Posted on 12/22/2017
KIIR is committed to empower women in the AJK region. With financial and technical support from all the stakeholders, the organization had undertaken several activities over the years to create an enabling environment for women, particularly in the social, economic and political sectors. The Women’s Wing of KIIR, under its ‘Leadership Development Initiative’ has mobilized and developed a new generation of women leaders from all parts of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir region. So far more than three hundred young women, social and political leaders, and academics have received training, advice and linkages development support from KIIR. These women are now coming up with new social campaigns, entrepreneurial initiatives and political actions to identify common challenges and develop shared solutions.
In the past five years, KIIR had undertaken following activities for emerging women leaders in AJK and Pakistan to polish their leadership skills and enhance linkages.
2013: 4 training workshops on women leadership to youth (Rawalakot, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Islamabad)
2014: Organized cross-LoC women dialogue in Philippines
Advocacy for women’s’ rights, research
2015: Advocacy for women’s rights, research
2016: One Gender sensitive legislation workshop (Islamabad)
Enhancing spaces for political participation of women workshop (Islamabad)
Women as agents of change workshop (Kotli)
Three leadership-training workshops (Rawalakot, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad)
Publication of research Report on ‘Voices Unheard – Stories Untold’ – The Plight of Women in the Neelum Valley
2017: 4 Leadership training workshops for young women (Islamabad, Rawalakot, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur)
To discuss these developments in past five years and look into the prospects of building upon them in the future, the Women Wing organized an event in Islamabad on Friday (22 December 2017) at the Islamabad Club.
Around 150 women leaders participated in the event from diverse professional backgrounds, political parties, social sector, academia as well as many students from university of AJK Muzaffarabad. The event was titled as ‘Women Leadership – A Paradigm Change: Celebrating 5-Years of Women Empowerment Initiatives by KIIR’. KIIR also launched its research report ‘Voices Unheard – Stories Untold’ – The Plight of Women in the Neelum Valley’ in this event.
• Provide opportunity and linkages for dialogue to women leaders and policy makers from AJK on issues impacting women’s lives in the conflict region
• Share research-based analysis about situation of conflict at the border areas to generate debate among stakeholders
• Increased awareness of Women Empowerment Program’s impact on the lives of women in AJK & Pakistan
• Greater media visibility of KIIR and Women Wing’s activities
The event had four sessions. In the first session, Sardar Amjad Yusuf Khan (Executive Director KIIR) welcomed participants and shared history of the organization. He announced that 2018 would be celebrated as ‘Silver Jubilee Year’ of KIIR as the organization reaches another milestone of serving people in AJK. After his remarks, senior civil society women leaders from AJK spoke about KIIR’s interaction with civil society organizations in the past five years. They appreciated the efforts of KIIR in providing opportunities to learn about leadership and issues that are related to situation of women development in AJK. Women civil society leaders who spoke with the audience included;
• Najma Shakoor (Founder, Women Welfare Organization of Poonch)
• Nasima Jogezai President WWOP)
• Nayyar Malik (President AJK Women for Peace)
• Farhat Asif (President Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies)
In the second session, KIIR provided platform to young female youth leaders, who had been part of leadership development trainings over the years. Many youths shared their experiences of learning and growth from these trainings. Thosewhospokewere;
• Bazal Muzaffar Khan (student, Islamia College Rawlakot),
• Aqdas Saeed (student, post graduate college, Rawlakot),
• Nazia Nazir Khan, and Mahnoor Bashir (student, University of AJK, Muzaffarabad)
Senior participants of leadership training program spoke in the next session, which included;
• TahiraTauqeer (President JKLF Women Wing)
• Areeba Khan (Research Associate, Institute of Strategic Studies)
• Sumera Qureshi (President Crisis Management Organisation Muzaffarabad)
• Hafsa Masoodi (Writer, Lecturer)
In the third session, Ms Atia AtiaAnwer Zoon (Director Women’s Wing KIIR) presented findings of the study conducted by KIIR in two Tehsils (Athmaqam and Sharda) of the Neelum valley. In her 30-minutes PowerPoint presentation, she presented the background, scope and findings of this ground breaking study. She said that the research was focused on challenges that women face in day-to-day life and effects of conflict on them. Explaining their plight with the help of graphs and pictures from the field, she said that majority of young women (20-45 years age) living around Line of Control (LoC) is under stress and going through psychological challenges. According to the research, 80% respondents identified firing and shelling from Indian security forces as their biggest fear. Displacements from firing are adding difficulties of security, shelter, food, water, livelihoods, education, health and mobility.
In the fourth and final session, Honourable Speaker of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly Shah Ghulam Qadir presided over the proceedings. In his keynote address, he highlighted the need for urgent measures to bring peace and stability, particularly in areas near the Line of Control (LoC). (Mr Qadir is elected representative and represents the people of Neelum valley in the legislative assembly). He said that it is difficult to complete infrastructure and development schemes due to continuous firing and shelling from Indian security forces in Neelum. Communities particularly women, children and the elderly are paying a heavy price of this cruel behavior from the other side of the border. He said that despite challenges, we have completed several development schemes and committed to provide all necessities of life to local communities.
Later on during panel discussions, speakers raised concerns about overall situation of social, political and economic rights for women in the society.
Ms Nasima Wani (Women Member of Legislative Assembly) in her speech said that women have unequal access to resources and participation in decision-making process, which is adding to their marginalization.
Former Speaker of the assembly Ms ShaheenKausar Dar said that democracy in AJK was not possible without women’s participation. She appreciated the role of KIIR in promoting women’s rights and developing new cadre of young women leaders.
Another former deputy speaker of AJK assembly Ms Mehrunnissa said that research is needed to better understand issues of women living in difficult to reach locations.
Ershad Mahmud (Director, Center for Peace, Development and Reforms) signified the importance of participatory platforms to create more space for women.
At the end of this event, Altaf Wani (Director Programs KIIR) delivered the vote of thanks. A picture gallery was also arranged at the venue displaying various activities of the organization for women empowerment.
• Exchange of Ideas
The event significantly supported in exchange of ideas and unique perspectives. Several participants appreciated KIIR’s efforts in bringing women leaders from all parts of the AJK that proved useful in creating synergies. During conversations, many participants shared unique personal experiences that helped other participants to better understand the dynamics of ongoing conflict and its multi-faceted impacts on women. Many speakers acknowledged that the discourse provided them with new insights.
• Confidence Building in Women Leadership
It was appreciated by women leaders who participated in the event that KIIR is supporting them in building confidence by providing them with opportunities to come together and discuss issues. The event was unprecedented in the sense as it brought together women leaders from all parts of the AJK, belonging to different occupations. Listening to women’s successes and their initiatives was inspirational to other women in the audience. The gathering manifested the vitality and diversity of women contributions in the society that boosted their morale.
• Sharing of Knowledge-based Insights
It is a challenge to find research-based knowledge resources and insights about impact of conflict on women’s lives in the AJK. KIIR is filling this need with new data and analysis to highlight aspects of situation that are often overlooked. The launch of research study and sharing of findings was instrumental in communicating socio-economic conditions of women at the most affected region, i.e. Neelum valley. With this research, it is now easier for writers, journalists, academics and peace activists to raise voice for more initiatives that promote peace in the region.
• New Linkages to Strengthen Peace Voices
Participants recognized the importance of networking opportunities that KIIR has provided to them through this event. Since there were many influential members of the legislative assembly and leaders of political parties, it was easier for them to share thoughts about challenges and discuss avenues for collaboration to empower women in AJK.