Karen Women Organisation Statement in Recognition of KWO Day
A Call for More Women in the Peace Process
KWO Day is the commemoration of our work and the work of all Karen women. Karen Women Organisation (KWO) has provided leadership and services to the Karen community, particularly women and children for decades. This year we welcome the recent progress toward peace in our homeland. We are not sure yet if we will be successful, but we believe it is a time for all Karen people to make every effort to bring peace to our people. We believe women’s participation in the peace process is essential for it to be successful, genuine and to benefit the whole of our community. The need for and value of women’s participation in Peace Processes is widely recognized in the world.
Karen women have suffered greatly, like all Karen people, in the conflict with the Burmese Dictatorship from human rights violations: forced labor, the destruction of our villages, and being forced to flee for safety far away from our land. Women have had to sacrifice their fathers, husbands, and children to this struggle for our rights. We have been left to support and raise our families alone. In addition women have suffered from countless acts of sexual violence and exploitation. We have worked to maintain our families in the midst of this conflict, struggled to feed them, care for our children, provide education, and to empower ourselves.
Karen women have been leaders in all areas of the Karen society: at home, in the community, in advocacy and social welfare support, and politically. Karen Women Organisation believes we have a vital role to play in the peace process because of our experience, our point of view, and our leadership. If a lasting peace is achieved in Burma, as we all hope, women’s perspective and participation is essential for building a strong Karen State and preserving our proud culture.
The important role that women can play in peace processes in the world has been recognized many times by the International Community. The UN has passed 5 separate Resolutions calling for increased participation of women: 2 resolutions specifically relate to the role of women in Peace Processes, and 3 resolutions relate to responses to sexual violence during war.
1. Resolution 1325 and Resolution 1889 states that women’s participation is essential in decision making in peace processes, early recovery, governance and in peace operations.
2. Resolutions 1820, 1888 and 1960 demand an end to sexual violence and to hold perpetrators accountable.
Despite these international agreements, women have been poorly represented in peace processes around the world. The United Nation’s own studies indicate, “women have represented fewer than 8 percent of participants and fewer than 3 percent of signatories, and no woman has ever been appointed chief or lead mediator in UN-sponsored peace talks. Such exclusion invariably leads to a failure to adequately address women’s concerns, such as sexual and gender-based violence, women’s rights and post-conflict accountability.”
As we celebrate KWO Day today, we call for a full commitment to women’s participation in every aspect of the welcome peace process. We stand ready to do everything we can to join with other Karen leaders in making peace and freedom a reality. We have been partners in the Karen people’s struggle for justice. We are fully prepared to be partners in negotiations for peace.