Women Lead Peace Efforts
A Round Table, ‘Women to Women: Building Peace’ was organized by ALL in association with Ploughshares, USA, a peace-keeping initiative, on February 5, 2013 in New Delhi. The roundtable was part of a series of peace initiatives by women across the borders. This time the focus was on coming up with concrete recommendations that were achievable by women on both sides and could be implemented right away.
Dr. Harbeen Arora, Global Chairperson, ALL LADIES LEAGUE emphasized that women need to come together as a force for evolution and change in society and integrate people. She said, “We belong to a shared history, a common culture, an uplifting civilization, and our youth share the same aspirations of progress and prosperity. We must thus connect and co-create a better tomorrow.???
Ms. Mossarat Qadeem, Chapter Chairperson, , ALL and Executive Director, PAIMAN Trust said, “The skills and efforts of women, visible today in every arena from business to politics, must be harnessed for dialogue and peace-building.??? Ms. Kelly Bronk of Ploughshares Fund, a peace building initiative, also joined the chorus for all-women initiatives and appreciated the efforts of ALL towards building peace between the two countries in her message.
Ms. Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, and awardee CNN-IBN Indian of the Year, spoke passionately on the role of technology as a tool for amplifying and disseminating the voice of women. She further urged ALL for encouraging affirmative action in providing industry and market linkages to women rural entrepreneurs.
Ms. Bushra Hyder, an educationist from Pakistan said that “Inter-faith peace lessons must be introduced in classrooms across borders for our youth to grow up without baggage and with a sense of brotherhood.??? Dr. Naheed, a doctor, said that “Every lady doctor should take on the role of a counselor when meeting female patients and guide them on fertility control, nutrition needs etc.???
Shahida Mehmood, an educationist, urged the sharing of course ware and curriculum for schools for secular education to be taken into the interiors and villages. The roundtable discussion ended with a show of positive resolve from both sides. The roundtable was supported by PAIMAN Trust, Pakistan; SAARC Women’s Initiative for Peace & Prosperity (SWIPP), and Creative Living Foundation.
Recommendations of the Roundtable
The Roundtable made a series of important recommendations that could be implemented with ease and immediacy by the members and their peer circles. These include:
- Use of Technology in Raising Public Awareness: Since technology is freely available to most of us in urban cities today, it was recommended that women should be become more pro-active in using technology to express themselves individually and also to amplify their voices as a group. So use of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and blogs, etc. was advised for bringing attention and discussion to issues of harmony and peace, which are a vital need for the sustenance of the human civilization.
- Introduce Inter-faith Lessons in Schools: Since the integration of diversity is becoming a challenge, there is an urgent need to sensitize youth in both countries, and indeed in other countries too, about the common tenets of different faiths and cultures that rest on shared human values of kindness, peace, righteous conduct and tolerance.
- Connect Cottage Industry to Mainstream Industry: The cottage industry has a great scope of generating employment and engaging the youth into constructive activity and increasing trade and commerce activities in the Indian subcontinent. Therefore, industry chambers in both countries should persuade their member companies to share their linkages and knowledge with their respective rural enterprises and help them become integrated with markets in the region. The industry can play a role in the same as a business intermediary. This will be a win-win scenario for both cottage industry and the big players in industry; as the former will gain in technology, systems and market linkages, and the latter will gain access to new products and procurement at competitive prices.
- Student-exchange Programs: In the same spirit of sensitization of the new generation, which has the added advantage of being without baggage, we should leverage the fresh thinking of the youth and provide adequate inter-cultural exposure to school and college-going children. Schools and colleges in both countries should invite their counterparts from the other country and learn to live as friends and realize their shared history and common tenets of culture of big-heartedness and open-mindedness. Efforts must be made however to smoothen out visa hurdles on both sides so that this goal can be achieved. It was noted by some members of the audience that while mistrust reigns between people from India and Pakistan while they are in each other’s country, it surprisingly transforms into deep understanding and kinship when they find themselves together in a foreign country. Surely there is an ancient sense of kinship that ends up overcoming the artificially-stirred up hostility.
- Creative Leadership by the Youth: There was a clear emphasis on not repeating the ills of history and setting up the foundation of a brighter tomorrow, starting with the youth of both countries. It was suggested that events of poster paintings, cartoon drawings, plays et al should be created by the youth in both countries and these artistic images be displayed in prominent places to make the vision of our youth integrated with the larger vision of growth in each of our countries. Likewise, the creative energy of our youth could also be engaged in meeting development imperatives in each country. For example, to deal with the issue of population control and reproductive health, poetry and painting could be done on these themes by school students and these posters could be placed at relevant points like hospitals, doctors’ clinics, vaccination booths and these would help sensitize the general public and also the professionals and health workers interfacing with the public.
- More Women Professionals to Join Women Forums and Associations: There is strength in numbers and range, and thus there was a clear need to engage more women in the peace process, which is also interconnected with development needs, as well as those of women and youth empowerment.
- Timely Intervention in Moments of Crisis: It was observed that while so many positive initiatives for peace are on the rise, it takes just one bad news from either side to completely derail the peace dialogue and give a setback to progress made toward understanding, mutual trust and the promise of peace. Therefore, the concerted women initiatives should intervene with a positive agenda especially in such times of crisis so as to provide a positive antidote and diffuse the crisis of resurgence of hostility and mistrust.
- Making a Documentary on People’s Voices in Both Countries: A process was started to record the voices of people asking for peace in both countries, and it be aired regularly to familiarize the public consciousness with this emergent need in both countries.