The participation of women in decision making processes, their role in seeking collective peace and addressing gender based violence in the north-eastern region were the key topics driving discussions among women leaders and rights activists at the Second Northeast India Women Peace Congregation, held in the city of Guwahati on August 24 and 25, 2016.
The two day event was organised by one of Welthungerhilfe’s implementing partners the Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI) as part of the project “Empowering Women for Peace and Development in South Asia” (EWPDSA) supported by the European Union and Welthungerhilfe.
The gathering brought together over 170 participants, with eminent grassroots women leaders sharing their perspectives on the representation of women in peace talks and the need for women in political processes.
“It is a historic event, which brings together women leaders from across the northeast,” said Binalakshmi Nepram, the founder of CAFI. “These remarkable women with the help of their words and action will bring much needed peace in the region,” she added.
The event is a culmination of three years of Women’s Network Meetings across all eight states in the region. “It provides an inclusive atmosphere for deliberation, support, negotiation, empathy and active listening,” said Neha Naqvi, Project Coordinator EWPDSA, Welthungerhilfe. “It is a congregation of incredible, diverse women and allies who apply imagination and perseverance to breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of collaborative peace building.”
In her address, rights activist Roshmi Goswami said, “…the core of sustainable peacebuilding has to be transformative. Advocates for peace must recognise that challenging the status quo, patriarchal systems and structural inequalities is both critical and necessary.”
Access to education vital
Speaking at the gathering, Rebina Subba, Lawyer and Social Activist for LGBT rights, from the state of Meghalaya said, “Women can and must ensure their voices, experiences and needs play an equal role in promoting peace and security efforts around the world.” “By providing girls and women access to tools such as education, economic opportunity and health care we can build women’s capacities to prevent war and promote stability,” she emphasized.
A home to nearly 45 million people with 272 ethnic communities, India’s north-eastern region has witnessed the loss of more than 50, 000 lives over the last six decades of armed conflicts. Women in the region are generally excluded from decision-making structures due to cultural and socio- political reasons, patriarchal structures and customary laws.
This year’s Peace Congregation was the second of its kind, following the first ever peace gathering of women across all eight north-eastern States held in April 2015. It built on what culminated in a series of draft recommendations. These recommendations were later presented to the government to help develop a National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 – a landmark international resolution that calls for the equal participation of women in conflict prevention, resolution and peace processes.