In a two-day peace meeting, women’s organisations agreed that civilians must collaboratively demand a halt to recent offensives as well as more gender-inclusive peace negotiations.

The Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process (AGIPP) staged the October 21-22 meeting in Mawlamyine, with 94 attendees representing 49 women’s organisations across the country, including from Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Shan and Rakhine states.

“What is needed most is peace in the region and an end to war,” said AGIPP spokesperson Mi Khon Chan Nom.

The groups agreed that the best tactic for achieving this goal is to promote the voices of locals when making demands of or having discussions with the military, government or ethnic armed groups.

In pushing for 30 percent participation in all peace talks, the groups cited the nationwide ceasefire agreement, which says, “We shall include a reasonable number of women representatives in the political dialogue process.”

The 21st-century Panglong Conference, held in late August, did not honour the 30pc quota. Following the conference, there is a renewed call for more balanced gender representation in upcoming peace talks.

“When we asked about the 30pc quota, we heard back there is a lack of qualified women participants,” said AGIPP spokesperson Nang Aye Thandar. “Now we are making a list of qualified women by creating a biography for the women’s organisations from every sector.”

Women’s groups also called for a decrease in military spending in order to promote social services and healthcare. There should be an effort to foster social cohesion, group members said, not just a simple focus on ending the war, representatives said.

“We have to do what we need to do with the confidence that doing something is better than doing nothing,” Nang Aye Thandar said.