Whether working with the Myanmar Police Force to improve crime scene investigations or organising workshops with CSOs, MYPOL’s activities always strive to be mindful of men’s and women’s needs. A key foundation of the project is to ensure gender-aware programming and to push for equality in all activities. For example, MYPOL recently distributed guidebooks to help police respond to crimes that disproportionally affect women during the COVID-19 crisis, such as domestic violence.

To help ensure the needs of women are considered and addressed, MYPOL’s Key Expert for Gender and Security Sector is regularly involved behind the scenes to improve MYPOL’s activities. She also works with Myanmar women’s organisations to help bring police and the public together to address these issues.

Many of the project’s CSO partners have been working on women’s priorities for decades. They have seen big changes, but understand what challenges remain. One of these partners is the Gender Equality Network (GEN). Daw Pansy Tun Thein is the National Advisor for GEN, as well as the Executive Director of the Local Resource Centre, and participated in development of the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (NSPAW), something which she continues to work on by contributing to its implementation.

In her many years of work, Pansy has become very familiar with the issues facing women in Myanmar, specifically when it comes to working with government and the police. When she first began her work many years ago, she says it was difficult; people did not think it was important to focus on women’s security concerns in Myanmar.

That all changed after Cyclone Nargis in 2008 and the transition toward democracy. From then on, there was more willingness to work with NGOs and CSOs on women’s rights in general and women’s safety in particular.

While working for the prevention of violence against women, Pansy began approaching the MPF for the first time. It was difficult. Very few cases were opened and victims were shy about reporting incidents to male officers. But Pansy pressed on and her organisation began giving gender knowledge and GBV prevention trainings to the anti-trafficking police.

Things began to change. The MPF started using female officers in private interview rooms to speak with victims. Over time, the police she worked with began to understand the importance of the trainings and requested that the lessons be taught to all MPF officers.

Pansy noticed a big change in the MPF at the local level when putting together a campaign to stop violence against women in Kayin State. Police worked together with CSOs to organise an urban safety campaign in Hpa An featuring motorcycle riders from all over the community spreading information to stop violence against women. The MPF knew that they couldn’t spread the word as effectively if they didn’t work with CSOs, so they were happy to have partners in the campaign. Now, many residents of Hpa An have told Pansy they feel safer and that there have been improvements.

‘For CSOs and the MPF to work together, mutual trust is important,’ Pansy believes. ‘Both sides need to know each other and what each is doing. CSOs should invite police whenever they hold an event in their townships.’

Even with successes like in Hpa An, there is still work to be done, especially when it comes to issues that affect women. This is why one of MYPOL’s components is focused on bridging the gap between CSOs and Police. As Pansy says, both sides need each other.   

‘Police are essential for working to improve issues that affect women. We will need to work with the MPF to also make them understand about the new law, “Prevention and Protection of Violence Against Women,” that has been drafted and needs to be adopted. The MPF needs gender knowledge. There is no domestic violence law right now and this issue creates challenges,’ Pansy said.

MYPOL is committed to helping improve the lives of women in Myanmar. For example, the project is also working with the MPF to promote female officers and use them more effectively and more often.

There is still much work to be done and that work involves everyone, Pansy believes.

‘Ensuring women and girls’ safety and security is an issue that needs to be raised among everyone – police, CSO, and the public are all needed to make a change.’