Women in War and Peace: Karen Women's Political Participation During and After the Karen-Burma Ceasefire Accords

TitleWomen in War and Peace: Karen Women's Political Participation During and After the Karen-Burma Ceasefire Accords
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsIsraelsen, Shelli
JournalRound Table
Volume108
Issue2
Pagination175-188
Abstract

This article examines Karen women's political participation in the Karen National Union (KNU) and in KNU-controlled towns and villages during three phases of the protracted Karen conflict in Burma/Myanmar – the guerrilla activity phase, the civil war phase and the ceasefire phase. It argues that two interrelated institutions – a participatory governance system and a politically autonomous women's group – affect Karen women's levels of political participation in their communities. The logic is that as the Karen conflict de-escalated from the civil war phase to the guerrilla activity phase, the KNU's leadership, in response to deteriorating security conditions and outside pressure, was forced to accept greater civilian participation in governance that opened up the political space for Karen women to become politically active. This de-escalation process also meant that the KNU had fewer resources and lacked the institutional capacity to control the activities of the KNU-affiliated women's group – the Karen Women's Organisation. When the conflict de-escalated again after the KNU signed a ceasefire accord with the Burmese government in 2012, the terms of the ceasefire agreement in combination with an influx of non-governmental organisations created new avenues in which Karen women could participate in politics.

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