Celebrating Myanmar women’s achievements

Yangon’s first female driver, Myanmar’s first five-star hotel manager, a peace activist fighting for gender equality and a philanthropist sheltering some of the country’s most vulnerable children. (Rasmus Steijner)

Today the world celebrates International Women’s Day, an event that inspired Myanmore magazine to commit much of March’s print edition to celebrating female achievement in Myanmar.

The tricky part of producing the magazine was not filling its pages with this kind of story—it was choosing which stories to publish from an abundance of barrier-breaking and inspirational women from across different fields.

Our focus naturally steered toward women whose unprecedented steps in their industries have paved the way for others, and women whose work revolves around improving the lives of their communities and country.

Rather than dwell on fame or wealth, our priority has been to shine a light on those who may not receive due recognition, but nonetheless push tirelessly for a new and fairer Myanmar.

Read about Yangon’s first female driver, Myanmar’s first five-stars hotel manager, a peace activist fighting for gender equality and a philanthropist sheltering some of the country’s most vulnerable children.

A global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice serves as the backdrop to this International Women’s Day, with campaigns including #MeToo and #TimesUp that channel protests against sexual harassment and fight for equal pay and women’s political representation.

Just as salient for Myanmar is the UN Women theme of this year’s women’s day, which draws attention to the rights and activism of rural women. Agriculture plays a crucial role in Myanmar’s economy, accounting for more than one-third of the country’s GDP, and women play a crucial role in the agricultural sector.

They cultivate crops, work in forestry and fisheries, and rear animals for food or trade, contributing an immense amount to Myanmar as a whole.

Yet a series of reports over the years have also shown that female agricultural workers face pay disparity on many of Myanmar’s farms—as well as disparities in land ownership and access to credit.

Troubling also is that women, who make up 51.16 percent of Myanmar’s population, according to a 2016 World Bank report, are underrepresented in key areas such as business and politics.

Only 14.5 percent of the civilian Union Parliament are women and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi remains the only female union minister. Legislation, too, presents an issue: women have had little protection against physical, sexual and mental violence in Myanmar over the years—the majority of gender-specific legal guidance coming from the 1860 Penal Code. But many hope a new law set for introduction this year and tackling abuse against women and girls will change this.

Despite these issues, women continue moving Myanmar forward, many managing their households while doing small trading with entrepreneurial zeal.

Women are transforming Myanmar firms into internationally-competitive companies, driving efforts for conversation, fearlessly reporting the truth  in an increasingly concerning environment for press, and, of course, much more.

There is much promise in Myanmar’s fight for gender equality and much to look forward to. We hope that the stories of the inspirational women included in our March edition are simply the beginning of a situation where stereotypes are shed and equality between genders becomes the norm.


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