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The third and final day of East Asia Forum turned out to be a LONG day for me. It began with breakfast meeting at 7:30 organized by Nikkei. Ministers & other government officials of Myanmar and ASEAN countries, of international organizations spoke as well as representatives of the Japanese community.  The objective was to discuss potential area of collaboration with Japan to ensure the inclusive growth of Myanmar and other ASEAN countries. It was much bigger gathering than I had expected, but I was able to make brief comments related to capacity building & job creation.

After the breakfast was my preparation time for the panel “Mainstreaming Gender” I was to moderate. When I was just about to be finished, the Minister Mari Pangestu of Indonesia came by and we talked quite a while about politics, economics, gender issues etc. in both countries.  I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion and felt fortunate that I get such an opportunity to talk frankly with the Minister.

The panel “Mainstreaming Gender” made me realize that the issue is very broad, ranging from girls education, women entrepreneurship, to social norms, role of religion and flexibility of work style & of business organizations.  As such, it is deep rooted, which makes it quite a challenge to tackle.  I was a bit surprised (and disappointed) when I found out that some 30% of the audience said that the gender is perceived as significant issue in their respective countries.

Many questions were raised from the floor and I felt we could have gone on for a long time. I felt that we were still at earlier stage of raising awareness of the issue, and we needed much more effort to share good practices.  I was busy trying to wrap up this broad issues and forgot my proposal that Asian countries could compete with each other to resolve this issue, so that all of us could feel peer pressure!)

As I finished my main assignment, I felt relaxed and enjoyed lunch, followed by the session entitled “Taking Myanmar to work” with Aung San Suu Kyi as one of the panelists. She was articulate, charismatic (in a quiet way) and forceful in her message.  (Her comment about her intention to run for the President made the day before was featured in various media.)

The East Asia Forum in Myanmar ended with thc closing plenary.  Though there were some logistical & other issues (our group overwhelmed the taxis in Nay Pyi Taw and Myanmar Airways International staff at the airport, it seems), I thought it was significant that Myanmar hosted the Forum. Here are top 10 quotes of Day 3, reflecting the tone of the Forum.  I feel very fortunate to be a part of the significant event. (More on why it was a LONG day to come soon.)

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