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Sixty women’s rights organisations gathered in Shan State, eastern Burma, on 18-19 May to discuss further inclusion of women in the country’s peace process.
The two-day seminar in the Shan capital Taunggyi was joined by more than 150 representatives from throughout the region.
The meeting culminated with the release of a six-point plan to step up efforts towards a nationwide ceasefire while providing women a decision-making role in the process; creating effective security; and increasing protection for women and children in conflict areas.
The group also strategised effective implementation of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which Burma signed in July 1997. The convention aims to tackle issues of rape, domestic violence, drugs and human trafficking.
Discussion centred mainly on issues most deeply felt by women in ethnic communities, and how their voices could be more meaningfully integrated into the peace process.
“Ethnic women are made to suffer oppression during conflicts, and so it will be more effective to have them involved in the peace process,” said Ja Kai, a Kachin woman from Namtu town in northern Shan State.
Thandar Oo of the civil society group New Generation Shan State, which organised the seminar, reiterated the need for female representation in the process.
“Leaving women out will make the peace process lopsided,” she said.
May Sabe Phyu, senior coordinator of the Gender Equality Network, told DVB by phone early this week that the government should find a better way to incorporate women into the process, which she believes will bring peace more swiftly while ensuring accountability throughout the process.
Burma’s decades of civil war have taken an enormous toll on women’s rights in ethnic areas. Rights groups claim that sexual violence is still being used to intimidate and torture ethnic women, particularly in troubled parts of Kachin, Karen and Shan states.
While a lasting peace could eventually temper abuses against women, so far all of the nation’s peace efforts have been overwhelmed with male representation.