US Committed to Empower Women in Burma

With its commitment to promote democratic progress and support for the Burmese people, the United States of America today underlined its commitment to empower women in Burma.

On her remarks at DC, Melanne Verveer Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues said the United States has been responding to the positive steps taken in Burma since the recent elections.

She says while there is a dearth of accurate data on Burma’s development status, it is clear that women have been deprived of educational opportunities compared to its once glorious past as a center of learning.

Aung San Suu Kyi.

Frequent closing of universities over the past several decades and small budgets allocated to education have taken a toll in Burma.

There is a great need to build capacity in the people, and this was mentioned over and over wherever we went – Ms. Verveer

Ms. Verveer says it was clear that there was at once an awareness of a tremendous gap to be closed, yet there are few additional resources in the budget for curriculum reform, teacher training and secondary and higher education.

At the U.S. State Department, they are identifying avenues to engage all three generations of women by providing them with networking and capacity-building opportunities, Ms. Verveer stressed.

“The 2015 election is on many people’s minds since the by-election, and there is interest in trainings, exchanges and the sharing of best practices.” -Ms. Verveer

She says embassy Rangoon’s small grants programs have proven to be very effective in building grassroots civil society.

Increasing Burmese women’s participation in International Visitors Leadership Programs, Fulbright Scholarship and through other cross border opportunities will help to integrate the Burmese into the global community after decades of isolation, she cited.

“These small, yet catalyzing investments would provide high yield benefits for Burma’s future leaders.” -Ms. Verveer

Ms. Verveer also addressed violence against women in ethnic areas women continue to be victims of violence.

She cites that her past travels in the region, she has had the agonizing experience of meeting desperate and often very sick Burmese victims of trafficking to Malaysia or Thailand.

“The horrifying stories of women victims of rape in the ethnic areas, where rape is used as a tactic of the armed conflict, show the ongoing vulnerability of the ethnic women.”

– Ms. Verveer

She stresses that Burma’s ongoing internal ethnic conflicts are a major source of instability, human rights violations and the displacement of people, particularly, women and children.

She notes that the U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights Report that was released today includes a review of the use of excessive force and other abuses, like rape as a war tactic, in the internal conflicts.

Ms. Verveer also stressed that any prospect of sustainable peace will not be possible without the participation of the ethnic groups and the women.

She reports that many of the women’s groups raised the need for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), which links women to peace and security and recognizes the role they must play in peace negotiations and the need for violence against women to be addressed in any peace process.

Late last year, President Obama issued the first U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

She notes Obama’s accompanying Executive Order urges the government from the Department of Defense to the Department of State, US AID and other agencies to insure that in US military, diplomatic and development efforts in areas of conflict and political transition, the US government supports women as critical participants in resolving conflicts, in protecting them from sexual and gender-based violence, in ensuring equal access to relief and recovery and in promoting post conflict reconstruction.

“Women are essential to the task of rebuilding their communities through economic development, education, governance, and more.”

– Ms. Verveer

Women have been too often excluded from both the negotiations that lead to peace and the institutions that maintain it, she stressed.

She stressed that in Burma’s ethnic areas, issues like land rights, the military presence, the ethnic communities’ role in economic development projects, how justice will be rendered in cases of human rights violations against women will have to be addressed for any potential for peace and stability to be sustained.

If women are silenced or marginalized, the prospects for a lasting peace and a better life will be subverted, Ms. Verveer noted.

She announces tht the State Department will provide small grants to NGOs in Burma in support of women’s participation in efforts to implement UNSCR 1325.

The Burmese people have been afraid for so long, that it will take time for them to let go of fear and take action on behalf of themselves, their communities and their country. The international community can help, but it must consider the most effective ways to provide support, probably by focusing on empowerment of all the people, women and men.

“Development must be about individual empowerment” – Aung San Suu Kyi

“Now we have an opportunity to help them through our development assistance. It must be about them, and it must be coordinated with other partners.” – Ms. Verveer

Burma’s democratic future is a work in progress, and today, the world has an historic opportunity to help the people of Burma to realize a better future.

“Everywhere I went, I saw people in Burma embracing the prospect for change, for freedom, for democracy, for opportunity. As President Havel reminded us, the road will not be easy but we must encourage the signs of cautious change in Burma.”

– Ms. Verveer

In 2011, the United States has carefully responded to evidence of change in Burma with increased outreach and concrete actions.

The United States has also taken important steps on the assistance front as well with recent announcement of new activities for microfinance and health, particularly in ethnic minority areas, based on US consultations with civil society in Burma.

The United States has serious and continuing concerns with respect to human rights, democracy, and nonproliferation, and our policy continues to blend both pressure and engagement to encourage progress in all areas.

The United States remains concerned by serious human rights violations against the ethnic minority Rohingya people who are denied citizenship and human rights, such as freedom of movement and freedom to marry, among other rights all people should be able to exercise.

Earlier this year, as Burma pursues the road for reform, development and democracy, the United States of America expressed commitment to support Burma’s democratic reforms.

In DC, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said from the beginning of Obama Administration, the US government has pursued a policy of engagement to support human rights and reform in Burma.

United States maintain extensive, targeted sanctions against Burmese regime. Sanctions also targeted against senior leaders of the Burmese government and military, their immediate family members, their key supporters, and others who abuse human rights.

Obama Administration continues to show commitment to promote democracy and human rights in Burma and on key recent developments in Burma including the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the 2010 elections, and the formation of a government headed by former top regime general and now President Thein Sein.

The United States is currently pursuing parallel and complementary tracks in a full-scale effort to advance progress on core concerns of the United States and the international community, including the unconditional release of all political prisoners, respect for human rights, and an inclusive dialogue with the political opposition and ethnic groups that would lead to national reconciliation.

Mina Fabulous
Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn't preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.