MEETING: The Women's Dialogue: India-Pakistan, New Ideas for a New Way Forward

Women Without Borders
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 19:00
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Peace Processes
Initiative Type: 
Conferences & Meetings

On Tuesday, January 18, 2011, four representatives from India and Pakistan came together to present the results of a courageous dialogue that cut across political and religious boundaries.

Although politicians on both sides regularly engage in high-level negotiations, grassroots representatives—and especially women—are only rarely included. It is obvious, however, that diplomatic efforts can only be translated into concrete, effective strategies if people on the ground feel personally addressed. Women can be key in this process—to facilitate these new efforts, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, and Consumer Protection supported the Women without Borders / SAVE Dialogue Project “Political Conflict Resolution Starts at Home!”

After holding a productive dialogue session in Mumbai in November 2010, SAVE Pakistan representatives Mossarat Qadeem, Executive Director of the PAIMAN Trust, and Shabana Fayyaz, a Professor in the Defense and Strategic Studies Department of Quaid-I-Azam University, as well as SAVE India representatives Archana Kapoor, Founder of SMART NGO, and Anita Pratap, a leading journalist and best-selling author, traveled to Vienna to speak about the outcomes of the dialogue sessions. Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer welcomed over 80 guests to the event, held in the Vienna Insurance Group's (Wiener Städtische) Ringturm.

“63 years of independence, and still we haven't come to any kind of conclusion. The unique point about the SAVE women's dialogue is that it is impacting the people whose lives have been turned around by some act of violent extremism. Then, it is not about the “other” anymore, it is about us. This dialogue was a starting point between women, between mothers, between families. Here are real people living this reality day in, day out, who needed the strength of this dialogue. We need to break the idea that every Pakistani is a terrorist, every Indian a victim. It is not true.” -Archana Kapoor, India

“Pakistanis and Indians have been living with an image of ‘the other' as an enemy for 64 years. We have had a series of dialogues and meetings, addressing animosity on both sides, but since 1947 we have never achieved success that allows us to be good neighbors. 64 years is long enough to live in animosity. We have to reach towards a solution. In the dialogue in Mumbai, we came up with recommendations that are doable, and grounded in reality. If these are taken up by women with our skills, we can share the destiny of our two countries.” -Mossarat Qadeem, Pakistan

“A strategic move toward a sustainable India-Pakistan dialogue is to expand and deepen civil society linkages. The time has come for women in both countries to take a dynamic role in building peace through dialogue. The skills and efforts of women, visible today in every arena from business to politics, must be harnessed for dialogue and peace-building. One new way forward is to create a network of women in India and Pakistan as a pressure group to urge establishments on both sides to keep dialogue open, continuous and focused on trans-border collaborations that bring tangible cultural, economic and peace dividends to both peoples.”-Anita Pratap, Japan/India

“When the West looks at Pakistan, they think Talibanization is a homogenous phenomenon. It is not. Nor is the nature of extremism in Pakistan. There is a gray area between white and black, and that has to be explored. The picture of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan cuts across national boundaries. The good news is that the time of denial by political stalwarts and policy-shapers is over. The SAVE action-driven dialogue is therefore very timely. We welcome international attention—we have a strong civil society and women's movement on the ground, ready to stand up against the extremist minority that unfortunately exists not only in tribal areas, but also in many other parts of our country.” -Shabana Fayyaz, Pakistan

Through this dialogue process, the panelists, who represent the women who are involved on the ground, were determined to address the reality of what is happening on both sides and to openly speak about extremism and terrorism. SAVE will continue to foster these dialogue efforts to provide tangible alternatives to the ongoing hostilities. We are not only talking about regional hostilities—nuclear and terrorist threats resonate around the world.