News / Asia

Q&A with Rita Manchanda: Conflict and Women’s Rights

FILE - Afghan women stand in line while waiting for their turn to vote at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif.
FILE - Afghan women stand in line while waiting for their turn to vote at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif.
Frances Alonzo

The Women’s Regional Network is alarmed that the international community may be trading away women's rights in peace negotiations in order to appease armed groups opposed to gender equality. The group is dedicated to strengthening women’s rights to ensure peace and security for women living in the conflict zones of Asia. Some of the members had meetings at the U.S. Institute of Peace as well as at Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department. The delegation included Rita Manchanda, the Research Director of South Asia Forum for Human Rights in India. She explained to VOA's Frances Alonzo the importance of keeping women's issues front and center in all negotiations.

Q&A with Rita Manchanda: Conflict and Women’s Rights
Q&A with Rita Manchanda: Conflict and Women’s Rightsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

MANCHANDA: What we want is that the influence of the U.S. be exercised to ensure, to encourage the equal participation of women in decision making structures. That can only happen if in fact the U.S. includes in all its processes, either gender conditionality; their funds be made conditional on promoting the meaningful participation of women. It’s based on the fact that the experience of conflict for women is different, women’s needs are different and unless they are directly represented their concerns will be ignored. 

And particularly in our context, which is where there are peace deals in the offing with the Taliban, in relationship to Pakistan or in the context of Afghanistan. Then there is a real fear that the advances that had been made on women’s rights will be set back. Women had been encouraged to come forward to take up public office, to become active in NGOs. They in fact formed the vanguard of a lot of these initiatives, today they are being targeted. Today they are being pushed back into the home and those who dare to continue working outside are being targeted, are being attacked, are being eliminated. 

So many expectations where raised that protecting, promoting the rights of the women in the region is a primary concern. And advances have been made, now, that cannot be abandoned. That kind of setback would so irreparably damage all the good that has happened.

ALONZO: So what would make your visit here successful?

MANCHANDA: You know we are not that utopian that we feel just because we talk to somebody it’s going to change the world.  It’s merely to keep hammering away and saying that women have capacity that they are not the problem. They could be the solution. So it’s a question of really trying to shift the discourse and hopefully working towards enabling certain legislation that we see beneficial to this cause. Even if it is not passed, we are not going to say that we are defeated because these are very long uphill battles and we don’t expect to win them in a day.  But the only way you are going to change the discourse is to go on at it.  Think of this,  in 2000 when the Women Peace and Security Resolution was passed by the [United Nations] Security Council, the big boys club, who would have thought that it would have happened? It happened because of efforts, constant efforts by the women’s movement and yes, recognition on the part of the men there.

Why is it that the peace processes are collapsing? Why is it that within five years they collapse? Is it because we are excluding some of the most vital stakeholders in the peace process? And 50 percent of those vital stakeholders are women.

ALONZO:  You use the term “hammer” away, “hammer” and “constantly” advocate your cause.  Is there a time where it might go from advocating and being strongly passionate about your cause to “nagging?”

MANCHANDA:  I think, and I would agree with you, I used an unfortunate word “hammering.”  It is to continuously go on and pushing. It’s only nagging if you are not able to be creative in what you are saying.  Bringing in new evidence, bringing in new research, then certainly I don’t see that as nagging.  Unfortunately, if we don’t keep the agenda in front it will slip away.

Of course, I don’t enjoy continuously and constantly pushing a one line agenda. We hope that we will be bringing in a great deal more evidence based research. One of the things that we are presenting are the community conversations; that is the voices of women from the ground in India, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan; talking about how is it that they see security. How do they perceive militarization. What is it that makes them secure? What kind of peace would they like see? Which is feasible, which is possible?

We are not just talking in terms of rhetoric in terms of this is what we want.  We are saying look at the evidence.  And also we are pointing out, what you are doing hasn’t worked.  Surely it’s time to try something else.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs