Aung San Suu Kyi's Fight for Freedom

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ach week, we present an influential woman whose career and style has inspired the Silkarmour team to aim higher and dress better. This week’s Silkarmour woman is democratic stateswoman, politician and chairwoman, Aung San Suu Kyi.

If there is one thing to learn from Forbes’s 61st most powerful woman in the word, it’s that patience is certainly a virtue. Suu Kyi has spent total of 15 years under house arrest for her protests against the authoritarian rule of the military-controlled government of Myanmar. However, recent reports of a new bill passed in Myanmar verify that she will now be given a ‘Prime minister-like role’ creating a landmark point for her campaigning efforts. Suu Kyi highlights the preservation of her personal identity as her key to survival in isolation. Always known for her elegant and feminine appearance alongside her political efforts, she once said how she became “very fond of Jean Valjean” when reading ‘Les Miserables’ during her arrest because of his continued efforts to grow beyond his state-prescribed criminal identity and in turn, crediting her strict grooming routine, meditation, and sense of humour as her greatest allies in surviving imprisonment. Having once applauded Pussy Riot for their protesting efforts, as long as “they did not sing terribly”, the woman who was released from her home 4 years ago is very much the same woman who went in; a political activist with overwhelming support, who still wears  flowers in her hair.

Woman of the Week Aung San Suu Kyi 

Shop the look: Quellio Wave Neckline Dress by Rose & Willard, Twinning Crystal Scarf by Beatrice Jenkins, The Everyday Pouch by She Lion, Yasmin Black Ballerina by Bonessi Ballerinas, White Pearl Studs by ORA Pearls

Suu Kyi’s internationally-publicised house arrest is unique to her case of demonstrative protest. Repeatedly placed under house arrest until November 2012, she remains empathetic about her imprisonment, noting how her situation was “far easier” than the time served by the country’s 2,100 political prisoners and makes a direct correlation between their release and real political progress. Perhaps more controversially, her arrest extension in 2007 was declared illegal by international law, causing a wave of protests cross Asia and drawing vocal support from leaders across the globe. When asked to compare Myanmar’s democratic status on a scale of 1-10 after her release, she simply replied “on the way to 1.”

Small acts of defiance in a strict environment hold huge sentimental value and Suu Kyi’s case was no different. In an attempt to humiliate her into submission, the military authorities once publicised the contents of the packages from her family, declaring her request for lipstick and Jane Fonda or Olivia Newton-John exercise videos as attempts to infiltrate Myanmar with Western culture. But these were simple acts of defiance, acknowledging how a fight for humanity starts internally. Refusing to compromise on something as intimate as personal grooming was the first step of every day for Suu Kyi whilst imprisoned and to this day, her signature scarves, floral hair garlands and colourful dresses have formed a strong part of her identity as an undefeatable  woman in an oppressed regime.

Woman of the Week Aung San Suu Kyi

Shop the look: Nara Lightening Dress in Burgundy by Rose & Willard, The Smoking Tuxedo Jacket by Stefanie Renoma, Tree Nymph Scarf by Beatrice Jenkins, Grey Python Clutch by ALLEGRA LONDON, White Double Pearl Earring by ORA Pearls

Suu Kyi’s physical detention has not kept her away from the public eye. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights, the council citing her example of protest as “one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage” and identifying her as “an important symbol in the struggle against oppression.” Her acceptance speech was not made until two decades later however because of her detainment, finally doing so in June 2012 at Oslo City Hall. Similarly, she was awarded the United States Congressional Medal Award in 2008, but could not accept it in person until September 2012. As part of a coast-to-coast tour of the United States, Suu Kyi met with President Barack Obama at the White House, later describing the visit as “one of the most moving days of my life.”

In a fast-paced world where almost anything can be accessed immediately, Suu Kyi’s patience in her fight for democracy shows that real change takes time. We’re a generation which has become dependent on the instant gratification that a 24hr news cycle offers us. When an international incident occurs, too often do we demand immediate change and ignore the reality of how change is brought about. Re-structuring an entire country and its political system doesn’t happen instantaneously. Suu Kyi’s continued efforts to wait and work through times where “freedom and justice seemed beyond our reach” is nothing short of inspiring. Real change is a slow-moving burden to bear, yet it’s one she bears with grace and composure. Although she is a controversial political figure at home, internationally, she remains a cultural and political icon for human rights, freedom of speech, and for demonstrating the power of a single voice in country fighting for liberation.

Career Golden Nuggets

  • “If you do nothing you get nothing”
  • “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear”
  • “If you're feeling helpless, help someone”
Woman of the Week

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