Role of Women for Nonviolence through Peace Education
EDUCATION, 9 Mar 2015
History of International Women’s Day
As per the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, the first International Women’s Day was started from the activities of labor movements in the beginning of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. It was observed in the United States on 28 February, 1909. The Socialist Party of America designated this day to honor the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.
In 1910, the Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honor the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
In 1911, as a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time on19 March in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
During 1913-1914, International Women’s Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.
In 1917, against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for “Bread and Peace” on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March.
In 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. In1995, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments, focused on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisioned a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination. In 2014, the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) – the annual gathering of States to address critical issues related to gender equality and women’s rights — focused on “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”. UN entities and accredited NGOs from around the world took stock of progress and remaining challenges towards meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have played an important role in galvanizing attention on and resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The Beginning of My Journey to Peace Education
The inaugural theme: Role of Women in Peace Education for Peace Education: An International in 1977 was the beginning of my journey to peace education. Though the Peace Education Journal was planned to be launched by me as its founder and editor-in-chief on the occasion of UN International Women Year in 1975, but the promise was not met because the journal did not get registration due to imposition of emergency in the country. Hence Peace Education Journal on theme as cited above with all the materials collected for that event was released in 1977 when emergency was withdrawn, and the new government granted the registration for the journal. Here it is pertinent to mention an incident occurred with the author of these lines during the emergency. He was interrogated by the Intelligence officers of the government with a question whether he was a member of RSS or BJP or follower of Jayaprakash Narayan, for criticizing the views of Vinoba Bhave (who was silent supporter of emergency) expressed by him on ‘students unrest’ during that period suggesting as remedy ‘universities and colleges should be closed’, when he was asked by a then minister of Maharashtra government. The comments of the author of these lines on the above cited views of Vinoba Bhave were, inter alia: ‘kill the patient, the disease will disappear’, included in his article “Revolution in Education: A Social Responsibility” published in Acharykula Journal in 1973.
Besides, the Reports and Documents on International Women’s Year Conferences, United Nations Declaration for Women, Facts and Figures on the Status of Women in India and Iraq, Bibliography on Women and Peace, Editorial by the author of these lines on the theme: Women and Peace, and the articles of great personalities like Marion Edman on Women’s Role in Peace-Making, Betty Reardon on Women and Structural Violence: A Crucial Issue for Peace, John P. Eddy & Frances Kung on Women’s Contribution to World Peace, A. B. Patel on Women’s Leadership in Peace Education, K. D. Sharma on Role of Women in India, L. R. Shukla on Mental Integration and Peace through Family, James L. Henderson on Education and Peace: Quartet of Sex and Theodore C. Pontzen on Top Secret, the inaugural issue of Peace Education Journal included the messages sent by the distinguished persons of the world, viz. Kurt Waldheim, The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Takashi Hanada, President, International Association of Educators for World Peace, Charles Mercieca, Secretary-General , International Association of Educators for World Peace, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, President, Government of India, B. D. Jatti, Vice President Government of India, Amadou Mahtar M’Bow, Director-General, UNESCO, L. H. Horace Perera, Secretary-General, World Federation of United Nations Associations, Geneva, Switzerland, V. G. Podoinitsin, Director and Chief , UNESCO Mission in India, New Delhi, Edith Ballantyne, Secretary-General, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Geneva, Switzerland, Judith Hollister, Chairperson, The Temple of Understanding, Washington, USA, Satish Chandra, Chairman, University Grants Commission of India, Johan Keijser, Director, Emergency Committee for World Government, The Hague, The Netherlands, Rais Ahmed, Director, NCERT, New Delhi, H. John Zitko, President, The World University, Tucson, Arizona, USA, Dhirubhai Manibhai Desai, Vice Chancellor, Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad, India, Aage Rosendal Nielsen, President, Association for World Education, New Experimental College, Denmark, A. b. Patel, General Secretary, World Union, Pondicherry, India, Magus Haavelsrud, Executive Secretary, Peace Education Commission, IPRA, University of Tromso, Norway, S. N. Subba Rao, Secretary, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, India, Piet Thoenes, Chairman, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Utrecht, Holland, Prem Kirpal, Chairman, Indian Council of Peace Research, New Delhi, India, and Headquarters’ Group, World Goodwill.
