An exile women's rights group will for the first time co-host an event in Burma when the Women's Forum (Burma/Myanmar) kicks off in Rangoon on Friday.
The Women's League of Burma (WLB), based in Thailand, and the Rangoon-based Women Organizations Network, are jointly organizing the forum. Female parliamentarians, peace activists and ethnic leaders, along with other prominent women from Burma's political, social and health spheres, are expected to attend the event.
“We hope to build trust among each other and to work together for peace in our country from this first-time gathering,” said Tin Tin Nyo, the general secretary of the WLB.
“With women's unity, we will work toward building a peaceful and developed society by ending armed conflicts in Burma,” she added.
The forum aims to bring women's perspectives together with an emphasis on equality and facilitating genuine reform in Burma. The female activists plan to hold a similar forum in November of next year, with the two events to serve as stepping stones to a larger gathering in 2015.
“This is the first step for the upcoming Women's Conference to be held in two years, in 2015,” Tin Tin Nyo said.
Forum organizers have also invited leaders of the Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation to the historic gathering, but attendance by representatives of the government-backed federation has not yet been confirmed, Tin Tin Nyo said.
“But we are open to any women's groups to work together for women's empowerment and genuine peace,” she added.
The forum will also celebrate International Peace Day, which will be commemorated on Saturday. The WLB general secretary said, “we will keep up our work to pressure the government and the relevant stakeholders to listen to women's voices and to allow women's participation in peacemaking in the country.”
The three-day forum will discuss a range of topics, including the current peace process between ethnic armed rebel groups and the central government, law and legal protection, gender issues, and women's role in politics. The organizers will hold a press conference following the forum's conclusion on Sunday.
WLB, an umbrella organization of 13 ethnic women's groups, was formed nearly 14 years ago in December 1999. WLB held a meeting with the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) last year, when it called for all-inclusive participation in the peace process.
WON is a network of 27 organizations set up in 2008 to work toward a “new society where there is equality, peace and development for all women and men.”