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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid