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KNOW City Brief - Yangon 
Urban transformation and inequality in Yangon

By Women for the World Yangon: Marina Kolovou Kouri,  Shoko Sakuma, Bima Amalsyah

Yangon has been undergoing rapid transformations in its physical fabric, urban governance structures, and political economy — even more so since the country’s transition to a quasi-civilian government. This document contextualises the growing inequality within the city’s urban transformations through a longitudinal overview of political shifts, development directions, housing policies, and land regulations. After decades of turmoil, economic isolation, and social oppression, the strong focus on development has brought certain benefits, like an overall decline in poverty, yet the gains are unevenly distributed. Yangon’s low-income residents, particularly informal dwellers, face a shrinking space to claim their right to housing, services, and the city, as middle-class and elite developments proliferate. On the one hand, urban inequality is located in practices and discourses, like the implementation of forced evictions and the narratives that justify them. On the other hand, more fine-grained insights on the experiences of urban poor dwellers are obtained by Women for the World, a social development organisation engaging with informal communities across the city. Along with the economic liberalisation and commodification of land and housing, the last decade has also seen the emergence of alternative trajectories: new participatory and collective housing models aim to challenge the dominant practices and narratives by re-centering urban poor communities in development pathways.

Suggested citation: 

Marina Kolovou Kouri, Shoko Sakuma, Bima Amalsyah (2019). Urban transformation and inequality in Yangon, KNOW City Brief Yangon, Yangon: Women for the World. 

Publication note:

This publication was written in 2019. It therefore does not reflect the developments since 2021. The views expressed are those of the authors.

Contact: Marina Kolovou Kouri <kolovou.kouri.m@gmail.com>

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