Gender and Local Politics in Myanmar:
Women’s and Men’s Participation in Ward, Village Tract and Village Decision Making
Working Paper 2
Paul Minoletti, Pausa La Ring and Elin Bjarnegård
Although formal legal, policy-making and budgetary powers in Myanmar remain highly centralised, decision making at ward, village tract and village levels has a large impact on citizens’ lives – including for local development, basic administration, security and dispute resolution, and social and religious activities. This working paper explores the gender equality of politics and administration in these most local levels of governance in Myanmar, complementing another working paper recently published by EMReF that examines the gender equality of participation in Myanmar’s parliamentary politics, and another forthcoming EMReF working paper that will present survey evidence on gender and political attitudes.
Women attend ward and village public meetings in large numbers, often forming the majority of meetings attendees. However, women are less likely than men to actively participate in discussions during the meetings, and young women are particularly likely to be excluded from active participation. The key local leadership positions of ward/village tract administrators, 100 household heads, and local elders are extremely male dominated, and women are still less than 1% of all the ward/village tract administrators in Myanmar. Overall, women are disproportionately likely to experience the downsides of participation (e.g. sacrificing their time to attend meetings), without experiencing the upsides (e.g. being able to influence decision making and feeling empowered).