Women Local Administrators Inspire Rural Women’s Network to Take on Bigger Leadership RolesDec 11, 2015
Aim for the sky, persevere and you will succeed, that is the message from Myanmar’s female local administrators to aspiring women to become community leaders.
Women make up a tiny fraction of this important level of local level administration who have been elected by the people since the introduction of the new law in 2012. Village tract administrators are present in rural areas, whereas ward administrators are in urban areas. They have a direct line of communication with township administrators and form a bridge between township administration and the people in the wards and tracts.
Prior to 2012, local administrators were appointed by Government. Since 2012, they have been elected by the 10 household heads. During the first elections held over 2012-2013, only 42 women were elected, constituting 0.25 % of the total 16, 785 village tract/ward administrators (VT/WA).
Ma Khin Khin Maw, Village Tract Administrator (VTA) from Ah Zaw Taw Sone, in Thura Kwa Township in Yangon region has been on the job since February 2013. She has contributed to many changes in her community. During the first year of her tenure, she built a school, totally supported by the community. In 2014, she built an embankment and a water tank. This year, she mobilized funds and support for the construction of a concrete foot path.
“I have been a school teacher and an active social worker. I was confident that I had the support of my community to become a village tract administrator,” said Ma Khin Khin Maw.
The 53 year old said she was pleasantly surprised to see many of the female VT/WA were older than her at the three day workshop organised by the United Nations Development Programme together with the General Administration Department. During the workshop, women VT/WA shared the experiences with the 15 board members of the May Doe Kabar, Myanmar’s Rural Women’s Network, which brings together 22000 members across Myanmar.
“Seeing these older female VTAs gives me hope that I have many years before me in this role,” she said.
Ma Khin Khin Maw’s motivation to become a VTA is the satisfaction she sees within the community, when she helps bringing improvements in their lives through community development work.
For their work, local administrators are reimbursed 70,000 kyats per month by the General Administration Department, and receive 50,000 kyats for office material. However, they are not employees of the General Administration Department, nor civil servants.
Ma Naw Gay Kal Le is a Village Tract Administrator from Kyar Lin Shwe Yoe, from Hpa-An Kayin region. She was elected in May 2013. Prior to this, she had been a 10 household head for 2 years.
“I was surprised when I won. In my areas there have been two women VTAs who have been working over the past 20 years. I received guidance and support from them. I have not faced any major hurdles in my work. Whatever difficulties I had, I have overcome them.” said the 34 year old.
The village tract/ward administrators are elected under the provisions of The Ward or Village Tract Administration Law, and need to be at least 25 years old.
May Doe Kabar board member, Ma Nyo Nyo San, from Naung Cho township in Shan State, is very happy that she had a chance to interact with and learn from the female VT/WA.
“I am now a 10 household head. I would like to become a VTA and help address women’s needs better,” she said.
“Being a member of May Doe Kabar, I am used to mobilizing women for income generation savings schemes and community development. Becoming a VTA means that I can use all these skills to benefit a wider community,” she said.
Ma Nyo Nyo San is not the only May Doe Kabar member who has been inspired by the VT/WA. May Doe Kabar board member, Daw Thein Aye, from Mawlamyine Kyun is glad she had a chance to hear the experiences of the female VTAs.
“Being here at this workshop and listening to all these VT/WA makes me realise that they have a lot of networks. It is by using these different networks that they get support for the work they do in their communities. I am very encouraged and aim to become a village tract administrator myself,” said the 40 year old.
“More rural women should become village tract administrators,” she said.
Deputy Director General from the General Administration Department, U Min Shwe spoke at the workshop and said that a gender balanced administration system is important for good governance.
“The current government has exerted efforts to achieve its reform ambition of people-centred, bottom-up development, and to do so, the most effective way to ensure this is to have appropriate gender balanced administrators at the ward/village tract level,” said U Min Shwe.
“The presence of women and men not only at the local but also at the union level governance structures is also the most effective way to ensure the voices and perspectives of women and men are incorporated,” he said.
UNDP Country Director Toily Kurbanov said that more women in decision making will increase accountability.
“Stronger political accountability begins with increasing the number of women in decision-making positions, and UNDP will support the government and the Ministry of Home Affairs in encouraging more women to participate in local governance. But it cannot stop there. What is also required are gender-sensitive governance reforms that will make all elected officials and its administration more effective at promoting gender equality in public policy and ensuring its implementation,” said Mr. Kurbanov.
UNDP released a report “Women and Local Leadership: Leadership Journeys of Myanmar’s Female Village Tract/Ward Administrators” which takes an in-depth look at how these women have overcome barriers to become leaders in their communities, and offers recommendations on how to encourage other women to participate in local governance and take up leadership positions. The report is accompanied by a film which traces the lives of six women village tract/ward administrators as they dispense their duties.