Meet Village Tract Administrator: Daw Htu SanJun 23, 2017
An active community leader on women’s and children’s issues, Daw Htu San became the first woman VTA of Mone See Village Tract, Tar Moe Nyae Town, Kut Khine Township in Northern Shan State. Mone See Village Tract has a population of 6,000 and and is made up of Kachin, Shan, Chinese, Pa Laung, Barmar and people from the La tribe.
Daw Htu San has a very good reputation in her community because of her enthusiastic participation in village development activities. She served as Secretary of the Village Tract Development Support Committee and also Vice President of the village Election Commission. Daw Htu San used to volunteer in various school and health activities and was the President of the Health Committee in her village tract. Many villagers supported Daw Htu San to run for the VTA position so that they would be treated fairly and equally.
“Villagers urged me to run for the post of VTA, saying that that wanted a VTA who treated all ethnic groups fairly and equally. There were 6 candidates at the beginning, but 4 quit and said that they were going to support me. So I had to compete against the former VTA who used to be my colleague!”
Challenges and Solutions
Since people in her village tract were not united, Daw Htu San hosted a ceremony to bring people together once she got elected. She also faced lots of investigations when ssomeone lodged complaints about her to the Township Administration, accusing her of having relations with some unofficial ethnic organizations. She finally proved that the accusations were baseless.
“Even if I weren’t a VTA, I would do as much as I could for the development of our village. I, myself, came from a poor family. I didn’t finish my education till the end because my parents were so poor that they couldn’t support me anymore. So I want all the villagers become educated.”
Being a female VTA for the first time, Daw Htu San didn’t get much respect at the beginning. There were only few people attended the meetings which she held. However, people finally accepted when they saw the results of her work. Daw Htu San oversaw various religious events as well. In a novice initiation ceremony, she helped those novice-to-be who could not afford to buy robes and bowls by convincing donors for them. She also led the fund-raising for weddings.
Daw Htu San’s daily routine is not easy. She often has problems to solve once the day starts. Mostly she has to solve for drug cases. Furthermore, she also plays a role in negotiating not only between armed organizations, but also between villagers and armed organizations. Since there are ethnic soldiers who don’t speak Burmese, Daw Htu San also has to interpret between them and the military facilitate communications.
Conflicts usually happens around her village tract. One night there was a battle and a village woman was shot. The next morning she went to her home to see her condition but she wasn’t allowed to enter their house since the husband of the injured woman was very traditional and superstitious. They did not want the strangers to enter their house so that the injury would not get worse.
“You shouldn’t be superstitious at this moment. Your wife is in emergency now. Would you let her die or send her to the hospital?” Finally, Daw Htu San could help the woman get hospitalized right away.
Daw Htu San’s Leadership Style and her Future Plans
Daw Htu San leads her village tract using democratic leadership. She considers each opinion and evaluates what the right thing should be. “I respect what others think and compare the different points of view. Then I explain the advantages and disadvantages, and let them decide. Everyone has their own perspective. I ask their opinions on my decision and explained why I decide so.”
Daw Htu San is willing to give trainings for women when she returns to her village. “I have recorded some from this training. I will give trainings about 2 or 3 days in our village for female leaders. I would like to empower them and provide them with much knowledge. I want them know how women are as important as men, and they have their own rights. This training is very helpful!”
***Daw Htu San attended the National Training Workshop for Female Ward and Tract Administrators in Nay Pyi Taw held by UNDP. The workshop took place from May 15th to 21st.
***Village Tract/Ward Administration is the lowest tier of administration, as per the Myanmar Government administrative structure. There are approximately 17,000 village tracts and wards in the country as a whole, and the role of Ward and Village Tract Administrators (W/VTAs) is crucial in interfacing between the government and the Myanmar population, 70 % of which is made up of rural dwellers.
The Village Tract and Ward Administration Law (2012) mandates WVTA’s responsibilities. These include maintaining peace and security, performing as a birth and death registrar, coordinating local development and facilitating information exchange between the government and community members.
Village Tract/Ward Administrators are elected in a secret ballot by 10 household leaders, who themselves are elected by members of corresponding household groups. They serve for 5 years and their terms are in line with those of the Pyithu Huttlaw (Lower House). A VT/WA can serve for a maximum of 2 terms.
In the 2012 Ward and Village Tract administrator election, only 41 out of 16785 seats (0.24 percent of total seats) were won by women. In the 2016 Ward and Village Tract Administrator election, the number of female representation in ward and village tract administration doubled to 88 with women taking 0.5 % of the seats. About 31 % of female WVTAs were re-elected to their second term.