We Stand Together Campaign Launch in Myanmar
The 2015 elections in Myanmar saw a historic number of women candidates run for office, and resulted in more than twice the number of women in elected office. However, Myanmar remains dramatically behind international standards for women’s representation and gender equality, with one of the lowest percentages of women in elected office in Asia. Myanmar’s current democratic transition and new civilain government presents a unique opportunity to advance gender equality and women’s participation in political and decision-making processes. Building on this momentum, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and local partner Yaung Chi Thit (YCT) are launching the “We Stand Together” campaign to advocate for more women leaders at all levels of decision making. The “We Stand Together” campaign is calling for action to be taken at the national, programmatic, community and individuals levels to ensure the advancement of women in Myanmar.
IFES has been supporting local partner YCT to implement “She Leads,” a nationwide women’s leadership program, to address the lack of women’s leadership in political and decision making processes at all levels of state and society. Since 2015, the “She Leads” program has trained over 1,000 women in a beginner and intermediary-level training courses. As a result of the program, many “She Leads” participants have made a positive impact, taking on leadership roles in their communities as voter educators, observers, electoral officials, civil society leaders and lawyers. For the “We Stand Together” campaign, YCT will work with “She Leads” alumnae to mobilize support, advocate with key decision makers, and link existing campaigns from other networks to advocate for more women leaders at all levels of decision making.
The “We Stand Together” campaign was launched on July 21 at IFES’ Second Annual Gender Conference on “Gender, Inclusion and Political Participation.” The conference brought together civil society representatives, members of Parliament and the international community to evaluate recommendations from last year’s conference and identify mechanisms for advancing women’s political participation moving forward. Speaking for “She Leads” alumnae at the launch, Daw Thida Myint from Lashio, said, “I believe women can become leaders, in politics, in organizations and in society … We need a lot more women leaders in Myanmar. I invite everyone to be involved in this campaign.”
Participants at the conference were given a campaign pamphlet , t-shirt and YCT position paper outlining the campaign calls to action. The pamphlet was also made avaliable in Braille to include persons with disabilities in the campaign. Thet Su, program manager for YCT, explained the calls to action for “We Stand Together”: “In order to have more women leaders at the national and region/state level, we are advocating with the national and state/regional governments, MPs, political parties, the Union Election Commission and media to take action and join the campaign.” Attendees were asked to put their face behind the campaign by taking a photo with the “We Stand Together” board. These photos will be compiled by YCT into a photo petition, demonstrating public support for this issue to advocate with key decision makers of the need for change.