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UNODC celebrates International Women's Day

Taunggyi (Myanmar), 8 March 2019
- For International Women's Day, UNODC joins millions of women around the world in celebration of their social, political, economic achievements. This year's international theme "Think equal, build smart and innovate for change" advocates for innovative ways in which we can advance gender parity in all sectors and empower women and girls. Myanmar's country celebrated International Women's Day with a leadership training aimed at women farmers, cooperative board members and UNODC staff.

The participants are part of UNODC's Alternative Development sub-programme. This programme is based in Southern Shan State, and aids farmers in switching from producing opium crops to growing coffee. This also included the establishment of a coffee cooperative, "Green Gold". A major achievement of the programme in 2018 was the modification of the statute of the cooperative in order to allow for a greater and more active participation of women within the cooperative. The administrative board of the cooperative is composed of 16 active members, with an equal participation of men and women. #BalanceforBetter emphasizes innovation as a critical tool to challenge inequalities and to accelerate gender equality through women's empowerment. It is through innovation that the Green Gold Cooperative was formed, especially through introducing a gender-balanced administrative board.

As Joelle Charbonneau, UNODC Gender Advisor, commented, "I can say proudly that you all have already made an important advancement towards gender equality, with the modification of the composition of the Administrative Board of Green Gold and the creation of committees at village level with an important participation of women. My invitation is to continue working in that direction, together with your husbands, relatives and friends."

The International Women's Day leadership workshop was aimed at the female representatives of the cooperative, as well as other female farmers and staff in leadership roles. The workshop began with a panel of speakers, including women from the Gender Equality Network, the Shan's Women's Organization Network, the Women's Development Society and the Women Entrepreneur Association from Shan State. The women spoke about their experiences in starting their own businesses, promoting their ethnic group's culture and literature, fighting for education, and advocating and working with the government to promote women's rights and leadership. Participants also engaged in a leadership workshop and discussed challenges and solutions on achieving women's equality within their daily roles.

As one participant said, "We face many challenges, we need more education, and more support: most of the household work falls on women, all the cooking, washing, raising family, in addition to our work as farmers."

This was the first event in a series of initiatives aimed at women in the Alternative Development programme. It can be considered as a catalyst for many coming conversations and discussions on the challenges women in Shan State face, but also the solutions.