A magazine published by Women Can Do It (WCDI) @ Mothers’ Capacity organization includes an article on NSPAW authored by the director of Yaung Chi Thit. Due to having limited time, the whole article will be described in full in the future. For women in Myanmar to fully enjoy their rights, advance their lives, and have gender equality, a system of understanding and recognizing women rights, for the implementation of constitution and practice, NSPAW – National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women with a ten-year period was drawn and adopted in 2013. This plan was drawn up based on international conventions, laws, and standards such as; Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Act, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which Myanmar is a signatory.
This Strategic Plan runs from 2013 to 2022 (10 years) and the following are the 12 key areas to be implemented:
- Women and Livelihoods
- Women, Education and Training
- Women and Health
- Violence against Women
- Women and Emergencies
- Women and the Economy
- Women and Decision Making
- Mechanisms for Women’s Advancement
- Women and Human Rights
- Women and Media
- Women and the Environment
- Young Women
The plan clearly states that the strategic plan is to be implemented based on research (or) surveys, training, implementation, budget and policymaking. [In addition, it is stated that the strategic plan will be successful through cooperation among the concerned government ministries and civil society organizations by sharing and linking resources and providing direct support in the implementation of the strategic plan.
Myanmar Women Committee was formed in 1996 to carry out monitoring, make policies, and make decisions in the implementation of the strategic plan. It was formed again in 2012 [and 2016 with the guidance of the government. Although the previous committees were formed only with representatives from government ministries, when it was organized again in 2016, there were 6 Civil Society Organizations and later an additional one, that were legally incorporated in the committee.
As mentioned earlier, the national strategic plan can be a fruitful and successful one only through cooperation among respective parties. Now it is necessary to evaluate whether it really is a fruitful and successful one. Although the strategic plan was drawn up in 2013 through the cooperation of concerned government ministries, civil society organizations, and international organizations and recognized with discussion and agreements with members of the national parliaments, after 5 years, there are still government staff in the ministries and a large number of women who still do not know of the existence of the national strategic plan. Under these circumstances, the actual implementation of the strategic planning is questionable. There are only the ministry of social welfare, relief and resettlement and some civil society organizations that are actually implementing the strategic plan in some sectors and only to a limited extent. Even that is done without proper cooperation among the parties and implementation is done separately by organizations based on their own expertise in their respective fields. Additionally, implementation is being done with limitations in terms of budget and a scarcity of human resources with expertise required in the various fields or sectors.
In order to mitigate such conditions and to implement work in strategic planning, the ministry of social welfare, relief and resettlement invited and organized a conference with concerned government ministries, members of national parliaments, domestic and international organizations, and donor organizations. There were also efforts from the women’s department under the ministry of social welfare, relief and resettlement that emphasized the importance of the implementation of the strategic plan, holds discussions with other related government ministries and also conducts studies on who are carrying out implementations and where implementations of the strategic planning are being done.
After conducting studies through discussions with related government ministries, Myanmar Women Committee formed Myanmar Women Working Committee that involves representatives from related government ministries, domestic and international organizations and donor organizations in order to effectively implement the strategic plan. This committee will have a technical advisory role in implementing works of the strategic planning.
In addition, in order to implement the strategic plan more practically, it is decided that the following 4 sectors from the original 12 are to be prioritized in the remaining 5 years of the national strategic planning term.
- Women’s participation in politics and economy
- Women, Peace and Security
- Violence Against Women and Girls
- Gender Mainstreaming in Education, Health, ICT and Social Protection
In order to support implementation of the abovementioned 4 sectors, technical working committees are formed with stakeholders from related government ministries, national parliament committee members, domestic and international organizations. The Chairman and joint-chairman of these technical advisory teams are recognized as members of Myanmar Women Working Committee. In addition, there is also a GEWE CG – Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Coordination Group. The GEWE CG has the responsibility of supporting Myanmar Women Working Committee not only in terms of advisory role but also finance and negotiations related to it. In order that the union level mechanisms to give support in policies and technical areas in implementing the strategic planning, they are presented in the table below for convenient viewing.
Committees and working committees that are involved in the planning are the Union Minister, the president of Myanmar Women Committee from the ministry of social welfare, relief and resettlement, Social Affairs ministers from the states and regions and representative members from 7 civil society organizations. As mentioned above, the chairman and joint-chairman of the 4 technical advisory bodies are members of the Myanmar Women Working Committee.
As there exists a committee to make policies at the union level, there is also a mechanism at the regional and state level to implement the strategic plan. Social Affairs ministers of the states and regions are members of the union level women committee and at the state and regional levels; the women serve as presidents of the committee. Women committees at the state and regional levels also have to be formed by inviting civil society organizations as it is with the union level. Similarly, committees have to be formed at the township levels and the 4 priority sectors of the strategic plan have to be implemented in accordance with the policies.
In fact, there remains so much to be explained regarding committees, the modus operandi of the working committees, and their ongoing work for implementing the strategic plan. Instead of explaining how the committees are doing their work and how they are performing, I would like to encourage and point out that attention has to be given more on how this strategic plan can move forward. Detailed explanation of how the committees work will be given later when circumstances permit.
Indeed, women’s rights will be promoted and support for gender equality will be ensured only if the sectors of the strategic plan can effectively be implemented. If stakeholders in the civil service, and domestic and international organizations work hand in hand with the full political awareness in implementing the strategic plan, the goal of the aspiration for the true development of the lives of women will undoubtedly be achieved. There remains only a 4-year period to implement the 4 priority sectors of the strategic plan. In this remaining time, there is a need for respective government ministries to draw budgets while the national parliaments have the duty of passing the bills to allow those budgets for the strategic plan to be implemented. It is also crucial that donor organizations and international organizations make budgets and give financial assistance to the respective government ministries and domestic organizations to enable them to implement the priority sectors of the strategic plan. In addition, cooperation among government ministries, and local and international organizations, is vital.
In sum, to quote Dr. Daw Myat Myat Ohn Khin, a former Union Minister: “ for there to get a reason for a country’s holistic development and the whole world’s social welfare and peace, women’s participation along and in equality with men have to be uplifted as much as possible.” Convention of Elimination of Discrimination Against Women – 1979 Introductory words (quoted by Dr. Daw Myat Myat Ohn Khin, former Union Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement in National Level Strategic Plan for Women Development).
To get the building blocks for Myanmar’s holistic development and the whole world’s social welfare and peace, I would like to conclude this talk by presenting a glimpse of the national strategic plan for women development and inviting you all to work together to uplift the role of women and their participation in all sectors along and in equality with men. Reference: National Strategic Plan for women development (2013-20122)