The ‘Visionary’ Women Critical to a Unified Myanmar
Wenchi Yu – Asia Society – 04 October 2012 (originally published 01 Oct )
In the past two weeks, the U.S.-Myanmar (also known as Burma) relationship has reached a new high point with both President Thein Sein’s visit on the occasion of the annual United Nations General Assembly and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s first visit of the United States after four decades. The two Myanmar leaders, one representing the government and the other representing the major opposition party, the National League for Democracy, drew much attention to Myanmar’s future and the nature of U.S.-Myanmar relations.
Since Secretary Clinton‘s historic visit to Myanmar in late 2011and many governments’ policies of suspending economic and diplomatic restrictions, including the European Union’s, the poverty-stricken country once ruled by military strong men has been “open for business” to all. The international development and business communities are taking a fresh look at new opportunities to increase their presence in the country, though efforts have been somewhat stymied due to a lack of infrastructure, expertise, and rule of law. Success in these areas lies in harnessing local knowledge and expertise to build the country from bottom up. Women’s groups are uniquely positioned to fill that need.
Women’s movements quietly grew on the Thai-Myanmar border when most of their leaders, of various ethnic backgrounds, fled the country because of the military’s harsh crackdown on the student democracy movement in 1988. Despite the prsence of a number of political leaders on the border, ethnic women could not find a place in political discussions about Myanmar’s future. Not only was the voice of women neglected, the voice of ethnic minorities was also often ignored in the political process . . .
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