Women Who Made A Difference

The Unladylike Evildoers Club is pleased to present a series of features honouring women throughout the 20th century who have made a difference.

Our first Woman Who Made A Difference is:

 

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was born on June 19, 1945 in the city of Rangoon, Myanmar (then Burma). She is the daughter of General Aung San and Daw Khin Kyi. Her father was the national leader of Burma until his assassination on July 17, 1947. His death is considered to be one of the main contributors to her fight for peace and independence for the country of Burma.


Aung San Suu Kyi was educated in the city of Rangoon until she was 15 years old. In 1960, her mother was appointed the Burmese ambassador to India and Nepal. She accompanied her mother to Delhi where she studied politics at Delhi University.

From 1964 to 1967, she continued her education at St. Hugh's College and Oxford University (elected Honorary Fellow in 1990) where she received a bachelors degree in economics, politics, and philosophy. During the next several years she worked abroad, including an assignment with the United Nations in New York. In 1972, she met the British Tibetan scholar Dr. Michael Aris and the couple soon married. In 1973, Suu Kyi gave birth to her first child, Alexander in London. In 1977 she later gave birth to her second child, Kim, in Oxford.

After living in Oxford for many years, Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988 to nurse her sick mother. While in Burma she joined the pro-democracy movement, the National League for Democracy (NLD), which was pushing for political reforms in Burma. Suu Kyi became leader of the NLD and her outspoken criticism of the military leaders of Myanmar and the memory of her father made her a symbol of popular desire for political freedom and a focus of opposition to the dictatorship.

Aung San Suu Kyi traveled extensively throughout the country, giving hundreds of speeches often to crowds of thousands, in an attempt to unite the people and reinstall their courage in achieving their long-sought goal of freedom. She was loved and revered by the Burmese people in their country's time of darkness. In courageous defiance of the military edict forbidding gatherings of more than four, people turned out in mass to listen to Aung San Suu Kyi wherever she spoke. As Aung San Suu Kyi gained in popularity, military harassment of her campaign escalated. In July, 1989, she was placed under house arrest.

In 1990, Myanmar held a federal election and the military State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) allowed for a multi-party general election. The NLD, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the parliamentary election in a landslide; however the SLORC refused to recognize the election results and proceeded to put elected government leaders under house arrest. Aung San Suu Kyi would spend the next six years of her life at her lakeside villa in Rangoon to serve her house arrest. She wrote many speeches and books that were published. During this time she received many awards dealing with her great aspiration toward peace. However, what is considered to be her greatest honour was the Nobel Peace Prize that she won on October 14, 1991. With her prize money of 1.3 million dollars she established a health and education trust for the Burmese people. In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, she has won numerous awards and honours most notably the Rafto Human Rights Prize and the Sakhorov Prize.


In May 1992, the SLORC allowed Dr. Michael Aris, Aung San Suu Kyi's husband, and her two sons to visit her for the first time in almost three years. She was released from house arrest in 1995, but her movements are restricted to the area around Yangon (formerly Rangoon), Myanmar's capital. Nonetheless, she has stayed in Myanmar, continuing to write and speak for her cause.

Aung San Suu Kyi continued to fight for dialogue with the military rulers and a peaceful transition to a democratic government. In the summer of 1998, she attempted to leave the city to meet with NLD officials, but military officers stopped her car at the Yangon border; after a standoff lasting several days, the officials escorted her to her Yangon home.

In March 1999, her husband, Michael Aris, died of prostate cancer in London. Aris was a senior research fellow in Tibetan and Himalayan studies at Oxford University. The Myanmar government denied Aris's requests to visit his wife in Myanmar but said it would allow Aung San Suu Kyi to leave Myanmar to visit him. She refused, fearing that she would not be allowed back into her homeland if she left.

Aung San Suu Kyi keeps on fighting for democracy and freedom in her homeland of Burma. She has dedicated her life to the citizens of Burma so that they can experience the freedom that they deserve. She has secured her name in Burmese history and will forever fight for democracy.