Myanmar President H.E. U Thein Sein And Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Deliver Rousing Speeches In Support Of Women’s Advancement During Women’s Forum Myanmar-Asean 2014
Underscoring Myanmar’s efforts to develop a more inclusive political and social dialogue, as well as marking the country’s emergence into the ASEAN economic sphere and the successful culmination of Myanmar’s first ASEAN chairmanship, the 2014 Women’s Forum Myanmar-ASEAN will also be remembered for the historic participation of two of Myanmar’s leading figures: H.E. U Thein Sein, President, Republic of the Union of Myanmar, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Chair of the National League for Democracy, Member of Parliament, Chair of the Lower House Committee for Rule of Law, Peace and Tranquility, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Both leaders addressed the audience at Women’s Forum Myanmar-ASEAN 2014, which took place in Naypyidaw on 5 December and in Yangon the following day, and both addressed Myanmar’s transformation in the wake of five decades of isolation and military rule, as well as the role of women in that transformation.
“Gender equality play[s] an important role and fundamental role in national reconciliation based on peace,” HE U Thein Sein said in Naypyidaw before an audience of nearly 800 women and men from 22 countries, adding that his government will “have to enhance participation of women in the political sphere and to make sure that all the women have equal opportunity to shape their lives and enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights in a meaningful way.”
In a following keynote address, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi acknowledged the international community that helped transform her into a world-renowned symbol of freedom, and expressed gratitude to “our friends from all over the world have been very supportive of our movement for democracy”. Yet she went on emphasize her continued determination to play a more-than-symbolic role in Myanmar’s future: “I am a politician,” she said, “so I speak like one. And I do not think that you can keep politics out of the process of transition. In fact, politics is key to any kind of major transition in our country.
“We need more women involved in politics, but involved in the right way,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi continued. “It is not enough just to be in politics to be a figure, a symbol of the strength of women. We need to be in politics in order to make the changes that are necessary. It’s not a matter of how many ministers we have in the government who are women and how many MPS. It is a matter of how effective these women are, whether in government, whether in parliament, whether in business or whether in CSOs, NGOs and so on. How effective we can be depends on how fairly and how correctly we can judge the needs of our times, the needs of our country, the needs of our people.”
With the program articulated around the theme Women: A driving force in transitional societies, Women’s Forum Myanmar-ASEAN 2014 was organized by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society together with the French Embassy in Myanmar, in close cooperation with the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. As was the case for the first Women’s Forum event in Myanmar in 2013, Women’s Forum Myanmar-ASEAN 2014 featured debates, roundtables and plenary sessions devoted to hearing women’s voices on a wide variety of topics, with an emphasis on lasting progress and workable solutions. Nearly 800 participants from Myanmar, the ASEAN region and from around the world exchanged experiences, pooled knowledge and established personal links, exploring topics such as the development of the financial sector in ASEAN countries; the case for involving women in economic transition; creating inclusive and responsible investment in ASEAN; the regional outlook for women from 2015 onward; and ASEAN connectivity. Other sessions and workshops examined the environmental agenda; demographics and regional migrations; and how to create a healthy ecosystem for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Among the more than 70 speakers taking part in the two-day event were Annick Girardin, French Minister of State for Development and Francophony; Thierry Mathou, French Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar; HE Dr Daw Khin San Yee, Minister of Education of the Republic of Union of Myanmar; Thomas Friedberger, SVP and CEO of Airbus Group Singapore; Dr. Robert Sebbag, Vice-President, Access to Medicines, Sanofi; Elaine Tan, Executive Director, ASEAN Foundation and Trustee, ASEAN CSR Network; Emma Bonino, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leader of the Senate, and Member of Parliament in Italy; Melanne Verveer, Executive Director, the Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Georgetown University, and Founding Partner, Seneca Point Global; Melody Meyer, President of Chevron Asia Pacific Exploration and Production; and Christa Raeder, Bangladesh Country Director of the World Food Programme.
Another milestone was the first incarnation, thanks to support from KBZ Group, of the Women’s Forum’s CEO Champions initiative in Myanmar. On 4 December – the day before the official opening of Women’s Forum Myanmar-ASEAN – some 20 women and men corporate leaders from Myanmar along with one CEO from Thailand met in a closed-door brainstorming session in Yangon. They then agreed to make public their list of specific commitments to fight gender discrimination and promote women in the workplace.
“The Women's Forum seeks to be present in countries and regions where the participation of women is creating a movement of optimism and energy,” noted Jacqueline Franjou, CEO of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, in her closing remarks. “During these past few days we have seen bonds take shape between people from Myanmar, from ASEAN, from around the world. You have come here to pool your experiences. The women of Myanmar can count on these bonds as they participate in building the future. And I am proud to have assisted, with my team, in helping this take shape.”
The Women’s Forum Myanmar-ASEAN was partnered by the following corporations: Chevron Corporation, KBZ Group, Sanofi, Airbus, Peugeot, Cartier, EDF, Total, Fortune International, Hotel Chatrium, The Lake Garden, MAI and MA. Media partners included: Agence France Presse, France Médias Monde, Les Echos, The International New York Times, Forever Group, Mizzima Media Group, and Skynet.