Speakers highlight AJK women’s plight

MIRPUR (AJK) – Non-profit organisation Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR) celebrated completion of five-years of women empowerment initiatives, KIIR spokesperson told media here on Thursday.

Speaker of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly Shah Ghulam Qadir presided over the event. A research study titled ‘Voices Unheard – Stories Untold – The Plight of Women in Neelum Valley’ was also launched at the occasion.

Speaking to female elected representatives, social and political activists, academics and young leaders from AJK, Shah Ghulam Qadir highlighted the need for urgent measures to bring peace and stability, particularly along the Line of Control (LoC).

He said that it was difficult to complete infrastructure and development schemes due to continuous firing and shelling from Indian security forces in Neelum. Women, children and the elderly are paying heavy price for the cruel behaviour from the other side of the border. He said that despite challenges, the government has completed several development schemes and been committed to provide all necessities of life for local communities.

KIIR Executive Director Sardar Amjad Yusuf Khan welcomed the participants and shared history of the organization. He announced that 2018 would be celebrated as ‘Silver Jubilee Year’ of KIIR as the organisation reached another milestone of serving people in AJK.

During panel discussions, speakers raised concerns about overall situation of social, political and economic rights for women in the society. MLA Nasima Wani in her speech said that women have unequal access to resources and participation in decision-making process, which is adding to their marginalisation.

Former speaker of the assembly Ms Shaheen Kausar 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 far off locations.  Director, Center for Peace, Development and Reforms Ershad Mahmud signified the importance of participatory platforms to create more space for women.

Earlier, Director Women’s Wing KIIR Atia Anwer Zoon presented findings of a study conducted by KIIR in Athmaqam and Sharda tehsils of the Neelum valley. The research is focused on challenges that women face in day-to-day life and affects of conflict on them. Explaining their plight with the help of graphs and pictures from the field, she said that majority of young women living near Line of Control (LoC) are 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.

It is important to mention that KIIR received felicitation messages from women peace activists around the world for the celebration. At the end of this event, Director Programs KIIR Altaf Wani delivered the vote of thanks. A picture gallery was also arranged at the venue displaying various activities of the organisation for women empowerment.

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