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Kamala Sarup: Nepali Women & Reconciliation

Nepali Women And Reconciliation Strategy

By Kamala Sarup

For the first time since the insurgency started, a women-led anti-Maoist uprising has spread across Dailekh and in Baglung and some part of the country. Women have been organising small village gatherings in open defiance of the Maoists since 9 November in Dullu and thousands marched in Baglung Saturday .

"Down with Maoism," "Down with Prachanda." the demonstrators shouted at a big rally in Dullu and in Baglung.

"If we want to see these women move further in local level politics, they need training and support programs to develop their self-esteem, potential, and economic power. With this type of capacity-building, women will have the financial ability and self-confidence to pursue politics supportive of women". Puja argued.

"If injustice against the people continues, mass fury will not be contained. We are taking part in this rally because we are troubled by the Maoists. This campaign will definitely teach a lesson to the Maoists". She argued.

Gender analysis shows that women are greatly affected by armed conflict and conflict arises for many reasons: political, economic and psychological, religious, ethnic or other kinds of intolerance, socio-economic despair, injustice and oppression. In Nepal, the opportunities for women to exchange views and forge a common policy against violence is minimal even women are often the main victims in situations of conflict, suffering human rights abuses.

Now we have a question How to reduce conflict from women's perspective; that is, how do women see the world? How do women deal with their difficulties during conflict? Nepalese women should be in position to know how conflict has affected their family life, including child development and psychological impact on children among others. This is a very complicated issue because women's responses depend on a number of factors, including: whether they are from the aggressor or victim communities, their level of political consciousness, the degree to which the conflict has affected their personal and family life and the role they play in the socio-political and economic life of their societies. We should see women development as their fundamental freedom.

The reality is that many Nepalese women are living a miserable life, they are not educated, do not have facilities to health and safe drinking water. So, we should seriously consider how women can play a catalytic role in resolving conflict and bring peace and how the Nepalese civic society, and women's organizations should use this resolution to press for greater involvement and how they should monitor and evaluate the actions of negotiators. Nepalese women can not forget how women with political power does not mean improvement overall in women's political, economic or social status. There is a real need to educate women about their rights and obligations. Women's rights is a relevant social issue in a pluralistic society.

The question of women themselves is in urgent need to be addressed with sufficient clarity and precision. Of the so many unfortunate developments in our country the uneducated rural girls became the hapless victims of scrupulous urban and semi-urban thugs and power brokers. As a result, thousands of innocent Nepalese young women end up in the red light districts of big Indian cities and elsewhere every year and ultimately return home in shame with the life-taking disease of AIDS.

Women are often the first victims of armed conflict, but they can be powerful forces for peace, for the reconciliation and they can provide to the peace processes by forming women's associations and non-governmental organizations. We should start with a policy dialogue that facilitate cross fertilization of ideas in respect of gender streaming issues, be it developmental, economical or political. Even, national and foreign problems and agendas, often seem to preoccupy women's agendas.

Women working in NGOs cannot be called truly the representatives of ordinary women in Nepal, though they are trying to bring the awareness campaigns to rural villages in a modest scale. On the whole, we cannot confidently assert that all Nepalese women are in a position to make up their mind to react to contemporary violence facing the country. Today two thirds of the population of Nepalese are women, so more women must be involved and engaged in peace processes and development programmes.

Nepalese women should not forget how in Somalia, women challenged civil society to play a more active role for peace and how they helped create the Peace and Human Rights Network? How in Kenya, women in the Wajir Peace Group successfully intervened in conflicts between ethnic groups, partially by keeping careful track of tensions in the market place. How the Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace promotes dialogue and reconciliation among different ethnic groups and guerilla factions in Sudan? How in Northern Ireland two women, the Roman Catholic Mairead Maguire and the Protestant Betty Williams, reached across sectarian lines to establish the Peace People movement. How women from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia got together and went to the bush to persuade the young child soldiers to lay down their arms?

Nepalese women believe, if they are given an opportunity to make their voice heard, if they can bring their own perspective to the table, the chances for lasting peace and reconciliation will improve immeasurably.

Women can play as peacekeepers, in peace accords and the rebuilding of society because Nepalese women have suffered the loss of family, houses, and they have faced extreme poverty and majority of internal refugees are women and children.

While Nepalese women's organizations can play key roles in information gathering, peace building, and can help the government and the civil society to move from simply responding to crises to preventing their occurrence. Since 1991, hundreds of local NGOs have been established in Nepal, so civil society and women's organizations need to create special educational and employment opportunities for women and they need to initiate a massive awareness building campaign throughout the country to sensitize people, politicians, administrators, social activists etc.

Nepalese women see peace as a holistic concept, because peace and security must be considered in the truest sense of the word: access to education, health, personal security and general freedom to live a life. If we talk on women's human rights, we have to talk first of those violated women who are suffering from armed struggle. There are a number of violence where women are more likely to be victims because they are women.

The Nepalese women abroad remain deeply concerned about how on October 31st, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and the resolution calls upon the Council, the UN Secretary General, member states, and all other parties to take action in four inter-related areas, participation of women in decision-making and peace processes, gender perspectives and training in peacekeeping, the protection of Women; and gender mainstreaming in United Nations reporting systems and programmatic implementation mechanisms.

Nepalese women must have a right to be involved in all peace processes because displaced women are the real problem in Nepal. Women are in a unique position to effect reconciliation and to promote values which lead to the prevention of violent conflict because women's strengths for this role in reconciliation are many. Nepalese Women are silent invisible and disproportionately represented majority a Nepalese polities.

Nepalese women's organization should mobilize and build capacity of women and civil society at large to contribute to peace because for women interested in reconciliation, the challenge is to develop an integrated gender approach". She argued.

"Nepalese political parties should seek to help to defuse tensions and build sustainable peace through promoting the targeted conflict reduction strategies like through good governance programmes, encouraging protection of the rights of minority groups expanding the use of the media to provide objective information, promoting international co-operation to curb illicit trafficking in small arms. Nepalese leaders should have a responsibility to help reduce human suffering and they should work closely with humanitarian organisations, they should seek to rebuild livelihoods and communities, and build capacity so that communities will be less vulnerable to future crises. It is sad to know, the major political parties cannot find any political solution to these problems faced by the people of Nepal". women activist Sudha argued.

She further argued "The government-Maoists talks should be in the interest of the nation or else the country would have to be bear huge damages. Peacemaking, whether in personal, group, or international relations, requires a variety of capacities for self-transcendence: transcendence of one's own interests and perspectives for the sake of understanding the interests and perspectives of the other side, which calls for the virtue of empathy; transcendence of one's pride and defensiveness, which inhibit the acknowledgment of injuries done to others capacity for repentance and perhaps restitution; transcendence of one's own grievances and desire for vengeance over injuries inflicted by others capacity for forgiveness.

Negotiation is only one of many ways that organizations and societies deal with conflicts so how interest-based negotiation can be combined creatively with other rights-based and power-based procedures such as arbitration, adjudication, voting, and third-party intervention in order to constitute a "dispute resolution system. Negotiation means that you not only set your Objectives for a negotiation, you also understand why those are your Objectives. It is a humanistic approach to negotiation that utilizes the strategies and tactical tools of successful negotiating to achieve optimal results". She argued.


(Kamala Sarup is editor to )

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