Thursday, December 2, 2010

ARSHI SALEEM HASHMI: There is no "them" there is only "us" - women of Pakistan and India share their stories

SAVE Global organized a workshop in Mumbai on Nov 28-29 to provide a platform for women’s voices from both India and Pakistan rejecting the stereotypes about  each other and sharing the pain and sorrow that victims of terrorism in general, and women in particular, feel. Arshi Saleem Hashmi describes the benefits that both Pakistani and Indian women derived from the dialogue.

Arshi Saleem Hashmi, member of SAVE Pakistan, took part in the bridge-building dialogue

SAVE Global's bridge-building dialogue facilitated an emotional bonding between the victims of terrorism and religious extremism in India and their sisters in Pakistan who are suffering almost daily from the impact of violent extremism in many forms. It was made even more emotional and deep by the vulnerability of the women in Pakistan caused by feudal-religious orthodoxy.

Pakistani women from the nongovernmental sector, research and academia accepted the invitation and opened their hearts and minds to hear and feel the pain of their sisters in India. More than once, it occurred to SAVE Pakistan members that, despite the popular perception that the dialogue was in the context of “us” versus “them”, there was no “them” - it was all about “us”, the women of both India and Pakistan. We not only share a border, we share our feelings, emotions, pain, happiness and success.

It was heartening to see and hear Indian women victims of terrorism tell their stories; it was as if they were our own stories, using the same expressions, and voicing the same concerns and fears. It was decided that we must strengthen the bond and continue to build on the commonalities rather than discussing or highlighting differences. If it is all about perceptions, then perceptions can be changed in good faith.

Talking to Indian media was a great opportunity to let the people of India know that, despite the fact that Pakistan has become hostage to violent religious extremism, the majority of Pakistanis strongly believe in a moderate, prosperous Pakistan continuous with their South Asian identity. They would love to have more and more interaction with their eastern neighbor. There is hope that we can achieve this, because of a vibrant civil society that has maintained its existence and remained active in its struggle to save Pakistan from losing its South Asian identity, connection and bond. This civil society gives hope that people on both sides of the border, and especially women, will continue to take initiatives to demystify the myths about each other, and prevent dehumanizing of one another.

SAVE Pakistan strongly believes in this commitment to peace between the two countries, a goal that was expressed in the joint statement and future steps that we would be taking.

SAVE India provided this opportunity and arranged our meeting with the victims of terrorism, Indian media and civil society activists, teachers and researchers. It was a very positive initiative in an environment suffering from a trust deficit between the two countries. A step has been taken in the right direction, all we have to do is to sustain it, follow it and strengthen it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Flash Points: Edit Schlaffer presents SAVE on CBS