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(8) Women in post-war Myanmar
     With the end of the war, men, women, young people were geared into acrivity, each trying to make up for the lapes in their lives. Men tried to pick up their careers, young people their education. Many women in twenties and thirties, those whose formal education had been cut off by war, early marriage, or both enrolled in university or sat for degree examinations studying privately. Many took office jobs to help their husbands through college.
     The old prejudice against women going out to work in offices was wearing off. Parents become more enthusiastic about educating the daughters and they approved of their going out to work. Many decided that it was a better investment to educate girls, because as an old clich says, "A son is yours until he marries; but a daughter is ever yours."
     A career girl was an asset to the family, because she was easier than a son to be bullied into handing over her salary. "Look how much we had to spend on your education..." Moreover, a son's salary belonged to his wife; whereas a daughter, even if she married, still considered her upkeep as her husband's responsibility, so the parents could make as much demands as they liked on her salary... which, according to the law that "gives women equal status with men," belongs solely to the wife; the husband has no claim over it.
     Such was the complete reversal of attitude towards the education of girls. Parents were not too eager to marry off their girls who had any professional talent and means.
     The number of married women with jobs outside the home increased. The reason usually was economic necessity but more often it was a status symbol. A career wife, instead of spoiling the husband's image, enhanced him.
     However, many post-war Myanmar women often are hardly able to enjoy their new found freedom and opportunities (form now on, it is going to be present tense) because they find themselves over-burdened with responsibilities.
     These days too many things are expected ofthem. With keen competition around she has to try hard to hold on to her job, and at the same time keep house as good as any woman who stays at home. This is important, because any lapse in house work would mean that she neglects her family just because she enjoys her job.
     Husbands, no doubt, are more appreciative ofthe wives" talent and they have more respect for women than those ofthe previous generation did. But old ways die hard. Most men in their forties and fifties still stick to the idea that women are best used at home, where they should wait hand and foot on the men.
     For such men, even if wives go out to work and it is considered an act of indulgence on their part to let their women go out to work-wives are expected to cook and keep house as well as any woman who does not go out to work. To them, the idea of men sharing the household chores is preposterous. So much as rinsing a saucer would tarnish his manly dignity.
     The younger generation of men are more accommodating. They accept the principle of partnership in marriage and they do not mind helping the wives with household chores. It is definitely a help.
     Even with all these changes in attitudes, life is becoming more and more complicated. It is not easy to achieve a harmonious family life in homes where both husband and wife go out to work. Sometimes the family is spilt up, when one partner gets transferred to another place.
     Some departments are humane enough to make arrangements whenever it is possible to keep their employees happy, but many just do not care. For instance, two Senior Teachers Mr. A' and Mr. B were sent out from the same school in Yangon to a district town. Now, Mr. A's wife was also a Senior Teacher working in the same school and she would be very happy to be transferred along with her husband in place of Mr. B. She made an application to this effect, but it was not to be. Mr. B, and not Mr. A's wife must be transferred as originally directed for the simple reason that Mr. B had never been transferred before.
     Myanmar family pattern is a close knit one and the feeling of kinship is very strong. Even today it is quite normal for young married people to stay with their parents. There is also a close kinship with uncles, aunts and cousins.
     The Myanmar women have gained much ground no doubt; there are doctors, laywers, engineers more than ever before. But there are problems, very delicate ones. So, where do we, Myanmar women go from here? This will be the subject of my concluding article.
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