Aye Yu Thwe is the first fully accredited BRIDGE facilitator from Myanmar – gaining her accreditation at a Gender and Elections BRIDGE Module, held in Naypyitaw, Myanmar from September 17-19, 2013. Aye Yu facilitated the workshop with Meredith Applegate, (who also gained full accreditation) and Paul Guerin, all from IFES Myanmar – in this first module workshop in Myanmar following the recent Train the Facilitator program in August.
This workshop was conducted by IFES (under the Global Women’s Leadership Fund (GWLF) program funded by USAID) and comprised representatives of civil society organizations and the Union Election Commission (UEC). The workshop – like so many BRIDGE workshops, was enjoyed by all participants, who embraced the methodology and enthusiastically welcomed the new knowledge explored.
Election Commissioner Dr. Daw Myint Kyi provided opening remarks and discussed the importance of women’s participation in Myanmar’s electoral process while also reinforcing Myanmar’s commitment to the Convention to Eliminate All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). From the outset it was acknowledged that inclusion of women in the political and electoral process is a crucial point which all democracies, from transitioning democracies to developed democracies, must work to ensure. As Myanmar makes its democratic transition, the inclusion of women in all aspects of this transition is critical.
During the 3-day module, participants discussed barriers to women’s participation for each part of the electoral cycle and created an electoral cycle through a gender lens. Specific priority issues identified by the group included inclusion of women in the voter registration process, increasing voter education targeting women, Election Day procedures, and increasing the role of women in political parties. The participants then further developed those priority areas and provided strategies for the UEC and CSOs to address for different groups of Myanmar women, including ethnic women, rural women, women with disabilities, young women, and internally displaced women.
For the very first time in Myanmar, CSO representatives worked directly to develop strategies with UEC staff during the Gender and Elections BRIDGE module, a significant step for both parties. The module provided an opportunity for CSOs and the UEC to understand the role each can play in the democratic process, to begin building relationships, and to foster trust.
At the end of the module, participants were divided into groups based on their identified priority issues to further define the gender component of the UEC’s draft five-year strategic plan, and directly provided recommendations to mainstream gender throughout the strategic plan. IFES is working with the UEC on strategic planning under the USAID funded Elections and Political Processes Assistance (EPPA) program and will build upon this work after the GWLF program comes to an end.
Quote from Participant: Daw Tin Tin Win, Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association
“Many women thought that election is not their concern. It is not their affairs. Now I came to understand that women voters’ participation is very important to have a free and fair election. Women are very important to choose the leaders they want so that who can also raise women affairs at the parliaments. I often need to travel around the country for the association to give civic education training. Through this training, I will share the knowledge I got from the workshop to all chairwomen and executive members of the association from all states and regions so that they can debrief again to other members of the association.”