Research shows women’s political participation in Myanmar is declining

29 December 2018
Research shows women’s political participation in Myanmar is declining
Rainmaker press conference on women’s participation in elections. Photo: Pearlie Li for Mizzima

A newly released report by Rainmaker, also known as Myanmar Observation Network, on the 2018 by-elections in Myanmar shows women’s political participation is on the wane.

According to the final report, in the 2018 by-elections, there were 69 candidates, including seven female candidate which accounts for 10%. No female candidates were elected. In contrast, in the 2017 by-elections, among 96 candidates 17 were female which accounted for 17% and two female candidates were elected.

The research shows that 6 women out of 7 candidates said that they have been nominated due to the gender policy of their parties and their personal political experience. Six women candidates responded that they did not get any support from other organizations and one candidate stated that she received assistance from ethnic women organizations.

In the by-elections areas where women candidates ran for, 78% of people knew the candidates and 82% had willingness to vote for the women candidates. Even so, no women candidates are elected.

According to the report, women candidates did have freedom for campaign movement both in door-to-door or rallies except for a limitation of some territories for their security in Myitkyina. The women candidates from the NLD and SNLD conducted election campaign many times. The rest of the women candidates visited people door-to-door for their campaign movement.

Starting from 13 September, 148 observers observed all areas in the by-elections and focused on women candidates' rallies and their challenges during the campaign period and barriers of women participation in the political process such as the gender lens, legal framework, and custom.

Aye Thandar Aung, who is the programme director, said that from their review of the data of the past elections, the gender lens influences voters’ attitudes in Myanmar a lot. “They don't believe in the ability of women leaders, therefore under 8% of the voters except strong parties have voted for women,” said Aye Thandar Aung.

The gender policy in Myanmar parties is insufficient for woman participating in politics. “Most parties are ratified The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,” Aye Thandar Aung said. ”They described gender equality in their policy but declined to implement this to give a chance for women to participate.”

There are many barriers for women who seek a role in politics. Most female candidates complained about the budget, technical problems, capacity building as well as the gender stereotype persisting in Myanmar. Some female candidates from ethnic minorities said they faced discrimination of religion and race.

Aye Thandar Aung said that people need to change the gender lens in the society and implement gender budgeting, gender equality in government sectors. Also, the gender policy of political parties should be further strengthened in Myanmar.