The International Labour Organizations (ILO)’s survey showed that the number of dismissed workers has increased by 41 percent after the military coup in 2021. Women are the majority among them. Moreover, women have faced sexual assault and exploitation in the workplace, and have been the targets of trafficking in person.
This interview with Daw Khin Thandar Moe, an official of Women Committee at the Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM) is about situation of women facing oppression in workplaces, root causes of women target for trafficking in person and loss of employment opportunity.
TLT: Could you talk about women suffering oppression in the work places?
Daw Khin Thandar Moe: Garment industry has created job opportunity for the majority of women. In the past, they earned reasonable salary and benefits. After the military coup, employment opportunity has declined for women. Actually, they are not the dependent. They have to serve for the whole family in terms of household works. They have more stress. Their conditions in garment industry become worse after the coup. Some fashion brands have reduced their workforce under the pretext of withdrawal from Myanmar. Most of the employees at these factory are women, and that they lost their job. While Myanmar workers seek overseas job, they face various oppressions of military regime. Some Myanmar women secured jobs in Oman and Singapore despite some risks, but they have many problems, especially in language and unexperienced works, causing stress for them. The loss of employment opportunity has largely impact on the women.
TLT: What are the major problems for women after the decline of employment opportunities?
Daw Khin Thandar Moe: Women have to work more for security of home and living for the family. There are many unemployed men in Yangon. They mostly work in construction. As the construction projects were suspended, the men have to rely on the income of women. Living cost has put burden on the women at present.
TLT: Women have been the targets of trafficking in person. Why is it so?
Daw Khin Thandar Moe: While the employment opportunity has declined and there are no job in the native towns due to armed clashes, women tried to secure overseas job. Then, they have been the targets of trafficking in person because they have opted for possible jobs through employment agents. This situation has caused the trafficking case. They migrated to the neighbouring Thailand although there are no sufficient employment opportunities. They later fell into the trap of trafficking in person. Some have fallen into trouble when no one helped them.
TLT: Women have experienced the most brutal attacks during the coup. Why are they targeted?
Daw Khin Thandar Moe: All Myanmar people, mostly women, have suffered the consequences of military coup. There were few sexual assaults before the coup. These cases happened very hardly. However, it has been frequently heard and they were even killed in some cases. Women are also targeted for trafficking in person. As the number of unemployment has increased after the military coup, the major destinations of Myanmar migrant workers have been Oman and Singapore for the housemaid jobs. However, those who face problem in their job committed suicide as they had to work in contract. The loss of women’s rights is one of the consequences of military coup.
TLT: What do you recommend to recover the rights for oppressed women? And what do you want to suggest international community for this issue?
Daw Khin Thandar Moe: Law on protection for women under the ILO conventions appears to be ineffective. International community fail to advocate to prevent crimes against women. We have to rely only on ourselves. Women are suffering more impacts of armed conflicts than other genders in the country. I suggest ILO to help and stand with Myanmar people. The UN and international community are also called for decisive action against the military dictators who are committing crimes Myanmar people including women.
TLT: What is your concluding remark on the women issue in this interview?
Daw Khin Thandar Moe: We are trying to protect women through effective law enforcement. We have documented crimes of the military regime against women and children. The junta will bear responsibilities. Some women are serving for revolution at the frontlines fearlessly. Women are not the subordinates in the family. Peace could not be made without women in successive eras.