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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora