The on-going conflict in Kachinland poses a serious problem to the prospects of long-term peace and development in Myanmar. At the time of writing, over a 100,000 people have fled the weekly skirmishes reportedly taking place between the government’s armed forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Women in Kachinland provide critical support for militarization processes through their ideological, symbolic and material positioning in the household, and as such, are key for both conflict sustenance as well as attempts at brokering peace. In this talk, I will present some of the data collected for my PhD, focusing on experiences of militarization among young Kachin women since the commencement of conflict in 2011. I am arguing that a gendered division of labour facilitates female soldier’s militarization by replicating gender roles familiar from the household. Demonstrating how this negatively impacts on women’s experience of the army by limiting, devaluing and stigmatizing women’s military participation, I then turn to analysis of women’s reactions to the insecurity they experience. My interviews reveal that contrary to expectations these constraints have resulted in strengthening rather than diminishing women’s commitment to political violence: female soldiers navigate the insecurity they face by becoming even stronger, more committed soldiers. Thus, gendered insecurity ultimately results in bolstering mobilisation for the Kachin military project.
About the Speaker
Jenny Hedström is a doctoral student in International Relations and Politics at the Monash Gender, Peace and Security Center, Monash University, Melbourne. Jenny’s research interests concerns feminist political economy, Myanmar/Burma studies, militarization and conflict and has worked extensively in Kachin State and in Myanmar for over a decade.