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Barriers and pathways to women’s political participation in Myanmar: Gender Equality and Decentralization in Myanmar

In 2017, to sustain Myanmar’s democratic transition, the International Development Research Centre and Global Affairs Canada launched an initiative titled, Knowledge for Democracy Myanmar (K4DM), to nurture dialogue about the transition process and promote economic growth that benefits women and men of all ethnicities. The initiative aims to strengthen analytical thinking and research capacity on these issues through four modalities:
1. Capacity development for individuals, including emerging researchers, civil society, and policy makers
2. Engagement and collaboration, through roundtables, conferences, workshops, and other forms of policy dialogue
3. Capacity development for institutions, providing support for think tanks and networks
4. Funding research projects on the topics of inclusive democratic governance and economic development

This proposed project addresses the fourth modality. It is one of the five selected entries under the research call “Gender Equality and Decentralization”, launched in July 2017.

The project aims to elucidate the barriers and enabling factors for women’s political participation to inform decision makers on the pathways that could promote greater women’s political participation in Myanmar. Myanmar women have a low representation in parliaments. They represent about 10% of all parliamentarians, almost half compared to regional and global averages (19.4% and 23.3%, respectively).

This research project is a collaborative effort between Gender Equality Network (GEN) in Yangon Myanmar, McGill University in Montreal and the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Bangkok. Researchers propose using a mixed-method approach that combines qualitative and quantitative data on political representation, especially at the state and district levels where information remains scarce. They will also include a descriptive and statistical analysis of women’s participation, household surveys, interviews with politicians and party members and focus groups discussions. Lastly, they will provide a comparative analysis of women’s political representation of Myanmar vis-à-vis Cambodia to identify regional lessons.

Select expected outputs include developed research curricula and trainings for Myanmar researchers, submission of peer review articles, reports synthesizing research findings, policy briefs, a press release and social media posts, as well as policy workshops to promote research uptake.

Project Objectives
Generate evidence on barriers and pathways for women’s political participation to inform gender equal policies and practices in Myanmar.

Project Specific Objectives:
(1) Examine the extent and forms of women’s political participation in Myanmar by analyzing women’s individual pathways to participation across multiple governance levels: (i) national parliament, political parties, and social movements; (ii) state/division parliaments, government offices; and (iii) district, townships and village groups;
(2) Understand and document barriers and enabling factors to strengthen women’s political participation;
(3) Examine how citizen’s attitudes towards gender roles and female leadership actually influence women’s political participation;
(4) Conduct a comparative study in Cambodia to assess if the characteristics of women’s political participation in Myanmar are unique or generalizable within the scope of developing countries in transition; and
(5) Strengthen researcher’s capacity to produce quality evidence.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
36 months
IDRC Officer
Gillian Dowie
Total Funding
CA$ 459,821.00
Knowledge for Democracy Myanmar 2017-2021
Institution Country
Project Leader
Erik Kuhonta
The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning/McGill University
Institution Country
Project Leader
May Sabe Phyu
Gender Equality Network
Institution Country
Project Leader
Philippe Doneys
Asian Institute of Technology