In 1995 women were only 10% of the world’s parliamentarians. In that year, the UN World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, and described how women’s political underrepresentation is a problem for democracy – i.e. despite being half the population women were only a small proportion of MPs. Further, it was highlighted that raising women’s participation can help promote economic and human development, through paying more attention to women’s and girls’ specific needs and values, and incorporating women’s experience, knowledge and perspectives into policymaking.
Since the 1995 conference there have been concerted efforts in many countries around the world to raise women’s political participation, and today women are 24% of the world’s parliamentarians. Whereas, in Myanmar women are currently only around 10% of MPs at both Union and State/Region levels. Within ASEAN, only Brunei (9%) ranks lower than Myanmar, and some countries are far ahead, e.g. Timor-Leste (38%), Philippines (28%) and Laos (28%).
There are multiple reasons for women’s low parliamentary representation in Myanmar, including:
- Cultural norms and biases that lead most citizens to prefer male political leaders, for females to have less confidence and ambition to try and become parliamentarians, and for it to be harder for women to travel to remote areas and/or overnight.
- The difficulty of balancing family and household responsibilities that women are typically expected to perform with participating in public life.
- Military representation in parliament – women are 13% of elected MPs but only 1% of military-appointed MPs.
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N.b. The information in this brief is taken from a working paper recently published by EMReF, based on
in-depth interviews with nine major Myanmar political parties.