ISLAMABAD: Women’s participation in decision making must be ensured at all levels as women have some inbuilt negotiation capability and better skills to manage conflicts and create innovative solutions to problems, said National Defence University (NDU)’s Professor Dr Shaheen Akhtar.

She was addressing a training workshop organised by the Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR). The day-long workshop was attended by around 25 women hailing from Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Dr Akhtar underlined the importance of structural reforms that are indispensable for encouraging women’s participation in the decision making process in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

She also highlighted the impact of the Kashmir conflict on the lives of women in Azad Kashmir and how it had restricted the participation of the already neglected female lot in policy-making circles and many other significant areas.

NDU professor says women possess better skills to find innovative solutions to problems

“AJK is not a conflict zone, but a part of a disputed territory; therefore, the impact of conflict here becomes inevitable, affecting the individual grooming at many levels,” she noted.

Dr Akhtar also stated that the government needs to take some concrete steps to reach out to this vulnerable and often ignored section of society in order to make female participation in decision making and governance a reality.

Women of Azad Kashmir have a huge potential to represent themselves and can play an important role in the peace-making and conflict resolution process by being effective mediators.

She castigated the practice of restricting women in some set roles and spoke about the importance of women’s participation in many aspects of governance.

Nighat Khan, the head of a London-based organisation, New Vision for Women, spoke about the significance of individual grooming, and of how an assertive and self-confident class of women can bring a tremendous change in the whole structure of society.

She emphasised the importance of personal grooming to enhance the skills of women and develop their strong characters to rebut the misrepresentation and obfuscation of facts in the society.

“Women in Azad Kashmir are well qualified and have a huge potential to represent themselves and make an impact in policy-making in the region,” she observed.

She reminded the participants that women still have a long way to go in fully releasing their potential in building a just society, especially in the regions affected by violent conflict.

Several women from various parts of Azad Kashmir highlighted different issues like lack of gainful employment, healthcare, transport, electricity and other facilities that become obstacles for them to achieve their goals.

Fatima Anwar said that women are great negotiators because of their inherent compassionate attitude and inclination towards peace and the common well-being of people.

“If given opportunities, women can bring peace to society through negotiating a solution based on a win-win situation for the parties,” she added.

Mahvish Bakht said the Kashmiri women were major stakeholders in society and managing conflicts and maintaining peace. It is essential to have women in the centre of peace-making, mediation and the negotiation process to find amicable solutions to political disputes.

The session concluded with the distribution of certificates among participants by Dr Shaheen Akhtar, Nighat Khan, Fatima Anwar and Mahvish Bakht.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2022

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