Three fingers aloft, faces aglow, clad in their bright-red shirts—a nod to the Karen ethnic minority—Esther Ze Naw Bamvo (who is Kachin) and Ei Thinzar Maung (who is Shan-ni) were a vision of strength, honor and justified anger as they led people on the very first anti-military protest in Yangon just five days after the Feb. 1 coup that violently robbed Myanmar of its freedom.
The fierceness of Myanmar’s women has long been suppressed by its military, so this brave new generation sent a surge of pride through us all.
Through their work, both activists have broken new ground. Esther is a leader of the Kachin Peace Network and was one of the few people in the past who were courageous enough to speak up for the Rohingya; Ei Thinzar, also a longtime activist on ethnic minority rights, has been named as Myanmar’s youngest-ever deputy minister in the National Unity Government, an exiled group formed by members of parliament ousted in the coup.
Aye is the author of MANDALAY: Recipes and Tales From a Burmese Kitchen, and host of the food and culture podcast The MSG Pod
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