As part of its commitment to the process of peace-building between India and its neighboring countries, WISCOMP - Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace recently hosted its Ninth Annual Conflict Transformation Workshop from 1st to 4th December, 2011 which brought together participants from all over South Asia.
The workshop was a part of the Conflict Transformation Program of WISCOMP which facilitates dialogue between young people from across conflict divides in South Asia, and provides them with the expertise and skills to participate in processes of nonviolent change and conflict transformation. Since its inception in 2001, the Program brought together over 400 young women and men (in the age group of 22-35 years) with the purpose of broadening the network of “future influentials” and enhancing their capacity for nonviolent, democratic engagement in the communities they live and work in.
Titled Gender, Democracy and Peacebuilding in South Asia, the Ninth Annual Conflict Transformation Workshop had group of youth leaders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka for a dialogue-cum-training in conflict transformation. The Workshop also included refugee voices, this year represented by Tibetan, Burmese and Afghan youth based in India.
“This year's Workshop marks the culmination of a decade of WISCOMP's conflict transformation initiatives. This year's workshop will seek to build trust and strategic relationships between young South Asians from a diversity of cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious backgrounds; enhance professional development in the areas of gender, nonviolence and conflict transformation; promote cross-border partnerships for peacebuilding; and encourage empathy for diverse worldviews among South Asian youth leaders”, said Dr.Meenakshi Gopinath, Honorary Director, Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP).
Informed by a generational approach to peacebuilding, these workshops create a space and context for young people to rise above the baggage of preceding generations and build a future based on trust and mutual respect. While participants of these dialogue-cum-trainings have represented diverse socioeconomic, cultural and political backgrounds as well as professions such as conflict resolution, advocacy, education, media, business, medicine, law, development, public policy, and the social sciences, they have come together for a common purpose: to build their capacity to engage in peacebuilding work and to do their bit to reduce human suffering.
Over the last 10 years, WISCOMP has used a conflict transformation approach to peacebuilding in South Asia. It has focused on trust and relationship-building between key stakeholders (such as women and youth leaders) as part of its efforts to contribute to sustainable peace and democracy across the horizontal and vertical divisions of society. The assumption is that when individuals (from across fault lines of conflict) “walk in the shoes of the other”, they are able to empathize with a perspective different from their own and, develop solutions that will serve the interests of all (rather than only their constituency or community). WISCOMP sees trust- and relationship-building work as a prerequisite for institutional and structural transformation in the democracies of South Asia.
The 2011 UNDP Human Development Report projects a bleak picture for South Asia, with the region faring poorly on human development and gender equality indices, such as female literacy, life expectancy, healthcare, maternal and child mortality, and violence against women, to name a few. Paradoxically, India as the largest democracy and projected as an impressive emerging economy, fares poorly in the region on these indicators