After several years of hard work on the issue, women from 8 states congregated on August 24 at Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakashetra in Guwahati, Assam. The event was convened by Control Arms Foundation of India in collaboration with Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, NERSWN, CARDS, Jindal School of International Affairs, O. P. Jindal Global University, FLO NE, Eclectic NE and Doctors for You.
In the words of the Convenor of this historic women peace congregation, Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, ‘Northeast India Women Peace Congregation is a historic event which for the first time brings together women leaders from all across Northeast India in Guwahati. These remarkable women with help through their words, deeds and action will bring the much needed peace in the Northeast Region. We salute each & every woman leader who is a part of this congregation.’
First Day of the Women peace Congregation
Tanushree Hazarika, Managing Director of Eclectic Group, speaking on the issue of ‘Peace and Women Empowerment’ said, ‘Peace and empowerment are directly co-related. When there is peace, there is better environment for women to pursue their goals. Women in India form a minuscule percentage of legislators and bureaucrats. So, this kind of programmes can play a big role in bridging that gap.’
Samrat Sinha, Associate Director at Centre for Study of Political Violence spoke about the hazards faced by children and women affected by violence in strife torn places like Kashmir and Northeast. Prof Lalneihzovi, HoD, Public Administration, Mizoram University stated that women in Manipur are developed but not empowered.
Neidonuo Angami, Naga Mothers Founders shared personal stories of the inception of Naga Mothers. She said throughout their journey they have received immense support from to society. She shared they have tried to personally tried to catch the trafficking kingpin and some of their members physically tried to stop him then only the police intervened.
Other speakers on the opening day included Pratibha Brahma, Member of North East Research & Social Work Networking (NERSWN), Bodoland, Assam, Sitara Begum, Muslim Women Leader, Manipur, Rinyui Chon, Credit Manager, Ukhrul District Women’s Institute of Microfinance, Manipur, Rebina Subba, Member State Women Commission Meghalaya, Meghalaya, Prof. Lalneihzovi, HoD, Public Administration, Mizoram University, Deyang Dolkar Gyatso, President, Bikstang Heritage, Sikkim, Kanchan Sinha, Drugs Control Organization, Government of Tripura, Jarjum Ite, Chairperson, State Women Commission, Arunachal Pradesh.
Second Day of the Women Peace Congregation
The second day of the congregation was marked by the presence of AIUDF MLA from Dhing, Aminul Islam. Islam questioned why women have to fight for their rights when it is the duty of men to ensure those rights. ‘When we hear instances of brutality against women, we feel embarrassed. In the eyes of Allah, a man ’ he said.
Kanchan Sinha, working for Drugs Control Organization, Tripura pointed out the horrifying condition of women there. ‘As per NCRB report, 2014, crime against women is 88%. Common phenomenon is to blame victims for rape. An incident like Nirbhaya takes place there on every alternate month. Practise of killing women in the name of witchcraft is very common in Tripura.’
Lourembam Nganbi, Meira Paibi Leader, Bishnupur District, Manipur also said that women’s participation in decision making is quite low in Manipur. ‘Only 5% of MLAs are women. Manipuri society is still male dominated. Women have many qualities which are suppressed by men.’
Jaynie Sangma, a social activist from Garo Hills, Meghalaya narrated some horrifying tales of police atrocities. ‘I was jailed there for two and half months along with my husband and son. My son’s friend has been killed in judicial custody. Government is not willing to bring peace in Garo Hills’ she lashed out.
Sandeep B Sangma, a young engineering student also told how he was assaulted and framed by police. There was also the harrowing story of Archana, a woman who had lost her son in a bomb blast in Gossaigaon, Kokrajhar. She spoke about how Northeasterns get less compensation compared to other parts of India.
Parvati Thaosen, a resilient woman from Dima Hasao told how she fought for women’s rights in the strife torn region. She said that she has faced gender discrimination since her birth. She had taken strong initiatives to fight against women rights violation.
Ravikant Singh, President of the organization Doctors for You spoke about how the dangers against women and girls during disaster can be mitigated. Other speakers for the day wereSitara Begum, Muslim Woman Leader from Manipur, Ringyui Chon, Credit Manager, Ukhrul District, Hukhelli, Secretary, Naga Hoho and Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty, Journalist from The Wire.
Draft National Action Plan for Woman
The congregation also came up with a draft National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security for India which has already been submitted to Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju. The goal of India’s National Action Plan is to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women. The objectives of the draft includes
- Creating an environment through positive economic and social policies for full development of women to enable them to realize their full potential.
- Equal access to participation and decision making of women in social, political and economic life of the nation.
- Equal access to healthcare, education, employment, equal remuneration, occupational health, social security and public offence.
- Mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development process.
- Elimination of discrimination and all forms of violence against women and the girl child.
- Women to be included in peace talks and peace processes.
Recommendations taken at the Women Peace Congregation
- Recognition of women role in peace processes and ensuring the participation of women as decision makers in peace negotiations and present and post conflict reconstructions by both the Central and State Governments.
- Appeal to all ethnic groups, communities in Northeast India to rise above the greater common goal of peace and prosperity for all in the Northeast. Women across ethnic, community, religion, state lines to unite to work together to make this possible.
- The Government of India must look into the issues of Northeast region squarely in the face and make a sincere effort to find a political solution to the armed conflict in Northeast India.
- Non-state armed groups to take all necessary steps to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law, specifically common article 3 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and customary international humanitarian law.
- Non-state armed groups to end human rights abuses and laws of war violations against civilians, including killings, the use of threats, extortion, and reprisals against individuals suspected to be informers or supporters of another group.
- Non-state armed groups to cease using landmines, cluster bombs, other bombs and other forms of attack in a manner that does not discriminate between military objectives and civilians.
- For all women to work on a shared vision, through re-establishing relationships, networking and interacting with other workers in the regional, national or international level. Misguided perceptions can end when we learn about and from each other, and this interchange can begin through efforts such as community exchange programs
- To address the main identity issue within each state. Divisions are easily made because of this problem especially when it comes to people’s common interests. Alliances should be made across communities and state borders.
- To break the connection between drugs and arms, both of which are utilized by state and non state actors. Currently, borders around states such as Manipur are blocked off from receiving commodities that people need to live but drugs and guns are going through…what about a zone of free trade?