Dr. Aung Soe (a) Aung Kyaw Moe
Ex United Nations Volunteer (UNV) UNDP
March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), adopted by the United Nations. On that day, one should promote awareness and highlight the importance of acheiving equality for women and girls, which is a matter of fundamental human rights and fairness. So also progress in so many other areas depends on gender equity, it is said.
Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support.
The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.
As we are marching forwards for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), following Millennium Development Goals(MDGs), the above mentioned truth should be central to accelerate progress. No doubt, access to primary education for girls and political representation by women had some gains. To be honest, progress remains far too slow and uneven at different parts of the globe.
As such, a baby girl born today will still face inequality and discrimintion, no matter where her mother lives. We have a common obligation to ensure her right to live free from the violence that affects one in three women globally; to earn equal pay for equal work; to be free of the discrimination that prevents her from participating in the economy; to have an equal say in the decisions that affect her life; and to decide if and when she will have children, and how many she will have.
It sould be a message for every girl-born today, and to every woman and girl on the planet. Realizing human rights and equality is not a dream, it is a duty of governments, the United Nations and every human being.
Recently, esteemed GNLM, in its ‘Pebruary 2016 issue described a newes item saying three Myanmar women and one foreigner from a neighbouring country were charged by police in a Myanmar border town for human traficking attempt. Ma Nan Khum, Ma Nan Ban, Ma Aye Aye and a foreigner male were arrested. A subsequent investigation revealed that three women persuaded a teenage girl into marrying the foreigner from the adjacent country for the money she would need to support her family. The young girl, aged 16, was struggling to earn for her siblings because her mother was in prison. The trafickers told her she would get 30,000 foreign curency, equivalant to much more amount of Myanmar kyats, if she agreed to marry that foreigner of un-known background and to proceed for uncertain destination.
Let us look around at the women we are with. Think of those we cherish in our families and our communities. And understand that there is a statistical likelihood that many of them have suffered violence in their lifetime. Even more have comforted a sister or friend, sharing their grief and anger following an attack.
One young woman was gang-raped to -death. Another committed suicide out of a sense of shame that should have attached to the perpetrators. Young teens were shot at close range for daring to seek an education. These are some of the global scenarios.
These atrocities, which rightly sparked global outrage, were part of a much larger problem that pervades virtually every society and every realm of life.
Question was raised by New light of Myanmar daily two years ago in its editorial on 8 March 2014: it says across the world, gender inequality previls in almost all societies with women facing unfair treatment for being the weaker sex. Is gender inequality an issue in Myanmar?
Editorial continued, the never-heard before cases of child rape and sexual abuses of children by their family members (incest) have come as an awful shock to Myanmar society. Since rape is a crime that often goes unreported because of a sense of shame, it is reasonable to assume that there may be many more cases of child rape happening unreported.
Compared to their counterparts from many Asian countries, Myanmar women enjoy a greater degree of equality with men. But, a brief look into the parliament and government ministries will make it clear that Myanmar women just represent a small proportion in leadership and decision-making positions, in the past.
Traditionally, women have taken the back seat in Mynmar society until 2000s when the rising living expenses forced many women from their homes to the workplace to become earners themselves. Before this, male sex superiority was deeply entrenched in our society and both men and women took it as a normal thing. The time-honored maxim for housewives “Treat son as the master, treat husband as the Lord” explains well the traditional role of women, editiorial said.
It is, however, encouraging to see Myanmar women striving to break this age-old glass ceiling by holding a series of women’s forum and dialogue over the past years. As women and girls constitute the half of the total population, they should and must have a much bigger say in decision-making process of the country, editional concludes.
It is prime time to make a speical promise to women in conflict situations, where sexual violence too often becomes a tool of war aimed at humiliating the enemy by destroying their dignity.
On International Women’s Day, we should convert our outrage into action, declare that we will prosecute crimes against women – and never allow women to be subjected to punishments for the abuses they have suffered. We renew our pledge to combat this global health menace wherever it may lurk – in homes and businesses, in war zones and placid countries, and in the minds of people who allow violence to continue which, no doubt, create Post Stress psychological Disorders and even insanity! The United Nations stands for the welfare of all victims of sexual violence in conflict at the forefront of its activities, making its respones to sexual violence a priority in all peace-making, peackeeping and peacebuilding activities, it is noted.
The United Nations system is advancing UNiTE to End Violence against Women capmaign, which is based on the simple but powerful premise that all women and girls have a fundamental human right to live free of violence.
During March 2014 in New York, at the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission members hold the largest-ever UN assembly on ending violence against women — and kept pressing for progess long after it concludes, even upto present days.
Obviously, many governments, including Myanmar, groups and individuals contributed to this campaign. Societies and community members lend their funds to a cause or raised voice to an outcry. To end this injustice and to provide the weaker sex with the safety, security and freedom they deserve, Myanmar people, being planet citizens, would accelerate their co-operation in this global push.