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Burmese women ready to play leadership role: U.S. ambassador

(Mizzima) – Women have an important role to play in Burma and they are strategically positioned to play a much larger role the months and years ahead, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer told reporters in Rangoon last week.
Melanne Verveer, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues, speaks at a press conference at the home of Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon on Sunday, May 6, 2012. Photo: Mizzima / Lynn Bo Bo
Verveer said that just before she was scheduled to leave the country, she met with the five members of the Me N Ma, a popular girl band that writes their own lyrics.

She said, “You know they comprise Chin, Kachin, Burman, and there they were, five women who came together to start a band and sing music appropriate to what’s on the mind of the young people everywhere.”

She said they told her about their newest song not yet released, and they sang it for her.

“And the lines were: 'To Burmese everywhere, come back home. Myanmar is changing. We need you.'’”

“They were looking at the future with great hope, with great possibility. And that was their song to their fellow citizens wherever they were living. And I thought that it was a fitting ending to this trip that I just have been privileged to take to be able to hear young people sing out so eloquently for a new day, a new day that they want to have and they want to see realized in their country.”

Asked if she talked with government officials about women in the border areas where many are refugees from the war, she said women and their children have borne the consequences of war.

“We have asked for access for humanitarian organizations – the UN and others – so that they can provide the kind of assistance and support that is critically needed,” she said.

In Kachin State, she said what is required is reconciliation.

“And reconciliation will not come until that conversation begins and it is a serious conversation,” she said. “Obviously, you need to end the hostilities and you need to begin to get in the humanitarian assistance. But [reconciliation] has to start very, very seriously… Women have a critical role to play in peace, security and reconciliation.”

Asked about her assessment of women rights in Burma, she said she was highly impressed by “the commitment, the intelligence, the determination, the capacity, the great desire for women, no matter what their age, to roll up their sleeves and really work towards creating the kind of country that will create a better life for all of the people here.

“I think they have a level of ability, and know-how and commitment that is truly something that will bode well for everyone here in the weeks and months ahead,” she said.

Burmese women expressed a desire to be involved in networks within the country and across the borders, she said.

“They want to be able to exchange best practices and knowledge so that they can take the kind of place they need to take,” she said. “And they certainly want to be a part of any peace and reconciliation efforts going ahead, in terms of the ethnic areas that have been beset by conflict.”
Last Updated ( Monday, 14 May 2012 16:15 )  

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