Htun Hlaing - A Male Feminist
Htun Hlaing - A Male Feminist
Htun Hlaing – A Male Feminist
Women in Myanmar face many challenges, including inequality in participation and decision making, discriminating social norms, sexual harassment and gender-based violence etc. Through a number of different programs Oxfam’s partner organization Yaung Chi Thit (YCT) promotes gender equality in Myanmar and Htun Hlaing is their training officer.
My mother showed me that women can lead
Htun Hlaing grew up in a poor community in Rakhine. When he was in middle school his father passed away.
– Many people said to my mother: ”Why don’t you marry another man?” But she decided that she wanted to raise me and my siblings on her own, says Htun Hlaing.
The time after his father’s death was difficult. They had to sell their house and many of their possessions to make ends meet. However, his mother managed to provide for her children and put them through school.
– My mother has been a great inspiration for me, says Htun Hlaing. She has shown me that women can lead.
When YCT started to give trainings on peace and gender equality in his community, Htun Hlaing immediately joined as a volunteer and he has stayed with the organization ever since. The last five years he has been employed by their head office in Yangon.
– I love my work! says Htun Hlaing. I love to travel to the communities, to teach and encourage men and women around the country to work for a more equal society.
I am a feminist
When more than half of Myanmar’s population are women it doesn’t make any sense to Htun Hlaing that females are so underrepresented at all levels of decision making. It upsets him that many women don’t even have the authority to make decisions when it comes to the household issues that affect them the most.
– Although my mother was really struggling, she made wise decisions for our family. She took care of us, he continues. Growing up with such a strong mother has made a deep impression on him.
– Sometimes I hear people asking ”If women are so capable, why don’t they have more power then?” But it’s not about if women are capable or not, it’s about the structures that make it difficult for women to participate in decision making. This is why I’m a feminist, he smiles.
– Many Myanmar people don’t think that women are suited for leadership, but this is wrong. This needs to change! We need to see more women leaders, says Htun Hlaing.
Another thing that makes Htun Hlaing really angry is the domestic abuse and gender based violence that is so common in Myanmar. When he grew up his father would also beat his mother and he remembers how he tried to intervene and stop him.
– Gender based violence is something that we can never accept!
We need to work together
Htun Hlaing meets many women in his work. However, the struggle for gender equality is not something that can be carried out by women alone.
– The women I meet are sometimes surprised to see a man teaching about gender equality and women leadership, but they are very happy to see me. The truth is that we need to work TOGETHER for sustainable change and equality – men AND women, Htun Hlaing concludes.