2012 has been a remarkable year for Burma. Under President Thein Sein's leadership, we have seen electoral reforms, the release of hundreds of political prisoners, the formalizing of diplomatic relations between our two countries, and Aung San Suu Kyi's historic visit to the United States, all of which have brought immense hope and a sense of possibility to the people of Burma and all of us who care deeply about their future. Earlier this year, with colleagues from the State Department and private sector foundation leaders, we visited Burma to shine a spotlight on issues relating to women and girls at this crucial moment in history.
We have no illusions about the future. From a dearth of basic infrastructure, to the many political prisoners still languishing in jail, to the ongoing ethnic violence and continuing human rights violations against women, the road toward freedom and prosperity for Burma is still far from certain.
But, at each stop we made, from Rangoon, to Naypyidaw, to the Shan state, we were struck and inspired by the spirit and energy of the women of Burma. We met with women of all ages across all sectors of society -- from the iconic and courageous Aung San Suu Kyi, to small business owners and health clinic workers, to those teaching civics to young children. We came to realize that even after years of isolation and repression, Burma's women had built a strong and resilient civil society and had found resourceful ways to meet critical needs in local communities.
While Burma has the experienced older generation to anchor society and the young generation to break new ground, the "missing middle" generation poses a challenge to Burma's transition because for years, they had been deprived of any opportunity to receive education and contribute to society. Most of the identified "missing middle" women leaders are former political prisoners and victims of the collapse of Burma's education and university systems. These courageous women paid a severe price for their political activism in labor rights, land rights, HIV/AIDS, and democracy promotion. Many of them left the country during the most oppressive years, but some have chosen to return. While it would be easy for these women to retreat into bitterness, they are moving forward, taking advantage of the recent opening to test the progress by creating NGOs, building women's networks, supporting women workers to negotiate for better conditions and higher pay, and advocating for women in ethnic communities. Recently released from prison, many have already returned to the political arena. One former prisoner was elected to the parliament during the latest by-election. Their resilience might just be the most powerful force moving the country forward.
If Burma is to meet its full potential, we've got to find ways to engage and empower all three generations of women. For the older generation, this calls for supporting those individuals and grassroots organizations already implementing successful community work. The younger generation, as a crucial part of the Burmese workforce, will need guidance and support to become effective advocates for women, and the future leaders of Burma's social and economic transformation. For the "missing middle generation," we need to provide critical capacity building services and advocate for their close involvement and advancement in Burmese society.
Originally posted by KazetNagorraLesotho is matriarchal? Isnt that the little speck of a country in the middle of South Africa with a legendary king who never got colonized?
The "global gender gap" report is a measure of the equality of opportunity between men and women. The top of the list is obviously dominated by northern European countries, and near the top you mainly find other western countries (the US is listed as 17th), although interesting appearances are the Philippines at 8 and (traditionally matriarchal) Lesotho ...[text shortened]... a prerequisite, or a sufficient condition for, strong economic growth, although it does help.