In the past women all over the world were considered merely members of someone’s family, not as separate entities and Kashmir was no exception. Luckily subordination of women and their subjugation to male authority and control has reduced over the years as the fairer sex proved that they could do things as well as the men folk.
However, this discrimination has by no means ended and women continue to be victims of various forms of violence and intimidation by chauvinist men who take great care to protect their womenfolk but have no qualms in committing crimes against other women.
The unfortunate part is that even today many men harbour a patriarchal mindset that legitimises the domination and suppression of womenfolk.
The fallout of such depraved thinking is that most men consider women to be mere sex objects and find nothing wrong in using their muscle power and authority to prove that they are physically stronger and have a license for victimising womenfolk.
The violence directed specifically at women does the function of keeping women in a completely powerless and disadvantageous position. In past three decades Kashmir has witnessed unprecedented violence that has affected everyone, but it is the poor Kashmiri woman who is the worst sufferers as she is at the receiving end of all this mayhem and has to bear the worst emotional and mental trauma over the loss of near and dear ones.
Women in Kashmir may have traditionally remained in the background but they have always exercised immense influence within their respective families.
As mothers, sisters and wives women are indisputably the best teachers, friends and guides who can instil rich cultural values such as pluralism, tolerance and compassion in both children and adults. This is why Kashmiri women need more empowerment.
Some people may ask as to why we talk about women empowerment all the times and why not about men empowerment?
Others may argue that since women make almost 50 percent of the total population of the world they are not in minority and because they have the same mental abilities as men, so why give them special treatment on the empowerment issue.
To understand this better we must first clear our minds on what does women empowerment mean.
In simple terms it means giving women the inherent power to decide about their own lives, provide them the basic human rights and giving them requisite facilities to inculcate such abilities that they are able to find their rightful place in the society.
As per the United Nations Development Fund for women (UNIFEM), Kashmiri women have always been an active component of the society.
Much of their social, educational and professional growth has seen a steady increase over the years; most of it can also be attributed to the benign patriarchal norms of the Kashmiri society.
Kashmiri women have also role in peace building, conflicts cannot be forged through only a top-down peace process, with only armed actors at the negotiating table but giving women a proactive role.
To understand the all-round contours of the role of women in peace building especially in the context of the violence-torn place like Kashmir we talked to women from diverse fields.
In a conflict ridden and violence hit place like Kashmir the role of women in peace building is quite important,
The place of women in position of power is still less which weakens the role of women in political process and for that women needs to be empowered although one cannot deny the role of women as mother, wife or sister.
Kashmiri women have a definite role in peace building but for that, they need to get empowered and suffocation of women ended.
It is universally accepted that gender equality is a stronger indicator and a key promoter of a state’s peacefulness. We still have a long way to go in fully unleashing the potential and power of women in building and sustaining peace.
However, this should not demoralise us and our elders must encourage and let women play an equally prominent role in peace-building can go long way in making Kashmir a peaceful place.
If women are the worst effected by violence, then it becomes our solemn responsibility to encourage them to work for sustainable peace in Kashmir so that the tears in their eyes are replaced by smiles on their faces!
Understanding and letting women play the same prominent role in peace-building can go a long way in making Kashmir a peaceful place.
Author is Editor of Brighter Kashmir Newspaper