Sweden, together with Finland and UNFPA, recently launched a 3-year US$11.8 million joint initiative to protect the rights of women and girls in Myanmar with focus on the most vulnerable women and girls in the remote and conflict-affected areas of Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan states.

The initiative is a commitment to prevent and respond to violence perpetrated against women and girls in Myanmar, and to realize their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The services will be delivered through mobile and stationary clinics, and through Women and Girls Centres. The initiative aims to increase understanding among women and girls of their rights, and to mobilize men and boys for gender equality. It seeks to create avenues for women and girls to voice their issues, concerns and expectations to decision-makers. Working with a broad range of stakeholders, it will strengthen the capacities of individuals, communities and institutions to better prevent and respond to violence, and to support expanding access to quality sexual and reproductive health services.

 

Women’s and girls’ specific needs in crisis and conflict

During crisis, women and girls have virtually no access to protection, security or justice, including legal aid. Perpetrators of sexual violence — whether they are family, community members or armed forces — act in an environment of impunity.

Women and girls have specific needs that are often ignored during crisis. While on the run or while living in shelters, they often lack access to basic sexual and reproductive health support. Without assistance by midwifes or provision of contraceptives, women and girls are at increased risk of unsafe sex, unwanted pregnancy and unsafe delivery, and are at a higher risk of infection by HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. At 200 per 100,000 live births, the Myanmar maternal mortality ratio is much higher than the Southeast Asia average of 140, and in areas of conflict even higher rates are documented.

Against this backdrop, access to justice and rule of law is essential to improving the safety of women and girls.

Both the direct service delivery as well as policy development is key components for an initiative such as this to be successful and sustainable. The initiative will strengthen the capacity of national and sub-national authorities to better be able to plan, monitor and implement the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women and to develop and implement policy documents relating to SRHR and Women in Emergencies.

 

(Photo: Gullén Pérez/Flickr CC)