Since 1 February 2021, Myanmar has been in turmoil as the Myanmar army, known as the Tatmadaw, detained State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint following a general election which Suu Kyi’s NLD party won by a landslide. The coup d’état led by General Min Aung Hlaing brought an end to a decade of semi-democratic rule and returned full power to the military. Courageously, the population has been resisting and demanding the release of the imprisoned leaders and the restoration of democratic rule. A massive civil disobedience movement has emerged and hundreds of thousands continue to take to the streets in spite of the military’s use of lethal force against protesters.
Women have been an integral part of the protest, often being on the frontline of the movement in spite of the danger of being killed, wounded, arrested, tortured and the increased risk of sexual harassment and violence. As the New York Times wrote in March “By the hundreds of thousands, the women have gathered for daily marches, representing striking unions of teachers, garment workers and medical workers — all sectors dominated by women”. Women challenge the dictatorship as well as the patriarchal norms, misogyny and sexism rooted at its core. The idea of impurity of women and their relegation to the domestic domain has been confronted by exposing “feminine” attributes in public. For instance, as the exhibition photos show, during protest women proudly carried bras and sanitary pads. Other photos also document the display of women’s drying htamain or longyi (sarong), which traditionally is believed to harm men’s hpon (mystical power), thus lowering the “masculine status of the security force”.
The photo exhibition, organized by SEA Junction in collaboration with the Women’s League of Burma, the Myanmar Project and Asia Justice and Rights, documents women’s actions out on the streets of Burma since the coup d’état. Lasting from 23 November to 5 December, the exhibition showcases photos taken by a collective of recent graduates in journalism in Burma who have been covering the protests from all around the country under the umbrella of Myanmar Project as well as photos collected by the member institutions of the Women’s League of Burma. Together, the collection shows how wide-spread, diverse and empowering women leadership and participation has been and continue to be in opposition to the Tatmadaw.
SEA Junction, established under the Thai non-profit organization Foundation for Southeast Asia Studies (ForSEA), aims to foster understanding and appreciation of Southeast Asia in all its socio-cultural dimensions, from arts and lifestyles to economy and development. Conveniently located at Room 408 of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center or BACC (across MBK, BTS National Stadium), SEA Junction facilitates public access to knowledge resources and exchanges among students, practitioners and Southeast Asia lovers. For more information, see www.seajunction.org, join the Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/1693058870976440/ and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @seajunction
Women’s League of Burma (WLB)
WLB was established in 1999 with the aim of increasing the participation of women in the struggle for democracy and human rights, promoting women’s participation in the national peace and reconciliation process, and enhancing the role of the women of Burma at the national and international level. For more information, see www.womenofburma.org
The Myanmar Photo Project Collective
A group of young journalists in Myanmar, a collective called The Myanmar Photo Project, spent 6 months documenting the unfolding events across the country. Under cover of anonymity, they tell Laure Siegel what has been happening through a series of photos. For more information, see https://blogs.mediapart.fr/laure-siegel/portfolios.
Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
AJAR is a non-profit organization, based in Jakarta, Indonesia, whose aim is to contribute to the strengthening of human rights and the alleviation of entrenched impunity in the Asia-Pacific region. Its work focuses on countries involved in transition from a context of mass human rights violations to democracy, where it strives to build cultures based on accountability, justice and a willingness to learn from the root causes of mass human rights violations to help prevent the recurrence of state-sanctioned human rights violations. For more information, see www.asia-ajar.org.