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Inspiring Women of Burma

By The Irrawaddy  •  March 19, 2016

Last week, the world commemorated International Women’s Day, acknowledging the achievements and challenges of half of humanity.

There is no denying that in this country that one woman above all others dominates the national consciousness.

Aung San Suu Kyi enjoys unrivalled stature at home and huge respect abroad. This month she holds the hopes of the nation’s recent voters in her hands as she prepares—from whatever official position—to shepherd her party and the country into unchartered political territory.

It is sometimes forgotten that Burma has always had great female figures who have risen to the challenges of the day to help shape the nation’s social and political life.

In the early 20th century when the country was under colonial rule, women were active in the nationalist movement that culminated in independence in 1948.

More recently, women from all backgrounds and ethnicities have played important roles in the country’s struggles towards democracy and social justice.

Many more have overcome significant barriers to become leaders in the worlds of business, the arts, education and entertainment, among others.

This week the Irrawaddy will revisit some of the women who have featured in our coverage of Burma over the last two decades, and who continue to play a vital part in the transition to a more democratic future.

Each day in the series, we will briefly reprise the careers of three significant women whose past and current activities highlight just a few of the arenas in which female figures are making positive contributions to the nation’s social and political life.

 

Khin-Ohmar

Khin Ohmar

Khin Ohmar’s lifetime of political activism began during the pro-democracy student-led uprisings in 1988. In the crackdown that followed, she was forced to leave her homeland and continue her opposition to the military government from the Thai-Burma border.

Presently, Khin Ohmar is a coordinator at the Burma Partnership, a regional advocacy network linking organizations committed to both democracy and ethnic rights in Burma.

In March of this year, she appeared before the UN Human Rights Council and spoke on behalf of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), where she reiterated calls for the release of Burma’s political prisoners and an end to discriminatory policies against religious minorities and human rights abuses in ethnic areas.

“Extensive legislative reform and review is essential for democratic space and a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders, civil society organisations and journalists,” she said at the dialogue, at which Yanghee Lee, UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Burma, was also present.

Khin Ohmar is also an outspoken advocate of women’s empowerment. For her work, she has been awarded the Anna Lindh Prize and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

– By Sally Kantar

 

View full original article here: http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/inspiring-women-of-burma.html

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