Why This Photo Is So Significant


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This press photo from the recent draft ceasefire agreement in Myanmar is striking. It looks familiar: two men in suits, shaking hands. Yet standing right behind them is a less familiar sight: two women, watching over the historic deal they helped make possible.

What a world we’d live in if more photos looked like this.

Women are typically sidelined in peace negotiations. In 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011, they were only 2.4 percent of mediators, 4 percent of signatories, and 9 percent of negotiators. We need to shift those numbers until it’s no longer a surprise to see a photo like the one above—or, better yet, one with women in the foreground.

So Who Are They?

The two women in the photos are Ja Nan Lahtaw and Nang Raw Zakhung, members of our Women Waging Peace Network. They were invited by the government of Myanmar and 16 armed ethnic groups to lend their ceasefire and peacebuilding expertise to the negotiations. And they’ve been laboring for decades—most recently through the Nyein (Shalom) Foundation—to bring an end to the world’s longest-running civil war.

We’ve had the privilege of working with both of them since 2013, when Ja Nan attended our annual colloquium. Nang Raw joined us this year, along with these 16 other women who are changing the world. Inclusive Security is supporting them and other Burmese women who’ve formed an alliance, across ethnic and religious divides, to promote women’s inclusion in the country’s political transition.

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