The author of these lines, Dr. Surya Nath Prasad, participated on invitation by UNESCO in the Meeting of Experts on the Role of Women in the Education of Young People for Peace, Mutual Understanding and Respect for Human Rights held at New Delhi from 07 to 11 December, 1981 under the auspices of University Grants Commission. Dr. Prasad submitted his paper on the theme: Education and Emancipation of Women for Peace in the meeting. It was unique that there were only 3 males out of 41 participants, viz. Dr. S. K. Mitra, Director, NCERT, New Delhi, India, Mr. Robert Harris, Switzerland and Dr. Surya Nath Prasad.
Status of Women in the World
Apart from, the efforts made by the United Nations through its Special Measures for the Achievement of Gender Equality and The Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign urging the UN Member States for fulfilling its mandate of working for gender equality as a crucial component of development, human rights, peace, and security; United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security acknowledges the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls, which calls for the adoption of a gender perspective to consider the special needs of women and girls during conflict, repatriation and resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction; since 1979, the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW); The United Nations Development Fund for Women established in December 197 for supporting women’s empowerment and gender equality through its program offices and links with women’s organizations in the major regions of the world; The Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as a human rights proclamation adopted and issued by the United Nations General Assembly on 7 November 1967 outlining that body’s views on women’s rights; the adoption of The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 48/104 of 20 December 1993 for the recognition of “the urgent need for the universal application to women of the rights and principles with regard to equality, security, liberty, integrity and dignity of all human beings”; the Council of Europe Convention against violence against women and domestic violence, Istanbul, Turkey with the aims for prevention of violence, victim protection and “to end with the impunity of perpetrators” signed by 37 UN Member Countries between May 11, 2011 and June 2014 later followed by 15 other countries from 2013 to 2015 being effective on1 August 2014; and the Global Implementation Plan to End Violence Against Women and Girls as recommendation from the multi-agency Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on the prevention of violence against women and girls convened as part of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women’s multi-year program of work for 2010-2014; both working-class and bourgeois women insisted on change and contributed to the success of feminism, this success still is not total, and, as we all know, even in the industrialized countries women continue to fight for equal rights; liberated and affluent women of Europe and North America’ are only a small minority of women in the world today, women in many non-Western countries, and especially in the so-called Third World generally live in a state of subjection and misery. Most of their energy is consumed by a hard and unrelenting struggle for sheer survival; more than a Billion Women (i.e., the majority of the world’s female population) live in poor, rural areas; most of them are illiterate, malnourished, exhausted, or even ill, and are forced to work long hours for little reward; naturally, men share many of these hardships, but women still bear the greatest burden. (The Status of Women in the World Today, 2010)
Grants from The Global Fund for Women support women’s organizations working to stop violence against women, increase girls’ access to education, advance economic and political opportunity, and improve health.
