Will More Women Join Politics in the 2020 Myanmar Elections?

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An expected increase in women’s participation in politics could reduce the country's wide gender gap in political empowerment

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In 2020, the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap continues to find the largest gender disparity is—once again—the Political Empowerment gap. While countries across the board are making efforts to reduce the gap, Myanmar is behind all countries in ASEAN. Despite having successful and highly visible women across all sectors of the economy from the garment industry to education. Few Myanmar women are present in politics. The reasons for women’s low parliamentary representation in Myanmar typically include:

- Cultural norms and biases that lead to mass preferences of male political leaders

- Perception that females have less political confidence and ambition

- Difficulties for women to travel to remote areas and/or overnight

- Difficulties balancing family and household responsibilities, even of full-time working women

- Military representation in parliament – women are 13% of elected MPs but only 1% of military-appointed MPs.

A less discussed reason for Myanmar women’s low parliamentary representation lies with the political parties. Political parties remain highly male-dominated, with key positions at central and Township levels of parties overwhelmingly filled by men.

Professor Kuhonta will point out similar and contrasting trends between Myanmar and Cambodia -- two countries that have both experienced deep political challenges related to war, social transformation, and economic underdevelopment while Prof. Netina Tan will focus on Myanmar to explain why candidate selection and internal party politics matter, and strategies to help women gain greater political space.

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.

Dr. Erik Martinez Kuhonta is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of the Institute for the Study of International Development at McGill University, focuses on comparative political development, with a regional focus on Southeast Asia.

Background readings

Tan, Netina et al (2020) "Party Building and Candidate Selection Intraparty Politics and Promoting Gender Equality in Myanmar" https://emref.org/sites/emref.org/files/publication-docs/party_building_and_candidate_selection_intraparty_politics_and_promoting_gender_equality_in_myanmar_emref.pdf

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