THURSDAY, 08 MARCH 2012
Burmese women’s rights activists joined hands with groups around the world in hosting events across the country to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Mi Sue Pwint, a spokeswoman for the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), said that official celebrations were taking place in at least five locations: Rangoon, Tavoy, Moulmein, Loikaw and the war-torn township of Namsam in northern Shan State.
She said that organizers expected more than 1,000 people to attend the events in most places.
Celebrations to mark International Women’s Day in Burma, which is officially known as Myanmar, were restricted or banned under the military junta that ruled the country ruthlessly for nearly 50 years.
However, Burmese women working as migrants or for NGOs in neighboring Thailand said they have been marking the date with marches, seminars and activities for many years in Chiang Mai, Mae Sot and Bangkok.
Zipporah Sein, the first ever female secretary-general of the Karen National Union, said, “Our women are in a constant struggle for their rights. So many women are subjected to human rights abuses and domestic violence.
“I really want to see women taking leading roles in organizations and in politics,” she said.
In addition to repression under the military regime, the WLB’s Mi Sue Pwint said that the rights of women had been impaired in Burma because of traditional customs within the community.
She said the WLB called for women to be allowed to participate at judicial, legislative and executive levels in Burma.
“Women are poorly represented in politics,” she said. “But International Women’s Day is a chance to tell all the women of Burma and of the world that they too can play a role.”
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Empower Rural Women—End Hunger and Poverty.”
Speaking from the UN headquarters on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “The plight of the world’s rural women and girls mirrors that of women and girls throughout society.”
He acknowledged that women are increasingly exercising greater influence in business, government, politics, public administration and other professions. Also, more girls are going to school and are growing up healthier and better equipped to realize their potential, he said.
“But, despite this momentum, there is a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright and that will guarantee their well-being,” said the UN Secretary-General.
Rural women and girls make up a quarter of the global population, yet they routinely figure at the bottom of every economic, social and political indicator, from income, education and health to participation in decision-making, Ban said.
More than 35 women from the Asia-Pacific region will come together in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, from March 13-15 for a seminar “to explore opportunities to encourage women’s substantive participation in peace processes in the region.” The event is being sponsored by the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.
The first Women’s Day was observed on Feb. 28, 1909, in the United States. By 1913, it had spread to Europe and Russia, and for many years thereafter was celebrated mostly in the Communist states of Eastern Europe and China.
“International” Women’s Day was first observed as a popular event after 1977 when the UN General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the “UN Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.”