As part of its efforts to build constituencies of peace in contexts of violent conflict, WISCOMP has supported women-led initiatives in regions such as Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir, and Gujarat. These have included the participation of students, activists, educationists, journalists, and even policymakers with the intent that the perspectives of women can be mainstreamed in social change processes. The initiatives have empowered women and men from regions of protracted conflict with skills in nonviolent action and conflict transformation so that they can engage with the peace process, both at the local community level and in official negotiations.
Two of our flagship initiatives under this Project are:
This is a collaborative research initiative involving associations with the Peace Research Institute Oslo, the Nepal Center for Contemporary Research, Malaviya Center for Peace Research, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, and NambolSanoi College (Manipur). With a focus on contemporary Northeast India and post-conflict Nepal, the research explores the role of women in local governance and politics, particularly in the context of peace and security processes. The primary aim is to generate new knowledge on what empowerment means to women in situations of armed conflict. Through consultations with policymakers and roundtables with civil society groups, the project has led to both academic- and policy-relevant output, including recommendations to policymakers on how women can play a more prominent role in peacebuilding. It has provided a platform for dialogue between policymakers, researchers, and grassroots practitioners to collectively discuss how women can be made active participants in ‘formal’ peace initiatives, while examining the challenges to their full participation in peace processes and identifying how policy establishments can put in place structures for effective implementation of these processes.
In 2001, WISCOMP initiated a grassroots peacebuilding initiative in Jammu and Kashmir called Athwaas (which, in the Kashmiri language, means ‘a warm greeting or handshake’). It comprised Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Ladakhi women representing the diversity of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Athwaas was the first sustained initiative in India (since the eruption of the conflict in 1989) to bring together women from across the fault-lines of religion, region, and ethnicity in Jammu and Kashmir. It was driven by the overarching vision to provide safe physical and psychological spaces for women to come together to strengthen the fragile bonds between the communities they represented. It also sought to erase the artificial boundaries that demarcated the private and public lives of the women who engaged in these processes.
Drawing on the learnings from this decade-long peacebuilding project, WISCOMP entered into a partnership in 2012 with the Foundation for Academic Excellence and Access (FAEA) to deepen and widen its work in Jammu and Kashmir through education. The initiative titled Hum Kadam engages with adolescents/youth and educators at the school and college levels. WISCOMP and FAEA partner with strategically located schools and colleges in Kashmir and Delhi to work towards their collective vision of building cultures of peace, inclusivity and coexistence. Hum Kadam also addresses the need for access and equity for young people to confidently enter and to creatively engage with the higher education space.