For talks between two countries that have a long history of struggle and discord to make an impact on the ground, the recommendations that come out of the talks must resonate with the people who are directly impacted by the effects of the struggle. As representatives of civil society who are located at the critical juncture of family and community, women are best-placed to implement strategic recommendations on the ground. At the same time, women must necessarily be included in such talks to highlight real examples of the commitment to ending violent extremism on the global stage.
On November 28 and 29, SAVE Global hosted a ground-breaking dialogue between Indian and Pakistani representatives in Mumbai, India. These activists, academics, experts, terrorist attack victims, corporate sector representatives, and mothers came forward to participate in intense discussions and to make clear their commitment to reducing the enduring tensions between India and Pakistan. The talks were unique in two key aspects: first, the participants represented a wide range of fields beyond the political realm, and secondly, they were all women. This SAVE dialogue aimed to highlight women’s and victims’ experiences with violent extremism, and to provide space for their recommendations and best practices for combating radicalism.
On the first day of the dialogue, the Pakistani delegation and select Indian counterparts identified false stereotypes and misperceptions of ‘the other’ as one of the main causes of discord between the countries. They therefore carved out strategies for promoting exchange between key groups and deepening cultural and academic understanding of their counterparts. That afternoon, the participants walked the ‘terror trail,’ visiting the sites of the 26/11 terror attacks. As Shabana Fayyaz, an academic from Pakistan, noted, ‘Being here has helped me to internalize the attacks, and to understand how it must have been here.’ On the second day, over 20 individuals participated in the day-long talks; by the end, the group had come up with the following suggestions:
1. SAVE India and SAVE Pakistan representatives should gather in Lucknow to develop a multi-tiered manual on how to change perceptions of ‚the other‘
2. Increase School/Students Exchanges; implement a Big Sister / Little Sister program
3. Launch ‘This is Me, Who are You?’ programs to learn about the other
4. Continued, regular dialogue; next meeting to be held in Pakistan
5. Develop module to train women how to talk about these issues—remove topical taboos
6. Engage in media work to reduce mistrust
7. Create a network of witnesses of violent extremism to educate the young generation
8. Conduct pilot projects in both India and Pakistan, and then bring together a select number of women from each side to share best practices
These recommendations will be implemented on both sides and monitored by SAVE Global over the coming months.