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Women’s Role in Peace Building Second Global NRN Conference Kathmandu, 7-9 October 2005
Introductions to this paper • Based on personal activism and experience with Nagarik Aawaz • On network knowledge/resource generated with women peace activists in the region and throughout the world • Intended to initiate inquiry, stimulate discussions, and deepen reflections • It has a focus on Nepal’s experience but draws from experience world-wide
Impact of conflict on women: Nepal • Compulsive internal or external displacement • Increased child marriages • Restrictions in mobility • Increased workload • Increased emotional and psychological trauma • Increase in women’s maternal mortality • Increasing unemployment or livelihood options
Continued……… • Increase in social, political and domestic violence • Risks for sexual assault and/abuse from both sides • Caught in the cross fire (having to cook/feed Maoists or work as carriers of letters/arms, and suffer suspicions from security forces) • forced recruitment particularly of adolescent girls from the Dalit and disadvantaged communities • situations of armed conflict allows for further exploitation and inhuman behaviour from those who take advantage of this situation
Impact of conflict on women: South Asia • increase in female-headed households through abandonment and desertion by men and/or deaths • increased workload, health hazards, and stress • increased violence, vulnerability to be trafficked, or tricked/forced into prostitution • forced early marriages for girls or/and increased restrictions on mobility • owing to the notion of “purity” battles can/have been fought over women’s bodies
Continued... • widows face loss of personal identity, social stigmatization, and ostrasization • although mothers are glorified as bearers of sons/martyrs, they suffer psychologically and physically perceiving the killings to be futile
Impact of the conflict on women: Global • military bases are conducive for increased trafficking and prostitution • crime and illegal trade increases • domestic violence owing to use of drugs and alcohol in instable societies • enforced restrictions in women’s movement narrowing/limiting women’s agency and education among other • strengthens / increases “warlords” • societal backlash on combatant women who need long term support for breaking away from their traditional roles
Continued... • sexual abuse, violence and rape owing to the control over women’s bodies • rise of fundamentalism • “honour killing” of women for “tarnishing” family honour or in anticipation of possible rape
Women’s role in peace-building in Nepal • Household • Community level • Case studies: activist: Shakti, agency: WHR, & network: Shanti-malika • Local level loose network and community groups • Spontaneous uprising: Dailekh
Challenges Since the state offers so little in the way of support to its citizens, the primary safety nets for Nepali people generally lie in the institutions of the family and the community. When these institutions are upset during times of conflict because of political divisions, displacement or migration, or disruption in traditional and cultural ways of life, there is very little else on which families can rely or fall back. In such situations, the question of responsibility towards conflict-affected widows, elderly, disabled/maimed, children, and orphans becomes very crucial and that burden rests primarily on women at the household and the community level.
Challenges Nepal’s dependency on development aid makes peace work challenging. There are many implications but to give an example, Maoists have time and again emphasized civil society to stay away from funds form the US government. Yet, resource sharing with them is often an implied necessity for being able to work at the level of the local communities. Also development and peace work is increasingly becoming theme directed and project led. This has made development work not only equated to jobs as in the past, but increasingly mercenary as well. This further fuels the conflict - inevitably deepening fissures of inequity and injustice.
Challenges • Security risks at the personal and the organizational level • Availability of funds (women’s restricted mobility and limited voice is an added obstruction) • lack of previous experience in doing this work (comparatively women’s agency further lack analysis and experience in doing development work – while peace work is relatively new) • Recruiting/sustaining qualified staff (owing to more lucrative opportunities in the international agencies) • Inadequate human resource capabilities (more challenging to find qualified women)
Continued….. • inadequate logistical infrastructure in terms of roads, services, and communications making access formidable even in times of peace, • Maintaining an all around balance between the warring factions
To be mindful of….. • Erosion of trust makes trust-building critical in times of conflict • confidence building measures must be a part of the process of all peace initiatives • Balance must be maintained at all times • Transparency and accountability is mandatory • Peace-building is a very time/energy/resource consuming process • Work demands creativity & flexibility • One cannot do this work and not deal with some level of relief support • Human rights standards must be a necessary practice for warring factions
Conclusions • What then are the implications of women’s exclusion from all peace processes? • Can the Nepali State and the Maoists in their senior hierarchies afford to cut off their ‘good arm’?