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Myanmar Girls (and 5 boys) Takeover

PHOE WA The Myanmar Times Fri, NOVember 29, 2019

Phyo Thiri Lwin (middle) took over the position of the head of Mae Tao Clinic (Mae Sot, Thailand), Dr. Cynthia Maung. Phoe Wa/The Myanmar Times

YANGON, Myanmar – Climbing to the top of the ladder is not easy. Only those with the right personality, hard work and determination have what it takes to make it.

It’s a grueling road to success in the business and political worlds, with those making CEO of a tech giant or partner at the law firm sometimes working more than 60 hours a week, sacrificing family and friends and, even their health at times.

For that reason very few make it, and fewer of those are women. Last month, 18 young girls and 5 boys had the opportunity to sit the big chair at the boardroom and become the boss for a day – thanks to the Girls Takeover project.

One of the lucky participants was Ma Aye Eaindray Maung who became Norway’s Ambassador to Myanmar on October 10. She was the very first girl from the project to be accredited as a foreign Ambassador to Myanmar.

“I was really afraid at first, but when they called me ‘Ms. Ambassador’, I felt much more comfortable,” said the 20-year-old. Aye Eaindray Maung is an international relations major, and plans to work in the diplomatic sector when she graduates.

As ambassador for the day, she managed all the activities required of her diplomatic post, such as heading the weekly meeting, discussing ongoing projects and privately meeting with the Australian Ambassador.

“It was really amazing, and I made it through all the challenges during the day,” she said.

The other 17 young girls and 5 boys had the opportunity to take on leadership positions in politics and diplomacy, business, NGOs and social institutions. For instance, young women took over the positions of Australian Ambassador, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy, the Minister of Social Affairs for the Yangon Region and The Minister of Immigration and Human Resources in Kachin State.

In the private sector, the young go-getters assumed positions of CEO of Telenor, deputy CEO of KBZ Bank, while others headed NGO roles, such as the Humanitarian Director of World Vision, Director of the Gender Equality Network, and Country Director of Plan International Myanmar.

Aims of the project

According to the 2018 United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) Gender Inequality Index, Myanmar ranked 148 out of 189 countries in gender inequality. A shortage of statistics, data, institutional capacity and a lack of awareness on gender equality makes it difficult to develop effective policies, according to the report.

To tackle the issue the Girls Takeover project, initiated by the INGO Plan International, hopes to develop young girls’ capacity and ambitions, according to Ma Lin Lin Aung, program director of Plan International (Myanmar). Indeed, the project aims to inspire young women to become the leaders of tomorrow.

In 2012 Girls Takeover started in 20 countries, and has become a regular event on the International Day of Girls, held on October 11. The project seeks to change attitudes surrounding gender and barriers to employment, according to the mission statement.

For the first time, Girls Takeover took place in Myanmar with 23 participants who earned a place in the program during the month of October.

Plan International recruited the temporary leaders after reviewing online submissions, screening over 300 applicants from across Myanmar. To qualify, the successful candidates wrote an essay, underwent a test and were interviewed about their plans for the future.

The successful women attended trainings on leadership, gender equality and law, as well as attending field trips ahead of the takeover.

As they took over, some of the girls had to make important decisions on behalf of their host organisations.

“Don’t be afraid; society has barriers that you need to overcome. Do join the project next year!” urged Ma May Eaindray Maung.

From: The Myanmar Times (MYANMAR) Fri, NOVember 29, 2019

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