Women’s role in leadership, conflict mediation urged

ISLAMABAD: Women’s participation in decision-making must be ensured at all levels as they have some inbuilt negotiation capability and better skills to manage conflict and create innovative solutions to problems.

This was said by Dr Shaheen Akhtar, a professor at National Defense University, while addressing a training workshop organised by the Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR), an NGO, wherein around 25 prominent women from Azad Jammu and Kashmir region were present.

Akhtar underlined the importance of structural reforms that are indispensable for encouraging women’s participation in the decision-making process in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

She highlighted the impact of the larger Kashmir conflict on the lives of women in Kashmir and how this conflict has restricted the participation of the already neglected women of the region in policy-making circles and many other significant areas.

Kashmir is not a conflict zone, but a part of a disputed territory, therefore, the impact of conflict here becomes inevitable, affecting the individual grooming at many levels, she added.

Akhtar also stated the government needs to take some concrete steps to reach out to this vulnerable and often ignored section of society in order to make female participation in decision-making and governance a reality.

Women of Kashmir have a huge potential to represent themselves and can play an important role in the peace-making and conflict resolution process by being effective mediators, Akhtar further added.

She criticised the practice of restricting women in traditional roles and spoke at length about the importance of women’s participation in many aspects of governance.

Nighat Khan, head of the London-based New Vision for Women organisation, spoke about the significance of individual grooming, and of how an assertive and self-confident class of women can bring a tremendous change in the whole structure of society.

Khan emphasized the importance of personal grooming to enhance the skills of women and develop their strong characters to rebut the misrepresentation and obfuscation of facts in our society.

Women in Kashmir are well qualified and have a huge potential to represent themselves and make an impact in policy-making in the region, she said. She reminded the participants that women still have a long way to go in fully releasing the potential of women in building a just society, especially in the regions affected by violent conflict.

Apart from the main speakers, several women from different parts of Kashmir also participated in the workshop and highlighted different issues like lack of employment, healthcare, transport, electricity and other facilities that become obstacles for them to achieve their goals.

Fatima Anwar while expressing her views said women are skilled negotiators because of their inherent compassionate attitude and inclination towards peace and the common wellbeing of people. If given opportunities women can bring peace to society through negotiating a solution based on a win-win situation for the parties, she added.

Mahvish Bakht said that Kashmiri women are major stakeholders in society and managing conflicts and maintaining peace. It is essential to have women in the centre of peace-making, mediation and the negation process to find amicable solutions to political disputes.

The session was concluded with the distribution of certificates among participants by Akhtar, Khan, Anwar and Bakht.

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