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Kamala Sarup: Peace and Women - Some Sad Stories

Peace and Women - Some Sad Stories


By Kamala Sarup

At a time when insecurity is on the rise in Asia, women and girls are told that the insecurity and fear of sexual violence or abduction is keeping them in their homes, out of schools, and away from work and looking for employment. The failure of the occupying power to protect women and girls from violence, and redress it when it occurs, has both immediate and long-term negative implications for the safety of women and girls.

Many women of various ages in Asia express sympathy for these women. Women living in poverty, particularly rural women, also suffer because of the use of arms that are particularly injurious or have indiscriminate effects. With increased insecurity and fear of attack often cause women to flee. Women in Asia always have to bear a disproportionate burden of poverty and they have painful experience arising from the uncontrolled flows of arms.

women's educater Sudha said " We can not forget how women and children are particularly affected by the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel land-mines. The ongoing daily violence against women and children, the violence of battering, sexual assault, poverty, lack of opportunity, and women's bodies, is ignored.

We need women's actions, to make these larger connections, to assert that compassion is not weakness and brutality is not strength, to dramatize our support for nurturing and life affirming values. She pointed out that there are existing mechanisms for dealing with anger and suffering that we need to use and practice in order to achieve a just and lasting peace.Some women argue: since the use of force, internal and external, can only exacerbate the conflict, all efforts should be made to establish the dialogue and to provide a peaceful solution to the conflict by the use of political, economic and social means. Thus, Conflict resolution, in women's terms, should include, the outcome should address the underlying problems or issues, rather than just symptoms or surface manifestations of the conflict, it should be jointly determined; and the process should achieve at least some degree of satisfaction for the parties concerned.

When we stand for peace as women, it is not to make a case for our special victimhood, but to represent a different vision of strength. To defend those values, we need women's voices against the war. For women allows us to analyze patriarchy, the constellation of values, ideas and beliefs that reinforces male control over women. Women tend to agree on the fact that gender inequalities exist and need to be eradicated; and on the need to develop theoretical frameworks and political strategies that will emerge from and have resonance for women's lives.

The work of women in peace groups is presupposed, it is invisible, trying, women's work; it's a part of 'our' role; to care for others, to comfort, aid, tend wounds, and feed. The painful realization that the peace movement would to some extent also follow a patriarchal model caused a serious dilemma for women-pacifists. We wanted our presence to be visible. We wanted it to be clearly understood that what we were doing was our political choice, a radical criticism of the patriarchal, and a non-violent act of resistance to policies that destroy cities, kill people, and annihilate human relations.

We are the group of women who believe that solidarity is one of the deepest values of our existence, that active solidarity between women is the force and the tenderness by which we can overcome isolation, loneliness, traumas and other consequences of hatred. We are the ones who come out in the public with our bodies and our visions of the world without war, rape, violence". Peace educater Suchitra argued.

From a women's perspective , involves a conflict resolution style that can be easily recognized as compatible with female values and goals. This description of female values in dealing with conflict mirrors the goals of mediation. The mediation adopts the female values of supporting, maintaining, and enhancing communication between the disputants.

In the past decade, however, women peace activists have insisted that the role gender plays in both the escalation and the de-escalation of conflicts depends on the particular historical, cultural and sociopolitical context as well as on the conceptual framework one utilizes to explore the gendered dimensions of serious political conflicts.

Women who wished to maintain their connection with peace organizations struggled to sensitize male leadership to sexist attitudes and to bring about more shared leadership between women and men. As women were liberated from passive dependence on men, they would be able to direct their naturally pacific tendencies into the public arena as an independent force for peace and disarmament.

Women prefer In the past decade, women, in the field of conflict resolution have been raising similar questions. These questions have prompted numerous attempts to introduce feminist perspectives to the study and practice of conflict resolution. For example, while Marxist women believe that capitalism is the source of women's oppression. Radical women have identified patriarchy as the major structure that upholds women's oppression through legal, economic, social and cultural institutions and practices.

Maintenance of national security and peace is an important factor for economic growth and development and the empowerment of women. We should not forget during times of armed conflict, the role of women is crucial. Women make an important but often unrecognized contribution as peace educators both in their families and in their societies.

Education to foster a culture of peace that upholds justice and tolerance is essential to attaining lasting peace and should be begun as soon as possible. It should include elements of conflict resolution, mediation, reduction of prejudice and respect for diversity. In addressing arm conflict, an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes should be promoted so that before decisions are taken an analysis is made of the effects on women and men, respectively. Women are the main innocent victims of the armed conflict. In Asia massive violation of human rights is still going on.

Most often, because the structure of Asian society and social norms and values have been shaped by centuries of patriarchy, women find themselves in a disadvantaged position vis-A-vis men. Most Nepalese women do not have the earning power men enjoy, nor, do they have the same negotiating experience as men.

We should remember that a number of countries have taken steps to increase the number of women in their armed forces in recognition of the right of women to participate in their nation's military. The changing role of the military in some countries, and at the international level in particular, is moving towards the prevention of conflict, securing of peace, and the reconstruction of countries after wars and natural disasters.

"An environment that maintains peace and the peaceful settlement of disputes, in accordance with the principles of non-threat or use of force against territorial integrity or political independence and of respect for sovereignty as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, is an important factor for the advancement of women. They must be empowered at all levels of decision- making, both at the pre-conflict stage as well as at the point of peacekeeping, peace-building, reconciliation and reconstruction". Puja further said.

She said "Women organizations should promote peaceful conflict resolution and peace, reconciliation and tolerance through education, training, community actions and youth exchange programmes, in particular for young women. Organizations should consider establishing educational programmes for girls to foster a culture of peace, focusing on conflict resolution by non-violent means and the promotion of tolerance.

Women organizations should recognize that Peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men because Nepalese women and children have been most affected by the conflict".

Lasting Peace

Women are excellent teachers of peace in this process that will evolve into a balanced, healthy, integrated, and just society.

Women activist Ann White said "The dialogue established by women groups can be an important instrument and a qualitative tool for national political efforts for the peaceful resolution of conflicts. We seek an alternative power principle of empowerment in community rather than power over and disabling of others. Women today sees its links with the cause of human survival and the survival of the planet itself. And we need to remind the world that modern warfare never spares the civilian population.

Women and children and men, too, who have no say in the policies of their rulers face death, maiming, wounding, and the loss of their homes, livelihoods, and loved ones in a war. We need a women voice for peace to say that those who truly care about life and freedom will work to support. A women voice for peace must identify and address the root causes of war. "Peace" cannot be separated from justice, including economic justice. And real security can only come when we weave a new global web of mutual aid and support".

White further added "All strategies for the conflict prevention and resolution should be forward looking and long-term oriented. Confidence building also requires political and legal measures such as legal and economic provisions for the return of refugees and displaced persons. It can be successful only if the political will for it exists on both sides.

Women in conflict resolution would be wise to treat the seductive use of liberal rhetoric in the form of invitations to a supposedly open dialogue on the potential contributions of feminism to conflict resolution with caution and suspicion.

To date women's views on the conflict and their solutions to it have not been heard nor have women been involved in initiatives to bring the sides together.

*************

(Kamala Sarup is editor to http://peacejournalism.com )

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