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).
A post review discussion on studies focusing on Nepal was organized on April 30, 2006.
At the roundtable members of the core research team, Mandira Sharma, Anil Pant, Bela Malik and Purna Basnet shared the findings of their study focusing on the gender dimension of the armed conflict in Nepal.
The study on Women and Armed Conflict in Nepal: Issues and Perspectives raises a number of issues that are of interest from a human rights perspective. The monograph is essentially a study of the armed conflict in Nepal capturing the everyday insecurities that women face both as victims and as agents within and outside the Maoist movement. While at one level the study points out that the Maobadi movement had at least prima facie empowered women to challenge the status quo based on class and gender hierarchies, at another level it also interrogates whether patriarchy resurfaces within the liberation struggle in significantly different forms.
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.
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.