Seven women who shaped the world in 2011

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese human rights leader

Khin Maung Win/AP/File

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese human rights leader who spent 15 of the past 21 years in prison or under house arrest, rejoined mainstream politics this year after Burmese authorities permitted her opposition party, the National League for Democracy, to legally register.

Ms. Suu Kyi, who says she was inspired by the nonviolent campaigns of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, has become an international symbol of peaceful resistance.  Her years in detention were a result of her calls for peaceful democratic reform and free elections in Burma (Myanmar). 

She founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1988, and in 1990 her party won a general election, but Burma’s military junta did not allow her, or her party, to take power. In 1991, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts, and she served as general secretary of the NLD even while imprisoned.

The NLD was deemed illegal and forced to disband leading up to the Nov. 2010 elections, which were the first open elections in Burma in 20 years. The government’s decision to allow the party to reintegrate this year, paired with the recent uptick in international visitors to the formerly closed-off country, gives hope to supporters internationally that Suu Kyi’s work and perseverance will pay off.

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