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“Gender equality is not only a women’s issue - it is everyone’s issue”

07 Mar 2019


Nan has been promoting gender equality in her small village in Kayin State, Myanmar, and surrounding areas since participating in a protection training provided by UN agencies to flood-affected communities a few months ago.

Nan Sa Aell Daung Paing promotes gender equality in her community, educating women and girls in her village and surrounding areas on issues related to gender-based violence. Credit: OCHA/Htet Oo

Nan Sa Aell Daung Paing became a champion for gender equality in her community of Kayin State in Myanmar after an eye-opening training supported by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to address emergency protection needs in the aftermath of floods in the area last year. Although she was aware that gender inequality existed in her society and culturally, the training made Nan realize that many people do not think it is an actual issue because they are often accustomed to the prevalence of inequality in society.

“In my village, I see and hear the stories of women who are pressured by their families or society to stay with their abusive partners,” Nan said. “People say it is a cultural thing, but it’s not OK for women. Culturally, domestic violence is not seen as a serious social problem.”

Nan, who is 26 years old and lives in a small village in the Hpa-An Township of Kayin State in south-east Myanmar, participated in a training for community volunteers this past November as part of emergency protection assistance provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF, with support from CERF, to flood-affected communities in Bago, Kayin and Mon states.

Between June and September 2018, monsoon seasonal floods damaged or destroyed houses and infrastructures in 12 of Myanmar’s 14 states, temporarily displacing more than 268,000 people, according to the Government of Myanmar’s Department of Disaster Management. The region of Bago and Kayin and Mon states were the most severely affected, and tens of thousands of people in those areas had to be evacuated to safer locations. CERF provided US$248,827 to the three UN agencies to jump-start an emergency flood response in the worst-affected areas. The response targeted 18,000 people, including 3,800 children and some 2,000 people who were displaced by armed conflict in Kayin State.

The agencies provided protection services that included awareness sessions on gender-based violence (GBV), child protection and human trafficking prevention, which helped the affected communities address protection concerns. Basic hygiene and dignity kits were also distributed to women, girls and boys.

OCHA and partners meet with communities from Kayin State in Myanmar, where UN agencies are responding to emergency humanitarian needs, with support from CERF, in the aftermath of floods in 2018. Credit: OCHA/Htet Oo

During the training, Nan learned that women and girls are at greater risk of suffering GBV in emergency situations.

“The training was a real eye-opener for me,” Nan said. “In addition to physical abuse, I came to realize that may women were also suffering emotional abuse. We need to bring the issue to the surface and also listen to the voices of women while engaging men to build a gender-balanced community and to promote gender equality in our society.”

Nan, who was raised by her mother since the age of 10, believes that women can achieve many things if they are empowered and given opportunities.

“My mother raised me and my five siblings by herself after my father passed,” she said. “We were told several times that we needed a man to lead and manage the household. But my mother did an incredible job. It was difficult, but she raised us and educated us.”

Since attending the training, Nan has been educating women and girls in her village and surrounding areas on GBV-related issues.

“Gender equality is not only a women’s issue – it’s everyone’s issue,” stressed Nan. “Men also need to understand and participate to promote gender equality. Gender equality is not women taking men’s role. Women must be bold and raise their voices on GBV issues to create a better-balanced world.”