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Women’s groups from Burma are pushing for a 30 percent quota of female representatives at the upcoming peace talks.
The renewed call for a minimum quota to be legislated was made at the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) review in Geneva, which kicked off on 4 July.
“We want at least 30 percent [women] sitting at the table and discussing – not helping as technical support or logistics persons, but meaningful participation,” said Julia Marip, secretary of Women’s League of Burma (WLB), an NGO that was the only women’s organisation from Burma to submit a shadow report at the last CEDAW review in 2008.
Marip told DVB she believed they are aiming for a modest target, so they expect no excuses for the government not to cement the target in law. “The women’s population is more than 50 percent in Burma so we would like half,” she said. “But we understand it is very difficult to negotiate with a male-dominated group.”
At the last Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee conference in January, a precursor to political dialogue among the signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, only one woman was included in the committee.
Government, military and ethnic delegates have all put pen to paper in the drafting of the Nationwide Framework Agreement. In their Framework for Political Dialogue it was recorded that all stakeholders would “strive to achieve 30 percent female participation” in future talks. The 30 percent target was reaffirmed at the First Union Conference in Naypyidaw on 12-16 January this year.
Despite the widespread commitment to a fair representation of females in the political process, no legislation has been passed in Naypyidaw to make the objective obligatory.
“Generally, the former government agreed on 30 percent women’s participation [in future peace talks and political dialogue], but we would like to see it not just written on paper but also implemented,” said Marip, speaking by telephone from Geneva.
WLB is joined at the conference by other Burmese groups, including CEDAW Action Myanmar, the Gender Equality Network, the Women’s Organisation Network, and Karen Human Rights Group.
Each group submitted a shadow report with their recommendations to policymakers to review or abolish laws in Burma’s Constitution that discriminate against women.
The WLB’s shadow report focuses on women’s human rights in Burma’s ethnic regions, in particular in remote and conflict-affected areas.
Marip says that despite the different groups focusing on different areas of reform in their shadow reports, they all worked closely together.
“The shadow reports are not against each other, but rather are complementary reports,” added Marip.
“It doesn’t matter if we are based on the border, ethnic areas or central Burma, we are similarly impacted by the systematic discrimination against women, so this is very good to build in the process.”
Myanmar ratified CEDAW in 1997 and was last examined by the Committee in 2008.
Tomorrow, the CEDAW Committee will hand down its conclusions to a delegate from the Burmese government.