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The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects for women refugees and internally displaced women around the world, but particularly in the Global South. Wai Wai Nu, a former political prisoner and Rohingya activist, will deliver the keynote address for this Perry World House workshop on how COVID-19 has affected refugee women’s access to livelihood opportunities, healthcare, and housing in Global South cities.
Speaking from her own experiences, Wai Wai Nu will focus on the impacts of COVID-19 on refugee and internally displaced women in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand. She will reflect on displaced women’s experiences of life during the pandemic and how COVID-19 has impacted their work, health, and housing. She will also identify how displaced women have overcome these challenges, as well as the opportunities for transformation that have come with the pandemic. Finally, she will provide recommendations for improving refugee and internally displaced women’s access to dignified work, healthcare, and housing, in cities across the Global South and worldwide.
Wai Wai Nu is a former political prisoner and the founder and Executive Director of the Women Peace Network in Myanmar. She spent seven years as a political prisoner in Myanmar. Since her release from prison in 2012, Wai Wai Nu has dedicated herself to working for democracy and human rights. Through the Women Peace Network, she works to build peace and mutual understanding between Myanmar’s ethnic communities and to empower and advocate for the rights of marginalized women throughout Myanmar, and particularly in Rakhine State. Her work also aims to improve the human rights of the Rohingya people through documentation, convenings and policy advocacy among key leaders in Myanmar and high-level international fora. To engage youth in democratization and the peacebuilding process, Wai Wai Nu founded the Yangon Youth Center—a space where young people from diverse backgrounds can come together to learn, share, and explore their ideas and promote leadership in social, political, and peace-building. Wai Wai Nu received her bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Yangon in Myanmar and her master’s degree in law from the University of Berkeley. Recently, she served as a fellow at the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.