IN DEPTH

Women in the cor­ri­dors of power

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - By Yola Ver­bruggen

De­fy­ing the odds in a coun­try where most high-rank­ing po­si­tions are held by men, more women are slowly climb­ing the lad­der in gov­ern­ment ser­vice. But their path re­mains strewn with ob­sta­cles and women say that pow­er­ful re­la­tion­ships are of­ten nec­es­sary for suc­cess.

Cen­sus data re­leased ear­lier this year showed that there are 1.7 mil­lion more women than men in Myan­mar. Even though they com­prise a big­ger share of the pop­u­la­tion, women are se­verely un­der­rep­re­sented in gov­ern­ment and the coun­try re­mains ruled by men.

A re­cent re­port by the Gen­der Equal­ity Net­work, an in­ter-agency al­liance work­ing for women’s rights, shows that two of the 36 Union-level min­is­te­rial po­si­tions are held by women: at the state and re­gional level, women hold four min­is­te­rial po­si­tions.

At the Union level, women head the Min­istry of So­cial Wel­fare, Re­lief and Re­set­tle­ment and the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, con­ven­tional port­fo­lios for women, and six women are deputy min­is­ters.

There are a to­tal of 26 women in the na­tion’s par­lia­ments, not in­clud­ing three un­elected mil­i­tary MPs: two in the lower house and one in the Yan­gon Re­gion par­lia­ment.

Women have also been ap­pointed to gov­ern­ment com­mit­tees and com­mis­sions and while they are well rep­re­sented in the ju­di­ciary,there are no women Supreme Court judges.

Myan­mar is ranked eighth out of the nine East Asian coun­tries listed the 2012 So­cial In­sti­tu­tions and Gen­der In­dex in East Asia and the Pa­cific, per­form­ing bet­ter only than Laos. Although Myan­mar ac­ceded to the UN Con­ven­tion on the Elim­i­na­tion of All Forms of Dis­crim­i­na­tion against Women in 1997 and is a mem­ber of the ASEAN Com­mit­tee on Women, there are con­tra­dic­tions in the con­sti­tu­tion on the sub­ject of equal­ity.

The con­sti­tu­tion says ap­point­ments to the pub­lic ser­vice shall not in­volve dis­crim­i­na­tion based on race, birth, re­li­gion and gen­der but the same con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion stip­u­lates that “noth­ing in this sec­tion shall pre­vent ap­point­ment of men to the po­si­tions that are suit­able for men only”.

An or­gan­i­sa­tion that has fos­tered some suc­cess­ful women is the Myan­mar Women’s Af­fairs Fed­er­a­tion, a gov­ern­ment-staffed NGO that im­ple­ments the poli­cies of the Myan­mar Na­tional Com­mit­tee for Women’s Af­fairs. For­mer pres­i­dents of the MWAF have been ap­pointed to im­por­tant gov­ern­ment po­si­tions.

Daw Myint Kyi, the first pres­i­dent of the fed­er­a­tion who was not the wife of a prime min­is­ter, is a mem­ber of the Union Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. She was suc­ceeded by Daw Thet Thet Zin, who is Deputy Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion and Forestry, who was in turn fol­lowed by Daw Mya Mya, who was ap­pointed to the Myan­mar Hu­man Rights Com­mis- sion after the gov­ern­ment re­placed seven of its mem­bers in late Septem­ber.

The pres­i­dency of the fed­er­a­tion is it­self a prom­i­nent role and was held by the wife of the prime min­is­ter un­til 2009, when the gov­ern­ment asked that this tra­di­tion ended. Since 2011, the wives of the pres­i­dent and the two vice-pres­i­dents have had cer­e­mo­nial roles as pa­trons of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The fed­er­a­tion’s new pres­i­dent is Daw Khin Mar Tun, whose ap­point­ment was an­nounced in Oc­to­ber.

Daw Khin Mar Tun has a PhD in Chem­istry and was a pro­fes­sor for years un­til be­ing ap­pointed pro-rec­tor of Yan-

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