October 27, 2020.

It is now 25 years since the UN World Conference on Women was held in Beijing (1995). This meeting of global leaders spurred an unprecedented push for gender equality in a number of areas. Specifically, the conference highlighted women’s persistent political underrepresentation as a democratic problem as well as a hurdle for economic and human development. Since this conference, many countries have made concerted efforts to increase the number of women in politics. For example, the percentage of the world’s parliamentarians that are women has more than doubled since 1995 from 11% to 25% in 2020. Participating in public life is an aspect of peoples’ agency, and therefore the ability (or inability) to participate in politics and governance can directly affect their well-being.

Research from many countries shows that men and women typically have different priorities for policies and budgeting. New research on Myanmar shows that it is also the case here. Female leaders tend to be more responsive than men leaders to the preferences and needs of women. Therefore, improving the gender equality of participation in governance bodies should typically result in policy-making decisions becoming more equitable, as these governance bodies become less biased towards to the needs and preferences of male citizens.

The value of making political participation in Myanmar more gender equal has been recognized in numerous Government of Myanmar policies, including the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan, 2018-30, which, in Strategy 1.5, aims to, ‘Increase the ability of all people to engage with the government’, and specific targets to measure progress in meeting this aspiration include: i) the proportion of seats held by women in union and state/region parliaments; the percentage of candidates for union and state region parliaments that are women; and the percentage of women in village-track administrations that are women.

This talk focuses on a recent report by the Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation (EMReF) report that explains why there is currently so much gender inequality in political participation in Myanmar, and what can be done to change that, including making progress towards these government targets.


Dr. Paul Minoletti completed a doctorate in Economic and Social History from the University of Oxford in 2011, and since 2012 has worked as a policy researcher in Myanmar. Paul has published on a range of political and economic topics in Myanmar, including gender and political participation, gender and budgeting, economics and conflict, and public financial management.

Dr. Netina Tan – Associate Professor of Political Science in McMaster University, Canada, focuses on authoritarian resilience and the political representation of women and ethnic minorities in the socio-political developments in East and Southeast Asia.