RANGOON — An ethnic Mon women’s rights activist, Khin Khin Kyu, has won the N-Peace Award, given by the multi-country N-Peace Network in recognition of her efforts to advance the rights of ethnic minority women in Burma.
The N-Peace Award was given to five women’s rights activists on Friday by the network, which focuses on advancing Women, Peace & Security (WPS) issues. Other awardees of the “Untold Stories –Women Transforming Their Communities” category hailed from Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal and Pakistan.
The 48-year-old Khin Khin Kyu has been fighting for the rights of women for more than 15 years in Burma. Her worked was originally based in territory controlled by ethnic Mon armed rebels, but she later moved to Moulmein after the New Mon State Party (NMSP) signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1995.
“We’ve never heard of one of our people getting an international award before. This is first time,” Khin Khin Kyu told The Irrawaddy on Friday. “The recognition will serve as a bridge for me. This award will help in my work for women’s rights and my CSO [civil society organization] work. I will keep working hard to get recognition for the rights of women.
“In our culture, women are considered to be only homemakers. They are not people who take initiative or lead in the community. We need to fight to change this,” she added.
Khin Khin Kyu formerly served as a member of the NMSP, fighting for that rebel group’s cause beginning in 1982. She resigned after 17 years in service of the armed struggle waged by the NMSP against Burma’s central government.
Five Burmese women were nominated for the award by the N-Peace Network, which tallied more than 8,100 online votes to determine the five winners from a candidate list of 37 women. Four other women from Burma and one Burmese civil society organization will also be considered for three other categories whose winners will be decided by an N-Peace Network panel.
Also known by her Mon name, Kun Chan Non, Khin Khin Kyu will receive the N-Peace Award in October in Bangkok. The activist said N-Peace representatives will visit her next week in Moulmein to document her activism in Mon State, where she currently serves as director and deputy chairwoman of the Mon Women’s Organization.
“They will come do some video record about my daily life,” said Khin Khin Kyu.
The activist said there is much still to be done to empower women in Burma, adding that although the country has made strides in recent years in efforts to bring about peace after decades of ethnic conflict, women’s voices remain largely absent from the process.
“Our women have asked repeatedly that they be allowed to participate in the peace process in the country, but the voices of women still are not heard. Our country needs to have many women. The more the international community recognizes women, the more the rights of women will get recognition in the country,” she said.
The N-Peace Network was founded in 2010 and supports women’s leadership in conflict prevention, resolution and peace building. The group is active in Nepal, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Indonesia, the Philippines and Afghanistan.
“Our members represent civil society, government, non-government organizations, academia, United Nations agencies, religious groups and the media,” according to the group’s website, which adds that more than 800 practitioners are connected through the network.