South Asian Women Peace Activists Present a Resolution to the United Nations Secretary General

Date: Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Delhi - For the first time in South Asia, women peace activists from across the region came together to present a joint resolution to the United Nations Secretary-General. In it, they outlined measures to improve the participation of women in peace building and value women’s role as peace makers.

A result of a two-day open discussion organized by UN Women, the resolution drew on the experiences of activists from conflict areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

On behalf of the Secretary General, the United Nations Resident Coordinator Patrice Coeur Bizot thanked them for the recommendations calling them “a strong message for peace.”

The activists advocated for a specific and well funded regional action plan on women, peace and security. “We need to document women’s experiences during conflicts so these can be addressed during reconstruction. We also need to share experiences of local women in building peace to persuade policy makers of the positive role they can play,” said Kumudini Samuel, ex-member of the Gender Sub-Committee on Peace of Sri Lanka.

Data shows that women’s involvement in peace processes has been very limited. “Over 20 years, only 16 peace agreements exist where gender is mentioned. We have to go beyond mere tokenism,” said Rita Manchanda, a peace activist from India.

Nepal is the only country that has adopted a National Action Plan on women and peace. “We really hope that our experience will encourage other countries in the region to develop National Action Plans. We still have many challenges to address. The sexual and physical violence faced by women has not been recognized properly. Thousands of women combatants have not come forward, and therefore cannot avail of services,” said Bandana Rana, who has been involved in Nepal’s National Action Plan.

Women affected by conflict still continue to suffer silently. “There is a culture of shame, and women feel guilty after facing abuse during conflicts. The trauma continues and people live with it. There is no trauma counseling, and we do not even recognize victims. We need to seriously address this situation,” remarked Prof Amena Mohsin from Bangladesh.

The activists also asked for a reform of the security sector to integrate the special needs of women. They stressed, however, that there should be no amnesty for sexual and physical violence against women and other grave human rights violations.