Nuns in Burma encourage empowerment of women, end to inequality

Nuns in Burma encourage empowerment of women, end to inequality

Burmese members of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd celebrate International Women's Day 2015 in Yangon. Credit: Sr. Elizabeth Joseph, RGS.
Burmese members of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd celebrate International Women's Day 2015 in Yangon. Credit: Sr. Elizabeth Joseph, RGS.

.- A community of women religious held a workshop in Burma's largest city over the weekend to mark International Women's Day, exploring sex inequality and women's rights in the southeast Asian nation also known as Myanmar.

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd's workshop was held March 6-7 in Yangon, and focused on the ways in which forms of violence against women threatens holistic human development and hinders Burma's growth.

According to Sr. Elizabeth Joseph, RGS , the reasons the community of Good Shepherd nuns took up the challenge of celebrating International Women’s Day was “to empower women’s potentials under our care, and to help them realize their dignity and value, because women in Burma are oppressed in many ways.”

“We Good Shepherd Sisters are called to live and work for people at the margins, especially women and children … we are women for women,” Sr. Elizabeth Joseph told CNA March 7.

International Women's Day is celebrated March 8 in numerous countries around the world, to inspire women and celebrate their achievements.
“We want to hear how women in our care feel about themselves being a woman and how they recognize their strength and abilities,” Sr. Elizabeth reflected. “We want to see our women as human beings with dignity, instead of as victims; and all kind of violence against women to be stopped.”

“I believe that violating women’s right is like killing your future,” she said.

More than 65 women joined the nuns gathered at their convent in Yangon for the workshop, exploring the challenges faced by Burmese women at home and in the workplace.

Sr. Lucy, RGS, gave a keynote presentation on the “12 critical areas of concern” to women in Burma, discussing poverty; education; health; violence; armed conflict; the economy; women in power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms for women's advancement; human rights; media; environment; and children.

During group discussion focusing on the realities facing Burmese women, the participants pointed out that women’s rights are violated at home, at work, and in society, and in many ways only a few are aware of their rights and the procedures of the legal system.

Further, participants observed the general subjugation of women to men's authority in Burma, as well as women being targeted for slave labor and human trafficking.

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd have been in Burma since 1865, and their work there is focused on programs for evangelization and empowerment; advocacy against human trafficking; prison ministry; health; and education.

Sr. Elizabeth reflected that seeing the brightness on the face of participants, “we are happy to be women – even though we are in a bad and poor situation, we will stand together for our women.”

Tags: Myanmar, International Women's Day