Yangon, June 17, 2014 — The Myanmar Development Resource Institute Centre for Economic and Social Development (MDRI-CESD) today presented the findings of a new report, Women’s Participation in the Subnational Governance of Myanmar at the International Business Centre. It is the third paper in the Subnational Governance in Myanmar Discussion Paper Series, jointly developed by MDRI-CESD and The Asia Foundation.
Women’s participation in the political life of Myanmar is gaining attention from policy makers and researchers, but systematic data remains lacking. To inform discussion on this critical issue, the report takes a close look at women’s participation in the various forms of subnational governance in Myanmar, discuss why women’s participation matters, and identifies the barriers and enabling factors to their participation. This report is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
This report draws on original field research conducted from February to May 2014 in Kachin State, Kayin State, Yangon and Naypyitaw, together with data from existing surveys and reports, to analyze three main questions:
- What proportion of key decision-making governance positions at subnational level are occupied by women?
- Does women’s participation in subnational governance structures matter?
- What are the barriers and enabling factors for women’s participation in governance structures?
Key findings indicate that apart from their involvement in civil society and NGOs, women are found to have very low levels of participation in various governance institutions operating at the subnational level in Myanmar.
Evidence suggests that women prioritize issues of health, education, sanitation and microfinance. Therefore, increasing women’s participation is likely to make governance decision-making more responsive to women’s concerns, and have general positive effects on the performance of governance institutions.
Barriers to women’s participation in subnational governance in Myanmar are found to include: a lack of experience and certain skills, low bargaining power within households, high time constraints, restrictions on women’s travel, traditional norms that ascribe authority to men over women, a lack of confidence, and a lack of acceptance of female leadership.
However, enabling factors for women’s participation in Myanmar include: a relatively high level of gender equality in formal educational attainment, the deliberate actions of certain governance actors to increase women’s participation, and the women who are already in leadership positions inspiring and enabling other women to follow in their footsteps. The report finds that a number of the barriers to women’s participation are starting to fall, making the possibility of increasing women’s participation more likely.
In Myanmar, the Foundation works with partners in government, the private sector, and civil society to build the country’s capacity for regional integration, strengthen the core institutions and processes of democratic governance, and support increased access to information.