Finland supports the realization of women’s rights in Myanmar amid the conflict
In connection with the International Day of the UN against violence against women on November 25th, the senior specialist of the Finnish embassy, ââSanna Takala, wrote a blog post on Finland’s activities to promote and safeguard the rights of women and girls in Myanmar.
on VÃ¤estÃ¶liitto‘s blog, Sanna Takala wrote:
The promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls in the conflict zone is an essential part of Finnish development cooperation in Myanmar. By February 2021, that meant support in the states of Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan, which have long been armed conflict but have expanded across the country since the military coup.
The military coup in Myanmar has increased the risk of a return to a more patriarchal society and a decline in women’s rights. Sexual violence has increased with unrest. Sexual and reproductive health services are poorly available when public health services are not working. Pregnant women are particularly at risk. The effects of the economic collapse after the coup and Covid also hit women-dominated industries such as the textile industry and, in particular, small businesses.
At the same time, the democracy movement has questioned traditional gender roles and has also shown that social norms have changed. Women have led peaceful demonstrations and have been on the front lines against the coup. The majority of government workers on strike are women; Teachers, health workers and subordinate officials.
Finland works with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to reduce and prevent the realization of women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health and sexual and gender-based violence. Given the changing business environment, support is focused on work that protects life and dignity and the protection of women. Given the low level of public health services amid COVID and political unrest, UNFPA has provided safe obstetric services to women. As sexual violence increases, so does the demand for UNFPA’s women’s shelters and judicial services.
Despite the difficult operating environment and the security situation, women’s shelters continued. One of the beneficiaries of the project and customers of the shelter is a 19 year old pregnant single parent. She explains the importance of basic hygiene products such as soap, comb, toothpaste, detergent and new underwear: “My self-esteem has recovered and I feel valued again,” she says.
Finland, together with the United Nations Gender Equality Organization, UNWOMEN, also supports the continuation of NGO activities to promote women’s rights in the shrinking NGO environment. About half of the organizations had to close for security reasons. At the same time, the role of NGOs as guardians of women’s rights was emphasized. The protection of equality organizations is also important so that women’s views are included in the peace debate and reconstruction at the start of the debate.