Cherry Soe (JCSDO)
Director of Women’s Empowerment Program, Jeepyah Civil Society Development Organization (JCSDO)
P4P Small Grant Recipient
Women’s Involvement in Politics in the Mon, Kayin and Thanintharyi Parliaments: Barriers to improving representation and strengthening democracy
Cherry Soe Mon “Women’s Involvement in Politics in the Mon, Kayin and Thanintharyi Parliaments: Barriers to Improving Representation and Strengthening Democracy”
Cherry Soe and her team at the Jeepyah Civil Society Development Organisation were awarded a P4P Small Grant to explore barriers and opportunities around women’s meaningful engagement in regional politics in Myanmar. Based on interviews with parliamentarians across three sites, they charted the journeys women have taken to becoming political leaders and explored the policy changes they advocate in order to increase ethnic women’s participation in political processes. As well as yielding a comparative analysis across three regions, and which can also be writ large to reflect national level practices and levels of women’s political participation, Cherry Soe has collaborated with Min Arkar Htet, one of Mon state’s handful of artists, to produce eleven canvas-mounted illustrations which speak to gender inequalities in Myanmar’s political landscape. These artworks and a research report were launched at an event held to coincide with International Women’s Day and with Mon State Women’s Day, attracting hundreds of visitors comprising local community members, civil society actors, Parliamentarians and the general public. It has always been just as crucial, to Cherry Soe and the Jeepyah Civil Society Development Organisation she founded, to tour with the report and artworks in villages, where they are used to bring people closer to the experiences of women Parliamentarians and to the challenges they face, and open up a new way of generating discussion, reflection and action on the issue of political gender parity. The illustrations, which it would normally not be possible to produce within the budgets that Cherry Soe work with, have become powerful advocacy tools and led women in communities to appraise women politicians more favourably despite the fact that they appear to eschew accepted gender roles and statuses. They have also been printed as booklets, and distributed regionally as well as among national and international organisations for wider dissemination and outreach. The scope for the illustrations to raise awareness about political gender disparities is unlimited, and has already won Cherry Soe and her team a further P4P Grant to produce and display billboard size versions close to regional hluttaws as the country draws nearer to the 2020 elections.
Image 1: Woman peruses the booklet of images based on Cherry Soe Mon’s research on women’s experiences as Parliamentarians, and the barriers they face. Image 2: Entrenched cultural discrimination gives the advantages to men to rise and succeed while locking women into non-political roles. Image 3: There are many challenges, issues and problems unique to women that men are unable to understand on their own. An All-male parliament would not be able to make policies to address these unique issues. All copyright: Min Arkar Htet and Cherry Soe Mon.
About Cherry Soe
Cherry Soe is an experienced researcher and longtime advocate for increasing women’s presence in politics. Along with being on the management team of JCSDO and the Director of the WEP, she is on the steering committee of the Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process, and a steering committee in the Mon Women Network.
JCSDO has its roots in the Mon CSO community. Established as the Jeepyah Education Services (JES) in 2010 by members of the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM), it has since diversified its activities to include human rights documentation, child rights, and civic education of women. The name of the organization was changed from JES to JCSDO to better reflect these diverse activities, and the organization was officially registered under JCSDO in 2017.