Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Alliance wants creation of committee to push for women in peace process

The Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process (AGIPP) is demanding that a committee be formed to monitor issues of gender equality and women’s participation in the peace process, including a coming political dialogue.

Delegates walk through the convention centre during the third day of the Panglong Conference in Nay Pyi Taw on September 2. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar TimesDelegates walk through the convention centre during the third day of the Panglong Conference in Nay Pyi Taw on September 2. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar Times

Calls for implementation of a minimum 30 percent quota for female participants were not heeded for last week’s 21st-century Panglong Conference, which saw an overwhelmingly male roster of attendees gather in Nay Pyi Taw for four days of speeches.

In a statement published September 3, AGIPP acknowledged improvement compared with a similar peace conference held in January, but pushed for more women’s inclusion.

“At the 21st-century Panglong Conference, women’s participation rose up to 13pc from 7pc at the Union Peace Conference, which was held in January. But it is still necessary to reach for the agreed 30pc quota,” said Nang Phyu Phyu Lin, a member of AGIPP who was granted observer status at last week’s conference.

AGIPP’s proposed committee would provide an equality-focussed “gender audit” of future peace talks, the group said.

As Panglong begins, where are the women?

Last week ethnic armed organisations fared best on this front, with women comprising just over 20pc of their 175-member Panglong delegation. A total of 750 delegates were recognised as full-fledged Panglong Conference participants, but the roster swelled to more than 1500 people when “observers” were added.

Yawk Muang, a senior officer with the Restoration Council of Shan State, said more female voices at the negotiating table would be welcomed.

“Women’s participation in the peace process is important. Women are good at negotiation and their participation in peace talks would bring good things. Women have much more confidence and ability in this century,” he said, adding, “People need to give space and opportunities for women in the peace process.”

Nang Phyu Phyu Lin said token inclusion of more women would not be enough, stressing “the importance of recognising the difference between women’s inclusion and meaningful participation”.

“They need to provide space for women and also to agree on dedicated inclusion policies within formal peace process entities that enable women to hold meaningful participatory roles in the peace process,” she added.

Women’s advocacy groups were invited to the Panglong Conference having only been granted “observer” status.

Ma Khin Lay, chair of the Women’s Organization Network, said last week she hoped that would change in future.

AGIPP was not given a speaking slot at the Panglong Conference, which saw dozens of speeches from representatives of government, the Tatmadaw, political parties and ethnic armed groups. The alliance was instead allowed to submit a paper on issues of gender equality.

According to AGIPP, out of 72 papers formally put forward at the conference, 21 made reference to gender equality issues.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement was cheered by women’s rights groups for highlighting violence and other rights violations perpetrated against women in conflict zones. The ministry also made a call for greater female representation in the peace process.

One representative for ethnic armed organisations said gender equality would underpin the envisioned federal Union that groups like his have long fought to establish.