Organized by Nobel Women’s Initiative

Ottawa, Canada            May 23-25, 2011

It is not often that I have the opportunity to take part in a ceremony like this. Or, to put it in another way – there can never be enough ceremonies of this kind. Because what my sister Nobel Laureates are doing is trying to attract attention to women who have been most hurt, who have been most oppressed, who have been most wounded by the behavior of our fellow human beings. Today, we are concentrating on violence against women and this is a very real problem. Violence against women takes place all over the world. There are basically several kinds of violence. It’s not just a physical violence – it’s an emotional violence, the intellectual violence, the violence of society that discriminates against women. It is from all the other kinds of violences that physical violence comes about, and the worst of all is rape.

Rape is used in my country as a weapon against those who only want to live in peace, who only want to assert their basic human rights, especially in the areas of the ethnic nationalities. Rape is rife. It is used as a weapon by armed forces to intimidate the ethnic nationalities and to divide our country. This is how I see it. Every case of rape divides our country. Every case of rape divides our country between peoples, between genders, between the armed forces and ordinary citizens, between ethnic nationalities. So, we must do everything we can to put an end to this.

Violence starts in the mind. So, we have to start by changing the minds of men and women all over the world – men that they may not think of women as ready victims, and women also that they may not think of themselves as helpless victims. They must assert themselves, but they need help to do this, because for centuries they have been in a state of helplessness, of vulnerability. So, we all need to work together to make sure that our women are empowered and that our men are educated. With men educated in the right way and women empowered in the right way, we will be able to achieve a partnership that will set this whole world on the right path. If men and women were the best of friends, we would be able to have the best of all possible worlds. So, if we want to work against rape, we have to work on the minds of people who are involved in rape, both the perpetrators and the victims. I hope that in this ceremony we will find the beginning of a move towards such a cooperation.

I would like to take the opportunity to attract the attention of the world to the women political prisoners in Burma. Among the 2000 or so political prisoners there are over 400 women, and all they have done is to work towards democracy and human rights. All they have done is to be faithful to their beliefs. We hope that all of you, both men and women, will do whatever you can to help free these women as soon as possible.

We want peace in Burma. We want peace in the world. We want all wounds to be healed, not just in my country, but in all other places where wounds have been deep. So let us all work together to begin this healing process. And I hope that one day I will be able to work more closely with you and that we in Burma will be able to join you to help other women in other countries all over the world. Thank you.