Paving the Way Towards Women’s Political Participation in Myanmar
Author: Shwe Yee Ye Myint
Advisor: Asst. Prof. Pobsook Chamchong, PhD
Despite the implementation of the NSPAW, women in Myanmar continue to face significant barriers in accessing political power and participation. The underrepresentation of women in political decision-making processes is a persistent issue in Myanmar (Carnegie, 2020). Despite women constituting nearly half of the country’s population, they hold only a small fraction of political positions at all levels of government (Chandra, 2021). The Constitution of 2008 designated 25% of seats in parliament and sub-national legislatures for women to increase the number of women in positions of political power (Minoletti, 2019). Women also face significant social and cultural barriers to political participation, including gender-based discrimination and violence.
While the NSPAW set forth several objectives aimed at increasing women’s political participation, it is unclear to what extent the plan has been successful in achieving these goals. A comprehensive measure of the NSPAW in promoting women’s political participation is necessary to identify the gaps in policy implementation and the key factors that have contributed to the limitations of the plan. The problem statement of this research, therefore, is to measure how successful the NSPAW has been in advancing gender equality and enabling women to take part in political affairs in Myanmar by identification of the key factors that have contributed to the success or limitations of the plan.
The NSPAW is a national policy document that describes the efforts of the Myanmar government to advance women’s rights and gender equality. The NSPAW was adopted in 2016 and is intended to guide the government’s efforts in this area for the next five years. The NSPAW includes a number of key policies and strategies that target political participation for women in Myanmar. These include:
- The NSPAW calls on the federal government to pass legislation that will eliminate barriers to women’s participation in politics. These barriers include, but are not limited to, discriminatory laws and practices(Howe, 2022). This covers laws that discriminate against women in politics as well as legislation that restrict women’s access to education and career opportunities (Min, 2016).
- The NSPAW calls for the government to establish a quota system for women in government, with the goal of ensuring that women hold at least 30% of all government positions. This would be a significant increase from the current percentage of women holding political office, which is just 15% (Brody, 2016).
- The NSPAW calls for the government to provide training and support for women candidates who are running for political office. This includes training on campaign management, public speaking, and fundraising. Additionally, the government need to give financial assistance to women who are interested in operating for office but do not have the financial resources needed to do so(Latt, 2017).
- The National Organization for Women urges policymakers to do more to advance women in government. This includes addressing the issue of violence against women in politics, as well as providing childcare and other support services for women who are working in politics.
The successful implementation of the NSPAW will require the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders, including:
The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the plan, while other ministries and government agencies such as the Ministry of Health and Sports, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population, and the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry have roles to play in promoting gender equality and empowering women. To put the NSPAW into action, the government of Myanmar has passed legislation to advance women’s rights, set up a quota system for women in government, and offered training and assistance to female candidates. The government seeks to create an inclusive political system where women have equal opportunities and influence in shaping policies and governance processes (Chandra, 2021).
- Civil Society Organizations
Civil society organizations (CSOs) are important stakeholders in promoting gender equality and empowering women in Myanmar. They play a key role in monitoring the implementation of the NSPAW and advocating for policy changes to address gaps and challenges. Several civil society organizations (CSOs) in Myanmar work hard to advance women’s rights and gender equality. These include the Gender Equality Network, the Women’s Organizations Network, and the Women’s League of Burma (Murage, 2017). CSOs, including women’s rights organizations and community-based groups, aim to advance women’s political participation and ensure that their rights and voices are heard.
- Private sector
The private sector also has a role to play in promoting gender equality and empowering women in Myanmar. Private companies can support the implementation of the NSPAW by adopting gender-sensitive policies, promoting women’s leadership in the workplace, and supporting women-owned businesses (Perekrestova, 2021). For example, the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association has developed a code of conduct that requires its members to provide equal opportunities for women in the workplace.
- Development Partners
Important stakeholders in the implementation of the NSPAW include international organizations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). They provide technical assistance, financial resources, and expertise to support the government’s efforts in promoting gender equality and empowering women.
The media plays a crucial role in shaping public opinion and influencing policy. Media organizations can raise awareness of gender issues and promote positive portrayals of women in the media. They also have the ability to hold government officials and other stakeholders accountable for their promises to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. For example, the Democratic Voice of Burma has been reporting on the challenges that women face in participating in politics.
