Courage and Resistance of Myanmar Women Marks IWD 2022

March 18th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
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“We will uproot the military council, no matter how difficult it is. We will never surrender. We will never get down on our knees. We will continue the revolution from the jungle or anywhere else.”

Hla May, 48-year-old farmer from Pan Ywar Village, Sagaing Region

With the passing of International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, and online activism by Myanmar women, the military junta has continued to launch airstrikes, shell villages, and murder innocent women. Given that the situation in Myanmar has struck an all time nadir, it is imperative that, as it convenes its 49th session, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) explores ways to establish a jurisdiction to prosecute atrocity crimes, as called for by over 100 Myanmar civil society organizations.

On Wednesday, 9 March, a helicopter gunship attacked Lay Kay Kaw, Karen State, the site of previous airstrikes and was once an initiative to ostensibly promote peace. Earlier in the week, heavy shelling in Mutraw District, northern Karen State, killed seven people, including three children and a pregnant woman. In Sound Du Lar Village in Karenni State, where 100 people were sheltering after being displaced, junta airstrikes injured two women. On the same day, heavy shelling in the Karenni State capital killed three children, siblings aged seven, 10 and 12.  Commenting on the deaths of the seven people in Mutraw, Saw Lay Kapaw of the Karen Peace Support Network stated, “The fact that they fired a heavy artillery shell right in the middle of the village makes it apparent that they were slaying civilians purposefully. This is not something that is happening only in Karen State. It’s something that is happening all over the country.”

The attacks, using shelling, airstrikes, and other forms of indiscriminate violence are indeed occurring all over the country. Sagaing and Magwe Regions and Chin State have also been experiencing extreme violence at the hands of the military junta. And as ever in situations of conflict, specific acts of sexual and gender-based violence are being committed against women. One egregious example is on 5 March, in Pauk Township, Magwe Region, where junta troops raped a mother before killing her and her two daughters during a raid on a village. This is just the latest example of a consistent pattern of the use of rape and sexual violence that the Myanmar military has used, not just since its violent attempts to consolidate a failing coup, but for decades against ethnic women.

Despite the long history of the use of rape and sexual violence, women of Myanmar continue to play a leading role in Myanmar’s Spring Revolution. For example, Ma Ei Thinzar Maung, one of the leaders of the first demonstrations in Yangon following the start of the military’s coup attempt, was awarded the International Women of Courage Award by the US State Department. It should be noted that her courage has a long and storied history, and hers was one of the few prominent voices denouncing the Rohingya genocide when many ostensible human rights and democracy figures refused to do so in Myanmar. She was also one of the youngest candidates in the 2020 elections that the military has refused to acknowledge the result of.

However, the leadership of such women does not come only from the more well known, award-winning human rights defenders. Ordinary women from villages across the country have been active, strong and resolute. For example, after seeing a quarter of their village burned down by junta troops in January this year, women of Pan Ywar Village, Sagaing Region, told the local media outlet, Myanmar Now, of their determination to continue to fight. One woman, who has had to hide in the forest, and whose house was burned down in the village exemplified this determination, stating to Myanmar Now, “We will uproot the military council, no matter how difficult it is. We will never surrender. We will never get down on our knees. We will continue the revolution from the jungle or anywhere else.” As the military’s acts of terror continue across the country, Myanmar has seen an unprecedented role of women in its history as many young women, farmers, workers, university students and professionals, have joined or formed defence forces to protect themselves and their communities. Meanwhile, others have continued with their political defiance and civil disobedience actions against the junta, including street protests.

Given the atrocities that are being committed, including rape and sexual violence against women, it is imperative that the international community takes further action against the military junta. This includes a comprehensive arms embargo and sanctioning of aviation fuel so as to stop the indiscriminate attacks from the air, from which civilians as well as the resistance forces on the ground are so vulnerable to. Furthermore, as an open letter from 116 Myanmar civil society organizations to the UN Human Rights Council urges, a jurisdiction for atrocity crimes must be established by the UN. Lamenting how “UN continues to fail the people of Myanmar by allowing justice and accountability to languish” they urge the UN to establish a jurisdiction that would finally put to use the documentation of atrocity crimes that the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (IIFFMM) and the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) have collected in recent years. By creating a jurisdiction whereby cases against the military generals can be initiated, justice and accountability can finally be addressed. As International Women’s Day reminds us of the courage of Myanmar’s women in the Spring Revolution, they are owed more than just platitudes from the UN system, but concrete support in their resolute struggle for democracy and to end the military’s impunity.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

Open Letter: The UN Human Rights Council Must Seek Ways to Establish Jurisdiction to Prosecute Grave Crimes in Myanmar

By 116 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations

Argentinian Judiciary Asks Facebook To Clarify Role In Rohingya Genocide

By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Despite sanctions on Myanmar, the US, UK, and EU imported more than $36 million in timber since the coup, exposing traders to risk of prosecution

By Forest Trends

Atrocity Alert No. 291: Ukraine, Myanmar (Burma) and Mali

By Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

On International Women’s Day, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland Calls for the Support and Protection of Women in Burma

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

The Human Rights Foundation of Monland, the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand and The Network for Human Rights Documentation Call for Justice for Women in Myanmar in New Joint Briefing Paper, “Resist”

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland, Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma and Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

Urgent debate on the situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

One child killed and 1,000 children left homeless as fire rips through Rohingya refugee camp

By Save the Children

Statement by the United Nations in Myanmar on International Women’s Day 2022

By United Nations Myanmar

New UN study says fear, violence, and isolation prevents Myanmar women from accessing income and healthcare

By United Nations Development Programme and UN Women

Statement on International Women’s Day

By Women’s Peace Network

International Women’s Day Statement “For Equality, End Patriarchy”

By Women’s League of Burma

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Rohingya refugees and their hosts in Bangladesh remain highly vulnerable

By World Food Programme



Myanmar Situation Update ( 28 February- 6 March, 2022)

By Asian Network for Free Elections

Myanmar’s Timber Trade One Year Since the Coup: The Impact of International Sanctions

By Forest Trends

RESIST (Women’s Courage Tested in Myanmar One Year Since the Failed Coup)

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland, Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma and Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

“Responsible investment” is fueling human rights abuses in Myanmar

By Inclusive Development International

Protecting the lives and livelihoods of the people of Myanmar

By National Unity Government

ပြည်သူ့ခုခံတွန်းလှန်စစ် (၆)လပြည့် အစီရင်ခံစာ

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Defence)

Anatomy of Impunity – UN must finally establish a jurisdiction for grave crimes in Myanmar

By Progressive Voice

Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (1 – 7 March 2022)

By United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Regressing Gender Equality in Myanmar: Women living under the Pandemic and Military rule

By United Nations Development Programme and UN Women

Myanmar Emergency Update (as of 1 March 2022)

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

WFP Myanmar Market Price Update (January 2022)

By World Food Programme

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”