Establishing a Society for all Ages, Ethnicities, Religions, Sexual Identities, and Colours
An Interview with Thinzar Shunlei Yi by Peixuan Xie
Peixuan Xie: What does the 8th of March mean to you?
Thinzar Shunlei Yi: International Women's Day annually reminds all of us of our collective struggle as women in the world. It also points us to Audre Lorde's quote: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
“International Women's Day annually reminds all of us of our collective struggle as women in the world.”
Peixuan Xie: How have you seen your feminist work impacting the context of resistance in Myanmar? How have you adapted your work to a changing environment?
Thinzar Shunlei Yi: Our campaigns highlight the importance of solidarity, which is the biggest ideological weapon against dictators. Solidarity among revolutionary women across classes and gender identities is our biggest achievement, as is the change we are seeing daily. I never imagined myself organizing a feminist campaign in the past, but we all collectively stood up against the Junta's use of torture and physical abuse on women prisoners in mid-2021. #Sisters2Sisters was originally developed among young feminists, queers and sisters across the world in solidarity with Myanmar. We have managed to keep the campaign going to speak truth to power. The only reason we still exist amid all these challenges is that we didn't want to compromise our right to speech, which is our defense against patriarchy.
Peixuan Xie:What do you see as the main challenges of your feminist peace work (e.g. resistances)?
Thinzar Shunlei Yi: Security is the biggest challenge. Moreover, patriarchy and sexism deeply rooted in the society give us more tasks. What is happening in Myanmar is not just an anti-coup movement, but an intersectional uprising that consists of a social and cultural revolution. We will fight and speak up until all our sisters of all ages, ethnicities, religions, sexual identities, and colours can see a safer future in Myanmar.
“What is happening in Myanmar is not just an anti-coup movement, but an intersectional uprising that consists of a social and cultural revolution. We will fight and speak up until all our sisters of all ages, ethnicities, religions, sexual identities, and colours can see a safer future in Myanmar.”
Peixuan Xie:How do you think this is connected to a global challenge? Do you apply the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda to your work and what role does it play?
Thinzar Shunlei Yi: Women's struggle anywhere is a global struggle. We see similar patterns across the globe. When militarism is rising, patriarchy follows. What is happening in Myanmar is a threat not only to those in revolutionary defense forces, but to all women – more than half of the country's population. This is one main reason why women stepped up to confront the Junta's attempt to rule.
The world must look closely at the developments in Myanmar, as the same can happen in many countries. As long as dictators are still in place, none of us can be safe. We now have a Ministry of Women under the National Unity Government. That Ministry is working on the Women, Peace and Security agenda 1325 in Myanmar and also the Youth, Peace and Security agenda 2250 for younger women.
The UN Resolution 1325 on “Women, Peace and Security” in Myanmar is more relevant than ever, but women-led civil society efforts to respond to the current situation are still underappreciated. There is a big gap for dedicated resources to support local women's groups. We believe the core of this agenda is the recognition of the immense sacrifices, determination, persistence, and innovation of women and women-led organizations.
Peixuan Xie: What is your feminist vision for the future of Myanmar? What helps you in your daily feminist work?
Thinzar Shunlei Yi: To establish a society where intersectionality, individuality, equality, and respect are in place for all of us. What helps me in my daily work is working together with younger generations with more open attitudes and thoughts about equality and humanity.
Thinzar Shunlei Yi is a democracy activist from Myanmar. She started her activism for justice and peace in 2012 by co-organising the first-ever peace march on International Day of Peace. When the military coup happened on February 1st, 2012, she was among the first opposing the brutal military take-over publicly. Thinzar has worked with the grassroots civil society coalition in Myanmar called Action Committee for Democracy Development (ACDD) since 2016. Currently she is running a global campaign called #Sisters2Sisters for promoting solidarity for Myanmar Women in the revolution. She is also an executive member for Peoples' Goal, an organisation advocating and supporting military defections in Myanmar.
Peixuan Xie is a visiting fellow at PRIF. She has her research interest in gender, peace, and security and its intersections with other critical dimensions of peace and conflict, such as business, human rights, and humanitarianism.
A Conversation with
Thinzar Shunlei Yi
Democracy Activist from Myanmar
Visiting Fellow at PRIF