On September 27-28, 2014 the Parliamentary Centre and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) organized a workshop entitled “Strategies for Women Legislators to Succeed” in Naypyitaw, Burma (Myanmar), with the support of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.
The two-day workshop brought together 25 women parliamentarians and parliamentary staff from both houses of the Parliament of Burma, as well as four regional assemblies. This workshop follows on a productive two-way exchange that took place between the Parliament of Canada and the Parliament of Burma in 2013.
Participants were able to engage with a group of acting and former women parliamentarians from Canada (Ms. Kirsty Duncan, Ms. Dawn Black and Ms. Elizabeth Weir), Nepal (Ms. Sapana Pradhan Malla) and Cambodia (Ms. Mu Sochua) along with experts from Parliamentary Centre and International IDEA.
The workshop was very successful in allowing the parliamentarians to share experiences, discuss and identify concrete areas where they can come together across party-lines and address the unique challenges faced by women in politics.
Several tools to help them become more effective legislators and decision-makers were shared. Discussions centered on the role and importance of women’s caucuses and other similar forms of organization to bring female legislators together on common issues, for example addressing domestic violence, cultural and societal barriers to female participation.
Participants also talked about how this could take form in the local context and they all expressed a strong willingness to continue working together.
Women parliamentarians in Burma currently have very little support to perform their roles effectively. Cooperation or even dialogue between members representing different political parties is very unusual.
Forming a women’s caucus was seen as one important way to help address key women’s issues together and to improve women’s participation in decision-making and political life. This is especially important with the upcoming election in 2015 in mind, where the need to promote increased female representation will be critical.