Democracies in Transition: Opportunities and Challenges for Nepal

WISCOMP organized an international symposium titled Democracies in Transition: Opportunities and Challenges for Nepal at the India International Center, New Delhi from January 22 – 24, 2009. This symposium brought together over forty scholars, practitioners, diplomats, activists, legislative members and women in politics from Nepal and India to reflect upon the processes of conflict transformation and peace-building that are currently under way in Nepal.

The symposium provided space for a repertoire of responses and generated dialogue on the prospects for democracy and governance in Nepal and the South Asian region. It focused on the challenges of constitution building for contemporary Nepal and looked at how different civil society groups including women’s groups perceive their role in the unfolding democratic processes and in envisioning the new Nepalese identity as a fresh chapter is carved out in its political history. The symposium provided a context to examine the conflicts that the newly constituted Constituent Assembly is impelled to address and the approaches and methodologies that are available to meet the emerging expectations of the people of Nepal. The participants at the symposium explored four major themes:

  • The challenges of constitution building in contemporary Nepal
  • Land, Livelihood and Social Justice
  • Security Sector Reforms: Mapping the Terrain in Nepal
  • Nepal, India and the International Community: Building New Partnerships

The symposium was attended by Nepal Constituent Assembly members- Lt. Gen. C.B. Gurung, Hon. Hari Roka, Hon. Mohammadi Siddique, Hon. Pushpa Bhusal, Hon. Sapana Pradhan Malla and Hon. Sarita Giri. Some other eminent speakers from India and Nepal included Ms. Chitra Lekha Yadav (Nepalese politician and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives), H.E. Dr. Durgesh Man Singh (Ambassador of Nepal to India), Mr. Fali Nariman (Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India), Amb. K.V. Rajan (Former Indian Ambassador to Nepal) and Amb. Shyam Saran (Former Indian Foreign Secretary and Former Indian Ambassador to Nepal).

Gender, HIV/AIDS and Security

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a multi-dimensional global crisis. It was first read as a public health crisis, after which its developmental aspects began to be recognized. Its gender dimensions are now well-documented across the world. Security analysts have recently begun to map the multiple levels of the insecurity crisis caused by the spread of HIV/AIDS. Given that HIV/AIDS devastates societies over a period of time; like famine and disaster: Where in the spread and containment of the epidemic should a line be drawn to highlight that this impinges on societal, state or individual security?

Seeking to explore some of these issues, the second WISCOMP Forum was organized in February, 2008 in Chennai. It attempted to define the security crisis caused by HIV/AIDS in India, highlighting the experience of women as part of that definition. Given that structural context shapes the vulnerability of women to HIV/AIDS and that the infection in turn aggravates their situation, the forum sought an engagement with some of these factors and consequences that can be defined as a source of security or insecurity, for women and for society at large. Acknowledging that HIV reinforces existing insecurities, and attempting to ensure that ones understanding of that include the insecurities experienced by women, the forum engaged the participants in an exploration and delineation of the gender dimension of the security challenge that is posed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The discussion at the Forum was around two pivots:

  • The nature of the latent human security problem in the gender-HIV/AIDS interface in India;
  • The ways in which violence, conflict and security makes worse the HIV/AIDS epidemic, increasing the vulnerability of women and girls.

Structured conversations, the WISCOMP Forum Series hallmark, were scheduled across five related areas of the problematic:

  • The development, security and HIV/AIDS interface
  • HIV/AIDS and food and livelihood security
  • The HIV/AIDS Public Health Crisis, gender and security
  • Violence against women
  • Conflict, HIV/AIDS and gender

Non-Traditional Security Discourse: Gender in South Asia

A regional conference on the theme Non-Traditional Security Discourse: Gender and South Asia was organized by WISCOMP. Bringing together scholars, researchers and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines including International Relations, Political Science, Sociology, History and Gender Studies, the conference provided a context to interrogate the existing security discourse, particularly the apparent binaries of the “traditional” and “non-traditional” formulations on security, and to look at the possibilities for evolving a shared vocabulary through which the so called “non-traditional” security issues in South Asia could be cognized and located.

The non-traditional variables of security are now recognized as impacting both inter- and intra-state security beyond what the cold war discourse cognized or envisaged. The globalized environment of the post-cold war period has thrown up new challenges, threats, new actors and indeed new concerns that decisively change the contours of ‘security’. The outlines of the non-traditional security discourse still seem to be emerging and there appears to be little consensus and considerable ambiguity on what constitutes its domain.

