Mobilising women concerns for a secure future - Aishani Gupta

This perennial matter of concern always seems to unite even the most conflicting forces. And when the concern is addressed at the global platform, voices are likely to echo a unified solution. Although women’s distress may have been addressed time and again at the local or individual level, the matter becomes more expansive and holistic when women in similar situations get to voice their anguish globally.

Akin to this, a recent presentation by The Women’s Regional Network (WRN) on ‘Community Conversations’ documented several women’s voices in the conflict zones of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Held at the India International Center – a hub of transnational exchanges in itself – the conference brought out the misgivings faced by women following the militarization, extremisms and corruption in the war zones of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Giving hope for peaceful and secure future, individual women civil society leaders from these three zones together developed the Women Regional Network in 2011. Inspired to bring about collaboration within and across borders, WRN has been working towards equitable and sustainable development by encouraging full participation of women.

Tapping the pulse of the affected women in South Asia’s eight conflicting provinces across Afghanistan, Swat and Balochistan in Pakistan and in the border districts of Jammu & Kashmir, Tripura and Odisha in India, the ‘Community Conversations’ sought out women living and working in these remote and insecure areas, deprived of their rights and justice ensuing from militarization, extremisms and corruption.

The conference saw extensive and noted representation from every country. From the hosts – India – a noted member of the Planning Commission and a committed women rights activist, Dr. Syeda Hameed, spoke of the beautiful cross-border bonding between nations and acknowledged that “women need to be at the points of governmental decision making. Women are seen to be the most vulnerable to necessities. There need to be credit facilities to put resources in women’s hands.” Talking about the role of the government, she emphasized further, “Like Afghanistan, India too will have an election in 2014. Hence both governments need to listen. WRN Community Conversations and the 12th plan have most ideas in common.”

Communicated through professionals and experts, the plight of women across the world was highlighted extensively. Adding to the many ground realities, Afghanistan’s noted senior lawyer and former judge Najla Ayubi said, “Government of Afghanistan is not able to put women's agenda into its priorities. Participation of women is effected due to personal security as police force is a disaster there. Only a small percentage of women are willing to be part of armed conflict.”

Voicing similar concerns from Pakistan, I.A Rehman, Secretary-General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said, “Security forces are blamed for murder of dissidents in Pakistan. Baluch women are marching from Baluchistan to Karachi. There is an Eco Dimension to prosecution of Shia Hazaras as they are running the best department stores. Things can be taken care off in religion but Pakistan is not a uniform country as per law.”

“In the borderlands of Tripura, the fluidity leads to weaponization of the region. India does not recognize incidences of sexual assault in 'conflict zones', but defines it as ‘women in difficult zones’. Those in conflict zones have to deal with the paradox of the army being a source of security and a threat to their life," expressed a concerned Binalakshmi Nepram, a writer-activist from Manipur.

With the geographical boundaries fading away through such inclusive addressal of mutual concerns, chances of a promising co-existence look bright, thanks to the focused community identification and the subsequent solution given for women issues.