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Look ma, no veils in Pune!

Look ma, no veils in Pune!

Author: Nitin Brahme
Publication: Pune Mirror
Date: July 10, 2011
URL: http://www.punemirror.in/article/2/2011071020110710064035554a50bacbc/Look-ma-no-veils-in-Pune.html

Introduction: That is what delegates from Afghanistan and Pakistan observed during their stay in the city for a human rights workshop organised by the National Centre for Advocacy Studies

Just look at the girls moving about freely here and no veils too. Wow!" That's what Zohra Alamyaar said when she arrived in Pune from Afghanistan. Shabana from Lahore too shares her sentiments.

Both were part of a 20-member delegation from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India that is advocating social justice, human rights and peace in South Asia. The group met at a workshop organised by National Centre for Advocacy Studies (NCAS), Pune. The workshop that started on July 5 ended on Friday. The delegates are still taking in the sights and sounds of the city.

Zohra is working on a women's empowerment programme by Afghan Women Skill Development Centre. The organisation is engaged in advocating women's rights and challenging patriarchal values through the medium of self-help groups in and around Kabul. She told Pune Mirror, "Pune is so beautiful. The women here are independent and can be seen driving vehicles too. They even have a nightlife!"

Zohra wants to empower Afghan women through education. She said, "Scholarships should be increased so that more and more girls will come to India and learn to be independent. Progress can happen only if there's peace, but all people talk about back in my country is war and bombs. Children grow up in the same surroundings. How can we have development in such an atmosphere?"

NCAS has brought together activists and advocacy practitioners for People Centred Advocacy, as is being used in each country at the local and national levels. The effort is to attempt to perceive these issues and strategies and try to implement them in a larger South Asian context.

Shabana Wahid Khan works with Shikat Gah, a non-governmental organisation in Lahore that tries to protect women's rights. She tries to help victims of domestic violence and helps them get legal aid. She said, "Shopping must be fun with a variety of clothes and jewellery. I want to indulge in some shop therapy."

Asad Rahman Sheikh is a director with the Sungi Development Foundation, which has an office at Abbottabad, Pakistan. Asad has been working with people advocating human rights, democratic rights, sustainable livelihoods, good governance and disaster management since 1992.

He said, "After Osama's death, the Pakistani people are asking questions about sovereignty. In the last six years, 35,000 innocent citizens have been killed in various attacks. In the last four years, 40 journalists were killed by the State. The common Pakistani man is against America because of its drone attacks. The middle-class Pakistani is against the Jihadi groups, which operate from madrasas. Slowly, the people are demanding that the military should be brought under the ambit of the Constitution."

About The workshop

The workshop, held for the first time in India, after a long and difficult process of seeking visas for delegates from other South Asian countries, provided the delegates a first-hand opportunity to learn more on the issues of the marginalised communities of India. NCAS organised a visit to the Hamal Panchayat and Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat.

The delegates learnt about the efforts of these workers in the unorganised sector for realising their right to work with dignity. The delegates chalked out a South Asian Resolution, and one of their main goals was to curb the militarisation of South Asia.

They felt that military establishments and budgets must be reduced and funds thus saved should be spent on people's political, socio-economic and cultural development. They also felt that visa regimes should be liberalised for common citizens.

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