In this context, the conference sought to visualize the possible directions, which the currently fledgling discourse might take, examine some of the critical tensions within it, and dialogue on how the discourse can become inclusive and relevant while at the same time remain focused, cogent, and coherent.

Informed by WISCOMP’s ongoing efforts to encourage multi-disciplinary dialogue on the question of how gender and non-traditional security concerns intersect in a South Asian setting, the conference provided points of entry for gender perspectives to be reflected in peace initiatives and processes of post-conflict reconstruction in South Asia. The leitmotif of gender wove together the diverse presentations on non-traditional security. The different kinds of research questions that emerge when non-traditional security issues are looked at through the gender lens, and the major challenges that the theorist and practitioner confront in their efforts to foreground gender in the security discourse were discussed at length.

An important focus of dialogue was the mapping of intersections between traditional and non-traditional security concerns, particularly how the two can be harmonized and a correlation established between the individual and the state. Such a focus is currently missing from the security studies agenda in South Asia where traditional and non-traditional security concerns are boxed into separate compartments in spite of the opportunities that exist to synergize the two.

The gendered dimensions of transnational flows, terrorism, small arms, drugs and human trafficking raise important questions that significantly inform any discussion on non-traditional formulations of security. The WISCOMP regional conference took cognizance of the manner in which terrorism; small arms, drug and human trafficking have entered the security lexicon as variables that straddle both the domains of what is regarded as traditional and non-traditional security concerns. The ways in which terrorism has reconfigured the traditional notions of conflict and war is particularly crucial in this context. An attempt was made to trace the different strands in the international discourse on terrorism, to evolve a South Asian perspective on terrorism, and to explore how gender mediates the debate particularly after September 11.

Analyses on non-traditional security concerns are also increasingly taking stock of issues of life, livelihood and freedom from want and “new” sectors of security are being redefined in a manner that cognizes non-military variables of security. Crucial in this context are questions that look at the “feminization of poverty”, the impact of globalization on the use of natural resources and on women’s access to the commons, and how international agreements under the World Trade Organization impact upon the arenas of women’s economic participation. In this context, the conference specifically addressed questions of food security, land rights and water security in South Asia.

The regional conference brought to the fore a wide range of questions and opinions on the relevant disciplines within which an emerging field of Post-Cold War Security Studies could locate itself, its association with International Relations, the linkages between the development discourse, the rights discourse, and the security discourse, and the implication of factoring in gender into the discourse on security.

Gender and Armed Conflict in Nepal

A roundtable on Gender and Armed Conflict in Nepal was held on April 9, 2005 to foreground the study of Mandira Sharma and Anil Pant on the Maoist movement in Nepal.

Some of the issues raised at the roundtable were:

  • The location of the Maoist movement within larger issues of social and economic deprivation of particular sections in Nepal.
  • The narratives of common women in Nepal and their sufferings as a result of the conflict; particularly the context of women’s mobilization in Nepal and the depiction of gender relations within the Maoist party.
  • The power relationships involved in the conflict, and how they affect the victims of the conflict.

Academic Research

Fellowships for Academic Research are expected to lead to the production of a publishable monograph by the end of the grant period. While fellowships are available to scholars at any stage of their careers, postgraduate research or a doctoral degree are a prerequisite for proposals under this category.

2008

The Political Representation of Women in Afghanistan 
Swapna Kona Nayadu (New Delhi, India)

Regional Cooperation against Human Trafficking
Sarasu E Thomas (Bengaluru, India)

2007

Structural Violence and Women: A Case Study of Hudood Ordinances in Pakistan (1979 to 2006)
Hammad Ahmad Malik (Islamabad, Pakistan)

Women in Post-Conflict Polity Building: Lessons from Afghanistan
R. Ramasubramanian (New Delhi, India)

Divided Families in Kargil region: Impact on Women
Seema Shekhawat and Debidatta Aurobindo Mahapatra (Jammu, India)

2004

Between Two Worlds: Long-term Effects of Communal Violence on a Multi-religious, Marginalized, Threatened Community (Pranamis): A Cultural Psychological Analysis
Chavi Bhargava Sharma (Jaipur, India)

Violent Spaces, Violated Persons: Rethinking the Camp and the Refugee in South Asia.
Ananya Vajpeyi (New Delhi, India)

International Relations Theory and Non-traditional Approaches to Security
Siddharth Mallavarapu (New Delhi, India)

