NATIONAL

Women as victims of political violence

NEW DELHI, NOV. 29. Life became traumatic for the 27-year-old Shamima Begum after her husband was killed in a crossfire between militants and security forces in Bandipora village in Baramulla district of Kashmir five years ago. Left with four young children, she struggled for three years until she was trained in embroidery. This has made her now economically independent.

Same is the story of Sabira Ahmed from Godhra whose husband was killed during the riots. She now earns her living by sewing clothes, and all her five children are receiving education.

Shamima and Sabira are victims of political violence but Anita Yadav was sexually harassed and thrown out of her house along with her three children after her husband died owing to excessive drinking. She has taken refuge in a women's shelter home run by the Guild of Service in Vrindavan. Harshel Zothanpari was uprooted from Mizoram during a tribal conflict in the early 60s. While Kaushalya is fighting against discrimination towards HIV/AIDs patients, Shanti Devi, a Dalit has been struggling for years to get a Government job on compassionate grounds after the death of her husband who worked as a gardener in the Vice-President's residence!

These women had all gathered at the inauguration of a three-day workshop on "Role of Conflict Widows in Healing a Hurting World" organised by the Guild of Service and the Indian Women's United Nations Report Network. For the next two days, the workshop will discuss the fate of women who are the worst victims of war and conflicts but yet invisible in any peace negotiation. Years after peace accords are signed, widows in refugee camps, are unable to return to their former homes.

Studies have shown the experience of women and men in situations of tensions, war, and post-conflict reconstruction was significantly different. About 80 per cent of civilian casualties are women and 80 per cent of all refugees and internally displaced people worldwide are women and children.

The participants asked the Government to support women's participation in peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction by strengthening women's representation in local, national and international bodies, provide sustained funding to women's non-government organisations dealing with peace issues and involve them in peace negotiations at all levels.

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