Aung San Suu Kyi, the 2012 Ion Raţiu Democracy Awardee, was honored yesterday with the prestigious award in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, during the “Women Leading Democracy Building in Myanmar” Workshop. The award was presented by Mr. Nicolae Ratiu, chairman of The Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation.This was the first time a Raţiu Award nominee is honored in her home country at a program that advances her cause among the people whose rights she defended and fought for.
Held on January 15th-16th, the workshop, co organized by The Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Concord Institute Myanmar, addressed the issues behind women’s public and political participation, empowering women to challenge historic prejudices, bias and stereotypes and enhance their visibility. Women are encouraged to become change agents, to participate in the decision making processes, fight gender violence, be more active in the policy making field starting at the drafting table, become more aware of their rights and develop a stronger voice to press for demands.
The purpose of the workshop was not to address specific women but a critical mass able to influence the political norm and lead to change and advancement of women in the public sector. The workshop aimed to signal the importance of networking, the strategic linkage between women lobbyists, representatives of the civil society, media and not-for-profit sector and women politicians especially when it comes to supporting the emancipation of women. Comparisons to other states and inspiration from good practices approaches were encouraged. Key speakers included Jane Harman, director and CEO of Woodrow Wilson Center and Dr. Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Wilson Center, Dr. May Win Myint, Member of the National League for Democracy's Central Executive Committee and Member of Parliament, Her Excellency MyatMyat Own Khim, Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, Than Tha Nu, Secretary of the DPN Party and member of Peace and Conflict Committee, Zin Mar Aung, Recipient of the Woman of Courage Award by Secretary Hillary Clinton, Susana HlaHla Soe, peace leader for Kayin Ethnic Group, Mădălina Mocan, Executive Director at Ratiu Foundation for Democracy and Soe Win, representative of Myanmar Women Leaders Network. The workshop was also attended by Pamela Ratiu, Executive Director of The Raţiu Family Charitable Foundation to Romania.
Soe Htet Win, the chairperson of the Concord Institute opened the Ratiu Democracy Award workshop “Women Leading Democracy Building in Myanmar”. Dr Rangita de Silva de Alwis quoting Aung San Suu Kyi – it is women and children that suffer the most in a conflict, presented the challenges of including women in the constitutional process as well as in the peace building agreement. The director of the Global Women’s Leadership at the Wilson Center described the various domestic legislations that include and protect women around the world. The workshop was attended by many outstanding representatives of the women’s movement of Myanmar (Burma) covering issues such as women entrepreneurship (dr. Toe Nandar Tin) the glass ceiling in the legal profession ( prof. dr. Daw Than New) and the role of women in democratic transition (Zin Mar Aung). Dr Hla Hla Soe, the representative of the Karen movement presented the role of women in conflict, naming the Karen group fight for self identity “the longest war in the world”. She emphasized the role of women in the peace process by giving examples of the Karen movement in which women have taken upon themselves the responsibility of finding a common ground.
Mădălina Mocan, executive director of the Ratiu Foundation for Democracy shared Romania’s lesson from transition to democracy in terms of women participation in the public sphere and assuming the burden of supporting families affected by economic crisis. She has also mentioned the risks associated with poverty and weak states including the increasing number of those affected by modern day slavery.
The closing remarks belonged to Jane Harman, president and CEO of the Wilson Center that made a compelling case for women leadership emphasizing the need that women leaders become mentors for the next generations, that leadership remains value – oriented, learning from failures and not forgetting personal lives. “As Burma is changing, said Honorable Harman, and the entire world is noticing – you are changing too”.
The Ratiu Democracy Award was presented by Nicolae Ratiu, chairman of the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation, to Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw, in the presence of the women she fought for and continues to support. The opening remarks of Jane Harman, president and CEO of the Wilson Center were presented by dr. Dr Rangita de Silva de Alwis, honoring the awardee’s inspiring contribution to women movement around the world.
Nicolae Ratiu presented the history of the award that continues the legacy of Ion Ratiu and honors his own fight for freedom and democracy in the world. Ion Ratiu returned to Romania after almost half a century of exile, joining the political competition. In a post revolutionary Romania marked by the presence in power of former communists, he challenged the presidency unsuccessfully and continued to fight for freedom and democracy in his own country, sometimes even against his own party members. As long as there still is a candle of hope burning, the fight is worth fighting, the chairman of the Ratiu Family Foundation quoted Ion Ratiu, adding that for her beloved Burma the awardee, Aung San Suu Kyi, represented that candle.