2002

Women Scientists’ Perception of the Nuclear Issue
A. Subramaniyam Raju (Hyderabad, India)

Women-in-Exile: Tibetan Women’s Refugees’ Experiences in India
Eranpeni Ezung (New Delhi, India)

Justice, Reconciliation and Constitution Making: Making Sure the Future Constitution works for Sri Lankan Women
Kishali Pinto Jayawardene (Colombo, Sri Lanka)

Taliban’s War on Women: Afghan Refugees in Delhi
Minakshi Das (Bhubaneshwar,India)

The Taming of a River: Gender Displacement and Resistance in Anti-Dam Movements
Bina Srinivasan (Baroda, India)

In the Line of Fire—Women in the Armed Forces
Deepanjali Bakshi (Bangalore, India)

In (Equality) Amid (Non) Plurality: The Pakistani Experience
Jeff Redding Islamabad, Pakistan

Violence and Sexuality in the Iconography of the Nation
Mangalika de Silva (Colombo, Sri Lanka)

Representation of Post-Chagai Alternative Discourse in the Media<
Zafarullah Khan (Islamabad, Pakistan)

2000

Women’s Uprising in Manipur—A legacy Continued
Bhabananda Takhellambam Imphal, India

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and its Impact on Women in Nagaland
Khatoli Khala New Delhi, India

Images of Muslim Women: A Study on the Representation of Muslim Women in the Media (1985-2001)
Sabina Kidwai (New Delhi, India)

Internship Opportunities

Internship Opportunities

An Internship at WISCOMP opens up avenues for bringing together experience and potential in a stimulating exchange in fields such as gender studies, conflict transformation, peace education and security studies. It provides an excellent platform for young entrants to interact with expert professionals and practitioners from these fields.

FAQs

1. What do Interns Do?

General office work, conduct research, assist in event planning and coordination, interact with organizations and networks, public relations, including media outreach and assist in documentation.

2. What is the compensation package?

Internships at WISCOMP are mostly unpaid. A few small need based bursaries are available.

3. Who can apply?

Applicants should have a strong interest in one or more of the following fields: Security Studies, International Relations, Peacebuilding, Conflict Transformation, Gender Studies and Education for Peace. In addition to an undergraduate degree the applicants should possess good verbal and written communication skills and working knowledge of Windows and Internet. An intern must also be able to work both individually and in a team.

4. How should I apply?

Send your resume, a brief statement of objectives and a sample of written work to WISCOMP.

5. What is the duration of internship?

WISCOMP internships vary between ten to sixteen weeks. Internships for durations shorter than eight weeks are not generally available.

Making Women Count for Peace

In the year 2012-13, WISCOMP established a multi-year partnership with Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and five other research institutions in India and Nepal to collaboratively work on the project ‘Making Women Count for Peace: Gender, Empowerment and Conflict in South Asia’. With a focus on contemporary Northeast India and post-conflict Nepal, the project addresses the role of women in governance and politics, particularly within the context of peace and security processes.

The goal is to investigate what women’s empowerment might mean in different contexts, i.e. in protracted conflict without third party mediation in Northeast India, and a post-conflict setting with heavy multilateral and international involvement as in Nepal. The investigators approach this question by studying how gendered political power is transformed in conflict, assuming that differences in the forms and expressions of gendered power relations during and after conflict impact on how ‘empowerment’ might be achieved. By contextualizing and tracing manifestations of gendered political power in conflict as well as post-conflict settings, the project seeks to contribute new knowledge on processes of ‘disempowerment’ and ‘empowerment’ in conflict and peacebuilding.

The project will produce both academic and policy-relevant output, including recommendations to policymakers on how women can play a more prominent role in peacebuilding and how such a role may be linked to the goal of women’s empowerment.

Shanti Malika

A context for skill building and capacity building among diverse women from Nepal

At the request of Shanti Malika, a network of nine organizations working for women’s empowerment, peace with justice through dialogic processes and non-violent strategies, WISCOMP facilitated an interactive meeting and workshop of Shanti Malika representatives in New Delhi. The meeting titled Networking for Peace, was organized at India International Centre in December 2005. The workshop provided a context for skill development and capacity building among women from diverse backgrounds in the backdrop of an acknowledgement that the experiences and knowledge of women activists in peace-building had not yet been able to influence the peace agenda in Nepal. Reconciliation, dialogue, and non-violent engagement formed the conceptual building blocks of this interaction.