International Human Rights Activist and Democracy Leader
Nobel Peace Prize, Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient
Living Legacy Award 2001
Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the world's most prominent figures in the struggle to advance democracy and human rights. In response to the tyranny and brutality of the military regime ruling her native Burma, she has become a unifying voice for the oppressed. She founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) and led it to a landslide electoral victory in 1990; the Burmese government has never honored that election. Despite enduring house arrests, separation from her loved ones, and threats against her life, she has refused to be silenced. Her unwavering commitment to securing a free Burma through non-violent means is an inspiration to people around the world.
She was born on June 19, 1945, in Rangoon, Burma (now known as Yangon, Myanmar.).
She is the daughter of Aung San, a martyred national hero of independent Burma and a liberation leader. Her mother, Khin Kyi, was a distinguished Burmese diplomat. Mohandas Gandhi influenced Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the philosophy of non-violent protest as a mean of bringing democracy to her country.
She went to school in Burma until 1960, when her mother was appointed ambassador to India. Suu Kyi studied in India and went on to further her education at Oxford University. There, she met her future husband, Michael Aris; the devoted couple later had two sons. In 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Myanmar to take care of her dying mother. While there, she saw the mass slaughter of protesters by the brutal military government. She defiantly began a peaceful struggle for democracy and human rights
She co-founded the National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition party in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest to prevent her from competing in elections as the head of the new democratic movement. Her party won the national election by a wide margin in 1990, but the military dictatorship refused to honor the will of the people, and supressed all who opposed it to this day. The military constanty sought to force Suu Kyi to leave the country to return to her family in England from which they had kept her apart. She refused to do so until the country was returned to civilian government and political prisoners were freed, and bore the heavy coat on her personal happiness with her family in service to this higher calling. After looking at her accomplishments and her background, we must look at why Suu Kyi has gained support both domestically and internationally. She remained under house arrest until January 2001.
When Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee released a statement about her in recognition of her work. Part of it stated that: "She has become an important symbol in the struggle against oppression. "
She is a peace hero in every sense and as Vaclav Havel said, "an example of the power of the powerless." Her fear did not stop her from doing what was right, even if it meant her life. She knew what was important and realized the sacrifices that have to be made. Aung San Suu Kyi still fights to this very day for democracy to come to Myanmar, and wants to be able to enjoy it with the people.
Women's International Center is deeply grateful to Daw Aung Suu Kyi for her message of peace and her example of heroism to the people of the world. We salute her mission and proudly offer her the Living Legacy Award 2001.