The Women Are Ready: an opportunity to transform peace in Myanmar

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After four years of negotiation, the Government of Myanmar and some of the Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) signed a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in October 2015.3 Reflecting on either side of the negotiation table, one conclusion is evident: there were few women participating in the NCA process. The Government's negotiation team, represented in direct talks by the Union Peace-making Working Committee (UPWC), comprised 52 members, of which two were women. In the negotiating team for the EAOs, two of the fifteen-strong delegation in the final stage of the talks, were women.4 Why are there so few women participating in Myanmar's peace process? Why are gender considerations absent from substantive negotiation discussions? Which factors impede the substantive participation of women in peace talks and peacebuilding in Myanmar? How can a multiplicity of stakeholders undertake strategies to foster the meaningful participation of women in Myanmar's peace architecture?

To address these questions, this Discussion Paper outlines the status of women's participation and gender in the Myanmar peace process to date, identifies factors that act as a barrier to their participation, and finally proposes some areas of strategic intervention that could address them. Section 1 looks at the leading stakeholders-Government, Ethnic Armed Organisations, civil society, and international actors-and how they shape the peace process and gender equality more broadly.

Subsequently, Section 2 details eight key factors that inhibit the participation of women in the peace process and peacebuilding in Myanmar.

These eight inter-related factors provide insight into the multiplicity of overt and subtle barriers that prevent women from participating in the peace architecture and public spaces more broadly. This Discussion Paper concludes in Section 3 by proposing eight strategic areas of intervention in order to address the underlying factorsdiscussed in Section 2-that inhibit the full and substantive participation of women in the peace process.

This Discussion Paper is a concise overview, inclusive of key analysis and recommendations, based on extensive research undertaken. This Paper is not exhaustive. It provides a nuanced overview of women's participation in Myanmar's peace process up to the NCA signing ceremony in October 2015. The methodology is explained in Annex 1. This is the first instalment of the PSF's "Contributions to Sustainable Peace Series" (see Annex 2 for more information).

The PSF invites readers to reflect on the ways in which the participation of women is limited in the peace process and how to undertake strategies to counter this exclusion. To foster discussion, at the end of each section are boxes that contain 'discussion starter questions'.