Statement for the 27th KWO Day on 5th April 2012

Karen Women Organisation Statement in Recognition of KWO Day

A Call for More Women in the Peace Process

On KWO day, a Call for More Women in the Peace Process Statement by KWO Karen Version 2012

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.

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About Karen Women Organisation

The Karen Women Organisation was formed in 1949 and has a membership of over 64,100 women. KWO is a community-based organisation of Karen women working in development and relief in the refugee camps on the Thai border and with IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and women inside Burma. Since our formation in 1949 we have expanded our focus from one of purely social welfare to try to encourage an awareness of Women's Rights and to promote women’s participation in the community decision making and political processes. The objectives of the KWO  To assist women in the endeavour to be free from all forms of oppression.  To promote and empower women in all spheres of life, including education and general living standards.  To encourage women to participate in the struggle for freedom, democracy and equality.  To develop women's knowledge, ability and skills, including political and organizational skills.  To achieve the rights of women and equal status with men.  To promote and maintain Karen culture and traditions.  To improve the well-being of women and children and to increase their access to adequate health, education and welfare services. KWO aims to empower women through offering various capacity building trainings to teach skills, build confidence and create new opportunities so that women will be better able to solve problems. We are working hard to educate ourselves and our communities so that we can work more effectively and advocate for our struggle on the international stage. We believe that women’s contribution is an essential factor in the peace-building and national reconciliation processes of Burma.