for women are activist groups, meaning these are not positively supported by communities. There are also very few organisations which are engaging men and the wider community in their gender projects.
What role do you think gender equality/ women’s empowerment could play in long-term peace?
Domestic violence is happening in all regions of Myanmar because of gender discrimination and inequality. Politicians and development projects must understand that an awareness of gender issues is critical if we are to build long-term peace in Myanmar.
Which women inspire you and why?
There are many types of women who inspire me in the way they manage their family, business responsibilities and professional career efficiently.
Will you be celebrating Women’s Day this year? How?
Yes, I’ll participate in some International Women Day celebration events in Myanmar.