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Myanmar’s women-led civil society organizations play a critical leadership role in promoting human rights, highlighting the gendered impacts of the crisis, and advancing Women, Peace Agenda and Gender in humanitarian action.
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On October 15, International Day of Rural Women celebrates the contributions of rural women towards food security, local communities, and global economies. Daw Pyone Kyi and Daw Zin Ma represent the voices of the often-invisible rural women in Myanmar who are overcoming challenges due to the ongoing crises.
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Asia and the Pacific region is particularly vulnerable to physical impacts of climate change. Associated with pre-existing gender inequality, climate-related risks are multiplied for women, girls, and people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) in the region. Bobae Lee is a Regional Gender and Climate Change Expert serving with UN Women Asia and the Pacific Regional Office. Her assignment is fully funded by the Government of Korea. "I have been volunteering ever since I could walk. My father used to bring me when he was going to take care of people with disabilities and orphans. He learned how to serve others from his parents
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After enduring years of domestic violence during her marriage, Naw Bway Khu wanted to support women in similar situations. Following her husband’s death in 2002, she spent two years working for an international NGO that cared for people living with HIV/AIDS before starting Meikswe Myanmar. Initially she accommodated women in her own home before establishing the centre in Lashio, and later an orphanage.
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Myanmar’s population is facing a double crisis from the COVID-19 and the military takeover of February 2021, which is steadily wearing out their social and economic resilience.
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[Press release] During the virtual event held on 12 May 2022 to launch the 2022 WEPs campaign, both parties reiterated the importance of having a holistic approach to implementing gender-inclusive strategies that span an organisation’s value chain and impact the wider business ecosystem.
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Ko Aung Lin, a 36-year-old famer and a member of the Mro ethnic group, lives in Ah Htet Myat Lay village, Ponnagyun Township, in Sittwe of Rakhine state in Myanmar’s far west. He is the only man among the 10 volunteers chosen in Rakhine for a joint project by UN Women and United Nations Population Fund to prevent violence against women and girls and help survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 restrictions delayed the start of the project.
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Rakhine State, Myanmar – Daw Aye Mu had always wanted to learn how to expand her small business making snacks in western Myanmar. In July 2021, she was selected to attend the UN Women and World Vision Start to Improve Your Business (SIYB) training, along with a cash grant from partner organization Meikswe Myanmar. She explains how the opportunity was a stroke of personal good fortune amid difficult times for her country.
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I first really become aware of feminism and women’s empowerment was the Emma Watson speech at the HeForShe campaign in 2014, when I was 16. That speech had a big impact on me and to girls and women everywhere. I also grew up in a very matriarchal family, my mother was the boss, my grandmother was the boss, my brother is a bit terrified of me sometimes, I think. But I guess I didn’t realise that until I saw that speech. So, I started reading more, educating myself, and as I read I encountered gender-based violence (GBV).
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I am the founder of Monsters Among Us, a Malaysian youth-led non-governmental organization. As the name indicates, we combat child sexual abuse and violence and sexual and gender-based violence in Malaysia. Our niche area is child protection.
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Eight outstanding Malaysian private-sector companies and corporate leaders were celebrated as gender champions of the 2021 Malaysia WEPs Award Ceremony on 29 October 2021. The champions were among applicants evaluated by a panel of six high-calibre judges from investment organizations, boards of directors, the community, academics, finance, women and youth empowerment.
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Naw Moh Moh Than, 18, aspires to become a teacher but she has had her journey disrupted several times. When she was in secondary school, armed conflict in Kayin State forced her and her family to flee to a displaced persons camp. With the help of one her teachers, she resumed her schooling in the nearest town but then the COVID-19 pandemic forced all the schools to close since the start of 2020. Still, Naw Moh Moh Than remained determined. She joined a sewing training that UN Women organized in the camp and made cloth masks that humanitarian groups bought and distributed to women across Kayin State, which is mostly populated by the Karen ethnic minority.
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More than 41 per cent of women lost their jobs during the COVID-19 lockdown in Nepal. Responding to their practical needs, UN Women with support from the Government of Finland has been ensuring their access to food and nutrition through women-managed community kitchens across Nepal. Pushpa Sunar is one of the 123 people employed in the community kitchens, which is providing an income to the women working there and helping to alleviate the care burden among other women, as well as build trust and cohesion in the communities.
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Gender-based violence Rapid Response Teams in 17 communities, led by local police, and consisting of a Women’s Union Officer and a Justice Officer, Youth Union Officer or Community Leader, deliver timely and coordinated responses and protection for women and girls experiencing violence in their communities.
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Since February 1, women and girls have been at the frontlines as leaders of civil society organizations, civil servants, activists, journalists, artists and influencers exercising their fundamental rights to express their hopes for the future of their country. Even before the coup, women, who make up 75 per cent of Myanmar’s healthcare professionals, were at the forefront of the COVID-19 response. Now, during a tragic surge in COVID-19 cases, many women continue in their activism and serve their communities while also assuming significant responsibilities as caregivers for sick family members, and for their children’s home-based learning.
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Upon her return to Myanmar in 2019, she invested her savings of MMK 200,000 (USD 122) in her online business. “Doing business was not really in my plan while I was in Thailand,” she said. “But I knew that I am good at using phones and social media. I knew the area and some people. When I returned to Myanmar, I felt certain I could start my online shop. I am still young and can get around easily to take orders to customers, especially with my motorbike,” she said.
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After 11 years away, Aye returned to Myanmar in 2014 pregnant and with around 10 million MMK (USD 6,075) in savings. She spent most of that on a house and used 1,500,000 MMK to start her sewing business in 2015. She felt that she was at her best when sewing, and also felt confident that she had learned to be punctual, systematic and disciplined. Ni Ni Aye says she dreamed of starting a clothing business back in Thailand ever since she started working in Thailand. “I remitted half of my salary to my parents and I saved the other half for my dream business.”
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We call upon Myanmar’s military and police to ensure that the right to peaceful assembly is fully respected and that demonstrators, including women, are not subjected to reprisals. We further call on the military and police to respect the human rights of women who have been arrested and are currently being detained and reiterate the calls for the immediate release of all detainees.
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Laxmi Badi, a Dalit woman leader from Nepal is at the forefront of the struggle for equal rights, even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In South Asia, persons from Dalit community are at the bottom of the archaic “caste system” – a social stratification, whereby individuals face multiple generations of discrimination and segregation based on their descent.
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As the world marks International Women’s Day, women across Myanmar are once again demonstrating their leadership and agency following more than one month of political instability and violence in the country.