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More than 600 mainly women from all corners of Myanmar, representing the Parliament, civil society, NGOs, INGOs, UN organisations, local media, as well as members of the rural community and many others, attended the Myanmar Women’s Forum held on 6-7 December in Yangon, to discuss boosting women’s equality in the South-East Asia nation.


The aim of the first ever international women’s conference of its kind in Myanmar attracted large numbers of participants, including some the world’s leading female role models such as Nobel Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Mrs. Christine Lagarde, IMF Director to the two day meetings to share best practices and partnerships from the region and internationally. 

The topic of the debates for the two day event focused on how to leapfrog obstacles for women to receive better health , education and leadership skills, the advancement of women’s right, community resilience, engaging in the environmental agenda for development, freedom of expression and a free press, and including women in the peace building equation. 

Ms. Janet Jackson, UNFPA Myanmar Representative moderated the panel on advancing women’s rights in rural Myanmar and stated in her opening remark that “Throughout the developing world women are still disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to their human rights, especially in relation to access to resources, employment opportunities, reproductive and maternal health services as well as education.”

She also highlighted that in Myanmar rural women are often faced with issues of limited autonomy and low status, and that some are even subjected to violence and hunger. Ms. Jackson stressed that affirmative action was needed in order to implement policies to ensure the advancement and empowerment of rural women’s political, social and economic status. “We must seek to ensure that girls and women gain access to an education so that they can build a better future for themselves and their families and to contribute to their nation’s development,” Ms. Jackson concluded. 

One of the panel members Dr. Nyo Nyo Thin, MP of the Yangon Region Parliament outlined that rural women and girls currently lack the knowledge of their basic human rights and often remain silent if they become victims of gender based violence. According to official government figures approximately 70% of all rape cases in mainly rural areas, are not reported and too often the women who do go to the authorities, end up being ostracized by their communities. An audience participant stood up and protested against the continued lack of impunity in the case of gender based violence and called for more efforts to be made for women to access legal support. 

Dr. Nyo Nyo Thin urged all the women in the room to join forces and “shout from the top of your voices” so that the members of Parliament would draft and implement laws on how to better protect the rights of women. 

The Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society was founded in 2005 and operates out of Paris. Their objective is to promote the empowerment of women world-wide. The next Women’s Forum Brazil is planned for May 2014.