Role of women in restoring peace in the country

PIXWomen activists demand end to violenceHimalayan News ServiceKathmandu, April 11The situation of internal conflict has started taking its toll and is becoming an extremely painful experience for the general public, more so for family members who have lost their dear ones. Women, who have played a major role in re-establishing democracy in the country, are gearing up to put an end to the violence inflicted by the internal conflict.“Unless we change our mindset that violence can overcome violence, the situation will never improve,” said Dr Durga Pokharel, president of National Women’s Commission, addressing a public hearing programme on ‘women’s role in prevailing peace’ held here on Thursday. “It is high time we considered alternative ways to restore peace in the country.”While, the numbers of dead and dying are on the rise, the speakers stressed the need for the government to consider the present situation through women’s eyes.“Everybody is busy weighing up the number of people injured or killed during the encounters of the terrorists and armed forces, but no one is willing to consider the mental torture that the family members of the victim have to bear because of that incident,” said Dr Renu Raj Bhandari, president of Women Rehabilitation Centre. It is estimated that some 1,700 people have lost their lives after the government declared the state of emergency in the country. According to a most recent publication of Informal Sector Service Centre, the non-state party has kidnapped 640 people, while 120 people have disappeared. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of 53 people arrested by the state is not yet known and a further 2,195 have been detained and tortured.“The mental torture that women have to face, when their male counterparts are either held in captivity or killed, is incalculable,” said Shova Gautam, president of Institute of Human Rights Communications. “One of the reasons this issue has not been given its due consideration is because women do not have equal representation in policy-making levels.”The prevalent high rate of illiteracy in the country with women being even more deprived, due to various negative perceptions prevalent in the society, have made them more vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation.“Illiteracy, lack of awareness and notions that domestic issues should not be discussed in public have contributed towards female subjugation in society,” said Bam Kumari Budhathoki, president of National Aborigine Women’s Association. “In this context, we should be striving towards realising our individual responsibilities and working towards a unified goal to improve the situation.”In the present situation, where the public has not only been denied its sense of security but also all the other basic human rights, speakers expressed their view for the necessity of organisations, fighting for civil liberties, to join hands.“The human rights activists should unite and pressurise the government into realising the graveness of the issue and the problems women are facing due to political conflict in the country,” said Pratibha Subedi, president of Women Awareness Centre. “The policies need to be gender sensitive and should be assessed from a women’s perspective too.”The organisations appealing for peace have started to fear that Nepalis, generally known to be peace-loving people, are growing immune to killings and violence.