From the slum to the Parliament: Women face COVID-19

Ward 67 climbing the Parliament

This speech was delivered on the occasion of a 1000 reusable facemasks donation from Bawa Pann Daing women social business to the National Parliament of the Union of Myanmar on 15th 2020, by Ms. Ei Khin Khin Green Lotus Myanmar representative.

Mr Permanent Secretary of the Assembly of the Union, Representatives of the Lower and Upper House, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very honored today to stand here as a witness of a donation of 1000 reusable face masks to the National Parliament of our country. I am only here on behalf of thousands of our countrymen and women that show tremendous courage and resilience facing this global COVID 19 pandemic. This crisis affects us all, but some of us have to face it in harsher conditions than others. Among our population many, hundreds of thousands, are left without a proper house, some have been displaced by conflict, many others by natural disasters and climate change impact. Living in IDP camp or in informal settlements, in crowded places, with little access to clean water, health services and employment.

Just like those populations, among other rich nations Myanmar was not believed to resist easily the COVID 19 pandemic. But thanks to good governance, quick popular reaction and effective actions, Myanmar stands out as one of the countries that have so far handled this crisis in a remarkable way. Hundreds of thousands in informal settlements and in IDP camp are also resisting with bravery. Today it’s a group of women from Yangon informal settlements that stands in front of you, offering the fruit of their labor and resilience, 1000 reusable face masks to protect the lawmakers of our country and avoid the waste of single-use items polluting our rivers and lands.

As many experts pointed out, women have been leading the best answers to the COVID 19 crisis, whether as leaders of their government and country or like today in our case as leaders in their community. Inspired by the words of the State Counsellor Aung San Su Kyi, with the financial support of the French Development Agency, assistance from Green Lotus and Action Aid Myanmar, women in informal settlements have gathered and created a social business that will not only feed their family, protect the environment but also help their country.

Informal settlements communities are particularly affected by the current crisis, as informal workers they suffer greatly from factory closures. 88% of households in informal settlements took out loans in order to buy food. Above all, displaced communities are facing this crisis with no security of tenure, under the threat of eviction. But those communities, and the women that stand today in front of you are here in a humble way offering their contribution and their help to your health, the Assembly’s work and our democracy.

COVID 19 crisis is right now reminding us that we only stand strong when we stand together. That if one of us is sick, all of us will suffer. Poverty is not a choice; Informality is not a dream. Today in front of you strong women leaders offer you proof that they are part of this nation, willing to work, and respect our institutions. The women of Bawa Pann Daing social business have just turned a global challenge into an opportunity, they hope that one day the institutions of this country look at them as a solution.  Today in front of you it’s not an NGO, it’s not an international donor, those are the women of our country living in informal settlements.