The NSPAW also outlines the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders. However, there are a number of gaps between the interests and needs of the stakeholders and the NSPAW. The following are some specific examples of what the NSPAW is not doing that would help to meet the interests and needs of the stakeholders:
- The current funding levels are not enough to achieve the plan’s goals(Burnley, 2016). The government should increase funding for the NSPAW so that it can be implemented effectively.
- The government must be committed to the goal of gender equality and must be willing to make the necessary changes to achieve it. The NSPAW should include a stronger focus on building political will for gender equality.
- There is a lack of coordination between the different stakeholders involved in implementing the NSPAW. This makes it difficult to achieve the plan’s goals. The NSPAW should include a stronger focus on coordination between the different stakeholders.
- There is a lack of awareness of the NSPAW among the general public(Minoletti, 2016). This makes it difficult to achieve the plan’s goals. The NSPAW should include a stronger focus on raising awareness of the plan among the general public.
In order to measure NSPAW in promoting women’s political participation, it is important to first understand the current situation in Myanmar. According to the World Bank, women make up only 14% of elected officials in Myanmar. This is significantly lower than the global average of 24%. Women are also underrepresented in decision-making positions in the private sector and civil society (Chandra, 2021). A future where women hold equal numbers of elected offices and decision-making positions is ideal for the political participation of women in Myanmar. To do this, there needs to be a dramatic increase in the number of women holding elective and appointed positions of power (Elections, 2015).
There are a number of pathways that can lead from the current situation to the desired future. One pathway is to implement policies and programs that specifically target the barriers that prevent women from participating in politics. The lack of access to education and training, the lack of financial resources, and the social and cultural norms that prohibit women from engaging in civic activities are all examples of these types of challenges. Another pathway is to change cultural norms and attitudes that discourage women from participating in politics.
The NSPAW has achieved some headway in its mission to increase women’s representation in government. For instance, the plan helped in the rise of female representation in municipal administration (Minoletti, 2014). However, the plan has not yet had a significant impact on the number of women who are elected to national government positions.
In addition to the above, the following are some of the key factors that have contributed to the success or limitations of the NSPAW in promoting political participation for women in Myanmar:
- The success of the NSPAW has depended on the political will of the government. The government has made some progress in implementing the plan, but there is still a need for greater political commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment(Maber, 2014).
- The NSPAW has also benefited from the passage of gender-sensitive legislation. The Myanmar Gender Equality Law, which was passed in 2015, provides a legal framework for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
- The NSPAW has also been successful in raising awareness of gender equality and women’s empowerment(Perekrestova, 2022). A broad range of outreach methods, such as educational and awareness-raising campaigns, have been utilized in the promotion of the plan (Latt, 2017).
- One challenge is the lack of resources. The government has not provided enough resources to fully implement the plan. Another challenge is the lack of capacity(Brody, 2016). Therefore, the government and civil society organizations do not have the capacity to implement the plan effectively.
The present quota system for women in government is set at 30 percent of all available positions. This is a good beginning, but unfortunately it is not sufficient. It is imperative that the quota system be enhanced in order to guarantee that at least fifty percent of all government positions are held by women. On the other hand, Women who are interested in running for political office are encouraged to take advantage of the NSPAW’s request for the government to offer them training and support. The existing degree of training and support, on the other hand, is insufficient. The government ought to give training and support that is both more thorough and more specifically targeted.
Foster an atmosphere in politics that is more welcoming and encouraging to women. It is imperative that the government foster an atmosphere that is more encouraging of women in political roles. This includes addressing the cultural norms that prohibit women from engaging in government and providing childcare and other support services to women who are working in politics.
In addition to the suggestions that have already been made, the government of Myanmar could put the following additional recommendations for policy into action:
- The NSPAW could be amended by the government in order to raise the quota for women serving in government from 30 percent to 50 percent. It is also possible for the government to offer financial incentives to political parties in the event that they nominate and elect female candidates.
- It is possible for the government to grant financial assistance to women’s organizations in order to assist those organizations in their mission to educate and encourage women to run for political office. Through government institutions such as the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, the government may also provide women candidates with training and support.
- Laws that protect women from violence, particularly violence that is motivated by a woman’s political activity, could be enacted by the government. Women who have been victims of violence may be eligible for support from the government in the form of counseling and financial assistance.
- Women who are working in politics could benefit from the government providing support services such as childcare and other forms of assistance. It is also possible for the government to work toward changing cultural norms that restrict women from joining in government service.
The government of Myanmar can help ensure that the NSPAW is a success and that women in Myanmar are able to fully enjoy their rights and opportunities within the political sphere by putting these policy recommendations into action and ensuring that they are implemented.
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