More women in Myanmar should play a greater role in the country’s transformation process – that is one of the key issues discussed at a recent international women’s forum held in Yangon.

One area that the country can use more female participation is in politics, to add diversity to policy-making decisions.

Women operate their own businesses, make key decisions at the workplace, and help craft national policies as a cabinet minister.

Even though women make up about half of Myanmar’s population, their participation in parliament is less than five per cent.

Thet Thet Khine, second vice president of Myanmar Women’s Entrepreneurs Association, said: “Now, the problem is the under-representation of women in the political sector, so we should be encouraging more women coming into politics. But at the same time, we have to care about the quality of our women.

“Without considering women development, the national development will not be realised because we have roughly 60 million people. And if the transformation process doesn’t include us, it’s like they forgot about 30 million people.”

Women can contribute by helping to reform the health and education sectors that are badly-needed in Myanmar.

But the women have to equip themselves with the relevant knowledge in order to make meaningful contributions.

Yin Yin Nwe, member of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council to the president, said: “Women, especially because there’re still fewer numbers of women, have to be informed on the issues to make a difference, a real difference to their constituencies and to have well-thought out policy plans.”

One woman who is making her contribution felt in Myanmar is opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Responding to Channel NewsAsia, she believes women do not have to enter politics to make a difference.

Suu Kyi said: “People have different talents, different skills. And I don’t like people to think that the only way in which you can influence a course of a country’s destiny is by taking up politics. No, that’s not the only way. That is one way. And not everybody is by nature, suited for politics.

“I would like Burma (Myanmar) to be a society where everybody has an opportunity to develop their own talents and realise their own potential and not to say that politicians are better than business people or vice versa.”

Regardless of profession, there is no doubt that women’s participation will translate into benefits for a society.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said: “I strongly believe that women can improve the fate of women and the fate of the world. And they can do that at whichever level they are. They don’t need to be the head of the IMF. They can do it in their own circle, whatever they do.

“By bringing the women into the economy, by opening access to the job market, by making sure that they have equal standing in the workforce, the economy can gain massively. The economy can gain in very high percentage points.”

While there is no shortage of women in Myanmar, the question that keeps coming up is where are the women in Myanmar’s reform process?

Many say women in Myanmar generally lack the confidence and shy away from participating in politics.

But they say that the time is now for change, and that more women in Myanmar should step up to help shape the kind of country that they want to see and live in, in the future.