Hu­man Rights Day pro­gramme aims at pro­tect­ing vul­ner­a­ble women

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

UNFPA, Fin­land and Swe­den are launch­ing a 3-year US$11.8 mil­lion joint ini­tia­tive to pro­tect the rights of women and girls in Myan­mar, ac­cord­ing to a press release on De­cem­ber 10. Work­ing with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional part­ners, the fo­cus is on the most vul­ner­a­ble women and girls in the re­mote and con­flict-af­fected ar­eas of Rakhine, Kachin and north­ern Shan states. The ini­tia­tive is a com­mit­ment to pre­vent and re­spond to violence per­pe­trated against women and girls in Myan­mar, and to re­al­ize their sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health and rights.

The agree­ment is signed in con­junc­tion with Hu­man Rights Day, marked on De­cem­ber 10, and the cul­mi­na­tion of the global cam­paign 16 Days of Ac­tivism against Gen­der-Based Violence.

“Women and girls of child­bear­ing age in Myan­mar carry ex­tra­or­di­nary bur­dens as deep poverty and gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion are com­pounded by armed con­flict and inter-communal violence,” says Janet E. Jackson, UNFPA Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Myan­mar.

In last month’s elec­tion, when the Na­tional League

for Democ­racy party, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won a ma­jor­ity, peo­ple cast their votes in the hope for change. With a stag­ger­ing 645,000 peo­ple dis­placed in­ter­nally – the high­est num­ber in South­east Asia – the chal­lenges ahead are daunt­ing. For women and girls af­fected by con­flict and forced dis­place­ment in Myan­mar, th­ese in­clude con­flict-re­lated sex­ual violence and do­mes­tic violence.

Called “Women and Girls First”, the UNFPA/Fin­land/Swe­den joint ini­tia­tive will pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive re­pro­duc­tive health care as well as emer­gency as­sis­tance, in­clud­ing post-rape treat­ment, along with coun­selling and sup­port to sur­vivors of gen­der-based violence. The ser­vices will be de­liv­ered through mo­bile and sta­tion­ary clin­ics, and through Women and Girls Cen­tres. The ini­tia­tive aims to in­crease un­der­stand­ing among women and girls of their rights, and to mo­bi­lize men and boys for gen­der equal­ity. It seeks to cre­ate av­enues for women and girls to voice their is­sues, con­cerns and expectatio­ns to de­ci­sion-makers. Work­ing with a broad range of stake­hold­ers, it will strengthen the ca­pac­i­ties of in­di­vid­u­als, com­mu­ni­ties and in­sti­tu­tions to bet­ter pre­vent and re­spond to violence, and to sup­port ex­pand­ing ac­cess to qual­ity sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health ser­vices.

“Dur­ing cri­sis, women and girls have vir­tu­ally no ac­cess to pro­tec­tion, se­cu­rity or jus­tice, in­clud­ing le­gal aid. Per­pe­tra­tors of sex­ual violence - whether they are fam­ily, com­mu­nity mem­bers or armed forces - act in an en­vi­ron­ment of im­punity. Against this back­drop, ac­cess to jus­tice and rule of law is es­sen­tial to im­prov­ing the safety of women and girls. It is an un­der­ly­ing aim that cross cuts all pro­gramme ar­eas,” says Silja Ra­jan­der, Coun­sel­lor, Diplo­matic Mis­sion of Fin­land in Myan­mar.

Women and girls have spe­cific needs that are of­ten ig­nored dur­ing cri­sis. While on the run or while liv­ing in shel­ters, they of­ten lack ac­cess to ba­sic sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health sup­port. With­out as­sis­tance by mid­wifes or pro­vi­sion of con­tra­cep­tives, women and girls are at in­creased risk of un­safe sex, un­wanted preg­nancy and un­safe de­liv­ery, and are at a higher risk of in­fec­tion by HIV and other sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions. At 200 per 100,000 live births, the Myan­mar ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity ra­tio is much higher than the South­east Asia av­er­age of 140, and in ar­eas of con­flict even higher rates are doc­u­mented.

“Women are the fab­ric that holds fam­i­lies to­gether. With this ini­tia­tive we are en­sur­ing their safety and health, and by ex­ten­sion safe­guard­ing the se­cu­rity and wel­fare of en­tire com­mu­ni­ties,” says To­mas Lund­ström, Coun­sel­lor, Em­bassy of Swe­den and its Sec­tion Of­fice in Yan­gon.

To­day, women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in par­lia­ment in Myan­mar stands at 4.42 per­cent, the low­est in South­east Asia. The Novem­ber 2015 elec­tion and Myan­mar’s demo­cratic tran­si­tion process is a mo­ment in history which may open the door for women to take a more ac­tive part in the coun­try’s so­cial, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. En­sur­ing gen­der equal­ity and the em­pow­er­ment of all women and girls is cen­tral to Myan­mar’s tran­si­tion to­wards a more demo­cratic so­ci­ety, and by plac­ing women and girls first, this ini­tia­tive is ded­i­cated to do­ing just that.

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