Nang Ya Min is an electoral candidate for Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) for Taunggyi Township constituency-1, in southern Shan state. As a young woman contesting a seat in Burma’s male-dominated Parliament, she’s a new face in the political landscape. Nang Ya Min wants to be a voice for ethnic people, women and use her education as a civil engineer to improve the agriculture sector in Shan State.
What inspired you to become a politician?
I used to do social work, which included tree planting, an awareness campaign for orphaned children and a campaign to reduce plastic use. In addition, I’ve helped raise money for flood victims. After that, in 2017, I joined the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. I attended the School for Shan State Nationalities Youth (SSSNY), where I learned about politics.
I realized the true diversity of our country wasn’t being represented in politics. And I started to understand who are the oppressors and who are suffering. There are many people who are oppressed in our country. I know why ethnic minorities are undeveloped, just like the other ethnic people.
At SSSNY, I learned about human rights, social justice and the history of Burma. That’s when I realized that the history of the ethnic people was missing (from the official narrative). I want to work for ethnic people. As a (young) person of the new generation, I want to do my duty to my people – and that’s why I joined politics.
As a woman, did your gender play a role in why you decided to contest the 2020 general election?
Well, first of all, I am a youth, as well as being a woman. Female participation in politics is very small. If we look at the 2015 general election, female electoral candidates represent less than 30 percent (of the candidates), despite that women have been calling for at least 30 percent participation. More than half of Burma’s population are women, but only 11 percent are represented in politics. I can’t accept this situation and that’s one of the reasons why I joined politics.
Taunggyi Township has many ethnic groups. What challenges will you face during the election campaign?
In the constituency I’m contesting it’s mostly Bamar (Burmese). But Pa-O, Shan, Danu and Inn (Inntha) also reside there.
Our party accepts diversity. Actually, according to our party’s policy, we welcome diversity. This is a basic principle for the establishment of a federal union. And I’m very proud to be contesting a multi-ethnic area during the election. If I win, I’d be happy to represent these groups.
But at the same time, I face some difficulties. Many people see the SNLD as a party that represents only Shan people. SNLD adopted a new policy during its conference in 2019, transforming it from an ethnic-based party to a state-based one. We are working for all the ethnic people in Shan State. And in 2019, we implemented a policy that requires that at least 30 percent of all decision-making must be made by women and youth.
If you win, what problems in Shan State will you prioritize?
Parliamentarians work in the legislative sector. We have to fix and withdraw laws that are not in line with the current situation or make new ones. I shall try to draw up laws relating to women and youth affairs. For one, we have to create jobs for the youth of this country. Agriculture is an essential sector in our country. We have to make laws for farmers and the agriculture sector.
There are three major functions of the legislature. First, we need to balance power between the executive and judicial branches. Secondly, I’m a representative of Taunggyi Township, which means in Parliament I am the voice of the people living in my constituency. Thirdly, we need to make laws.
In the short term, what issues will you address first if you are elected?
Flooding is frequent in Taunggyi Township and I want to solve this problem. I’m a civil engineer. And I’m knowledgeable about urban planning and urban management. It is my intention to cooperate with other experts to address this problem. And it’s something I plan to do first.
In the past, Parliament didn’t prioritize women’s affairs. Do you have anything to say about this?
For centuries, women have lived in male-dominated societies. Our country is still very under-developed when compared to other nations. For example, countries with female leaders have successfully controlled the spread of COVID-19 more than countries with men as the heads of state. Women’s capacity is no less than that of men. Women need to be involved in politics because half of the country’s population is women. I expect our country will soon improve if more women join parliament.
What would you say to encourage other women to enter politics?
In the 21st century, a path for women was opened. Now we have opportunities, so women don’t need to be afraid. It’s time for women to come out. It’s time to move forward. Women need to stop working behind the scenes and stand up at the front. We need to work with the new generation. Then we’ll see a newly developed country. Thank you for your time