April 2019
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V.M. Giri: Towards a World without Weapons of War or Violence

Peace, Peace and Peace….. We go pieces over it!!!

The most important thing which affects women the most, is never considered to be a subject for discussion.

The South Asian people have been witness to bloody partitions, 53 years of hostilities, and three wars between two of its nations and innumerable border skirmishes. However, hope has never died in the minds looking for a climate of peace today, tomorrow or day after. But the nuclearization of countries, each claiming to have outdone the other, has brought this proverbial patience to an end. The realization has taken root that in this game of one-upmanship between both governments, the people have been forgotten. The centrality of people can never be overlooked or undermined; people are at the heart of decisions concerning the countries that they represent.

It is for this reason today that civil society in general and women in particular are demanding a space for intervention in the process of peace in the World and the South Asian region. No war, no bloodshed, and peace at the borders are the first demands, and an assurance by all governments that South Asia, indeed, the entire world will become nuclear free and war free. The people need to know that the nation’s precious resources will be used to build, never to destroy. The people of South Asia are no longer willing to be mute witnesses to their future being written and unwritten and destroyed by governments. They are not hesitant to stand up to be counted. We are determined to make the world a safe place for our children to grow in.

Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia (WIPSA) and Guild of Service (GOS) have been the catalysts in many ways. When in the summer of 1999, the guns boomed on the Kargil front and war rhetoric was at its highest pitch, many women, in their separate spaces, found themselves increasingly disturbed. The naked aggression and the untold suffering on both sides was unnerving. Through the lens of the cameras, they saw it all; smoking guns, body bags, grieving mothers and wives sorrowing along with the drum rolls and bugles of valor and victory.  It is at that time that a few of us came together with our shared and yet unspoken grief.

From all the efforts made in the past ten years our purpose has been towards ‘Peace for Empowerment and Empowerment for Peace’. Our initiative has demanded a war free and a nuclear free Asia and indeed a nuclear free and a war free world.

We have had certain learnings from our decade old initiatives for peace:

  • People-to-people contact is the surest way to build a pressure of public opinion for peace which no government can afford to ignore.
  • Women though not part of the decision process when it comes to war or foreign relations are an integral part of the decision for peace. In fact for the first time women initiated a peace process which is now snowballing at such a swift pace.
  • Historical, cultural, and social commonalities ensure that a direct link of understanding can be built.
  • Kashmir is an issue that troubles the peace process. But the optimism is high that a pragmatic process of compromises can solve the problem.
  • The pragmatic view that half a century of distrust must be put behind.
  • The approach that India as a vibrant democracy with an industrial, educational, and commercial infrastructure has as much to offer other South Asian countries.
  • The vital need to build a cohesive South Asian identity that will ensure a greater negotiating muscle on the global stage.
  • The vital realization that peace in South Asia is no longer a choice but the only reality left for survival.

Women have made remarkable efforts around the world to bring about sustainable, positive, and peaceful political change. The Resolution 1325 is in many ways its lynchpin. Unfortunately, this is also the area in which implementation of the resolution has been particularly ad hoc and limited. There is of course significant rhetorical support for increasing women’s participation. But, substantive action on the part of the Governments and the UN has been less positive – the levels of women’s participation in peace processes remains abysmal and the UN has made limited progress in leading by example. One of the other disturbing trends is that women’s participation is often as a monolithic and abstract concept. It is vital that we look at what participation means in practical terms in relation to specific decision-making processes or in specific contexts.

Another challenging aspect of the prevailing discourse around women’s participation is that it is often assumed that women’s participation is centered on women participating in decision making around ‘issues of gender equality’ only. Furthermore, and aside from the obvious fact that attaining gender equality is not and should not be the sole responsibility of women, this assumption ignores one of the primary driving forces for women who advocated for a Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security. That is, women have a vital and a significant role and a right to participate in decision making on all matters of peace and security. That includes women taking a stand and having a say on disarmament and ending militarization. That includes women standing up and having their voices heard to end military coups.

Most media and political attention over the last few months has been given to the protection aspect of the women, peace, and security agenda and, in particular, addressing sexual violence in conflict. For us women, addressing sexual violence in conflict is of course important but we encourage advocates to see protection and participation as integrally related.

One of the key recommendations of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security and others was the appointment by the Secretary-General of a Special Representative on Women, Peace and Security. Another significant development on which we hope to see progress in the coming weeks is the establishment of a new women’s entity at the UN.

The task is very difficult and we have miles to go. However, women of the world unitedly campaign for a world without weapons and a world without wars.