Nobel laureate meets Burmese women

AMITHA AMRANAND

CHIANG MAI : Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams met a group of women from Burma as well as from various ethnic groups in this northern province yesterday to gather information about their plight.

"We're here to bring messages of the women of Burma, of the marginalised, to the world. We're here to listen. We're here to learn the common concerns that women of the world seem to share," said Ms Williams, an American teacher and aid worker who received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel laureate was accompanied by actor-activist Mia Farrow, together with Dr Sima Samar of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and Chinese labour activist Qing Zhang.

The Nobel Women's Initiative delegation focused on the plight of Burmese women in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis during their information-gathering trip to Thailand.

They had a closed-door meeting with marginalised Burmese, ethnic and Thai women in Chiang Mai and also visited the Thailand-Burma border.

The women shared stories of discrimination faced by hilltribe women and shed light on the continuing struggle of Cyclone Nargis victims.

"I am still shaking [from listening to these women]. I am moved and inspired to go forward stronger than ever. I want to be part of the solution anyway I can," Ms Farrow told a symposium at Chiang Mai University.

Renowned Burmese women activist Charm Tong, of Shan Women's Action Network, told the symposium that political pressure must be maintained for genuine political change to come to Burma.

"Aid alone will not solve Burma's problems. Unless political issues are addressed, this crisis will continue," she said.

After Thailand, the delegation will visit Addis Ababa, Juba in South Sudan and conclude their trip in Chadian refugee camps bordering Darfur.

Bangkok Post