Three Myanmar women among ‘most influential’ of 2021: Time

From left: MiMi Aung, Ei Thinzar Maung and Esther Ze Naw Bamvo. Photos: U.S. National Academy of Engineering,  Ei Thinzar Maung / Facebook, Esther Ze Naw Bamvo / Facebook
From left: MiMi Aung, Ei Thinzar Maung and Esther Ze Naw Bamvo. Photos: U.S. National Academy of Engineering, Ei Thinzar Maung / Facebook, Esther Ze Naw Bamvo / Facebook

Three Myanmar women yesterday joined the likes of Prince Harry, Joe Biden and Youn Yuh Jung as the year’s most influential people, according to Time magazine.

In its annual list of the year’s 100 most influential people, the magazine named Burmese-American NASA engineer MiMi Aung, Kachin activist Esther Ze Naw Bamvo and Ei Thinzar Maung, the government in exile’s deputy minister for women, youth and children.

Ei Thinzar Maung, 27, was recently named deputy of the Women, Youth and Children Affairs Ministry of the alternative government led by ousted lawmakers called the National Unity Government.

She said she only found out about the distinction last night.

“In fact, I only found out when people came to talk about it last night. This means that the world recognizes and respects what is happening in Myanmar, and I am happy about it,” she wrote on Facebook.

In 2012, she joined the All Burma Federation of Students’ Unions, an umbrella group advocating for students’ rights and democracy. There, she advocated for changes in Myanmar’s education system and led a protest campaign against the massive Letpadaung copper mine. She was held at Thayawaddy Prison in 2015 and released in 2016, the same year she chaired the 2016 Student General Assembly.

She was among the first to lead anti-coup protests in Yangon five days after the Feb. 1 military takeover.

On the streets with her was Esther Ze Naw Bamvo, who also received the nod from Time as a leader of the Kachin Peace Network and one of few public figures in Myanmar to stand up for its Rohingya people, who were victims of genocide carried out by the military when Aung San Suu Kyi was in power.

In Time, Burmese food writer MiMi Aye said “It’s thanks to these women and others like them, that we finally have hope for the future of Myanmar.”

MiMi Aung, 53, led the NASA team which took humanity’s first extraterrestrial flight in the Martian atmosphere with the Ingenuity drone earlier this year.

From Myanmar to NASA, Burmese woman breaks barrier over Mars

Andy Weir, author of The Martian, said that flying in the red planet’s atmosphere seemed impossible.

“But MiMi and her team were able to make it happen, and it will pave the way for more rapid Mars exploration in the future,” he wrote in Time.

She was born in the United States but moved to Myanmar when she was 18 months old. She earned a master’s degree in science from the University of Illinois and her mother was the first Burmese woman to earn a doctoral degree in mathematics at an American university.

She returned to the states and 16 and has spent 31 years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where she oversaw April’s historic mission.

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