Violence against Women and Girls: Gender-based violence against women – female infanticide, sexual trafficking and exploitation, dowry killings and domestic violence – causes more death and disability among women in the 15 to 44 age group than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. (Center for Women Policy Studies, 2003) Over the past 30 years, 30 million women and children have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. (United Nations, 2003) An estimated 130 million women worldwide have undergone Female Genital Mutilation and 2 million more are mutilated every year. 98% of Somali women have been mutilated. (Center for Reproductive Rights, 2004) Up to 47% of women report that their first sexual intercourse was forced. (World Health Organization, 2002) 41% of women in Columbia report having been physically abused in a current relationship. (International Planned Parenthood Federation, 2002)
Health Status: More than half a million women die from complications related to pregnancy and
childbirth every year. 99% of these deaths occur in the developing world. (World Health Organization, 2004) Providing basic maternal and newborn health services to developing countries would cost an average of $3 per capita per year. However, once complications develop, saving the life of a mother or infant costs about $230. (United Nations Population Fund, 2003) Of the estimated 40 million people worldwide living with HIV, about 2/3 are in sub-Saharan Africa, and young women are 2.5 times more likely to be infected as their male counterparts. (BBC News, 2003) The former Soviet bloc has seen a 50-fold increase in HIV infections, the most dramatic rise in the world, in the past 8 years. (Reuters, 2004)
Access to Education: Of an estimated 115 million children who currently do not attend primary school, girls make up 57%. [United Nations, 2003]Of the world’s 979 million illiterate adults, two-thirds are women. (UNDP Human Development Report, 2003) A recent study shows that increases in women’s education made the greatest contribution to reducing the rate of child malnutrition, accounting for 43% of the total reduction. (United Nations Population Fund, 2002)
More than 24 million girls in Africa are not in school and the overall gender gap in sub-Saharan Africa has widened in the last 10 years [UNESCO, EFA [Global Monitoring Report, 2002]
Political Power: In 2003, at least 54 countries had discriminatory laws against women. (Amnesty International, 2003) Some countries still do not have universal suffrage. Among them are Brunei, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. (Women in Politics, 2003)
Women hold only 6.4% of the seats in Arab states’ Parliaments, 14.4% of seats in sub-Saharan African, 17.6% of seats in Europe and 18.5% of seats in the Americas. (Women’s Learning Partnership, 2002)
Economic Status: Only 1% of the world’s assets are in the name of women. (Women’s Learning Partnership, 2003) Over $7 trillion worth of women’s work goes unpaid (United Nations Platform for Action, 2002)2.1 billion women live on less than two dollars a day, and 330 million women live on less than a dollar a day. (Center for Women Policy Studies, 2003) In the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, only 40 women per 100 men are economically active in the formal economy. (US News Center, 2004)
Status of Women in India
According India’s constitution, women are legal citizens of the country and have equal rights with men, but lack of acceptance from the male dominant society, Indian women suffer immensely. Women are responsible for bearing children, yet they are malnourished and in poor health. Women are also overworked in the field and complete all the domestic work. Most Indian women are uneducated. Although the country’s constitution says women have equal status to men, women are powerless and are mistreated inside and outside the home. (Global India) In view of UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 47% of India’s women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18, rising to 56% in rural areas. (http://www.unicef.org/sowc09/docs/SOWC09_Table_9.pdf) The report also showed that 40% of the world’s child marriages occur in India. (The Hindu,(Chennai, India, 18 January 2009) Domestic violence in India is endemic. (“India’s Shame”, The Diplomat, Retrieved 27 April 2012) According to Renuka Chowdhury, former Union minister for Women and Child Development, around 70% of women in India are victims of domestic violence (Chowdhury, Renuka, 26 October 2006) The map of Violence against women in India shows the comparative rate of violence against women in Indian states and union territories in 2012. Crime rate data per 100,000 women in this map is the broadest definition of crime against women under Indian law. It includes rape, sexual assault, insult to modesty, kidnapping, abduction, cruelty by intimate partner or relatives, trafficking, persecution for dowry, dowry deaths, indecency, and all other crimes listed in Indian Penal Code. (National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India, Table 5.1, page 385; Intimate Partner Violence, 1993–2010, Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, table on page 10) Police records in India show a high incidence of crimes against women. The National Crime Records Bureau reported in 1998 that by 2010 growth in the rate of crimes against women would exceed the population growth rate. (A. K. Shiva Kumar, 2001) Earlier, many crimes against women were not reported to police due to the social stigma attached to rape and molestation. Official statistics show a dramatic increase in the number of reported crimes against women. Rape in India has been described by Radha Kumar as one of India’s most common crimes against women. (Kumar, Radha 1993) and by the UN’s human-rights chief as a “national problem”. (Economist.com, 5 January, 2013) In the 1980s, women’s rights groups lobbied for marital rape to be declared unlawful, as until 1983, the criminal law (amendment) act stated that “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age is not rape”. Marital rape is still not a criminal offence. While per-capita reported incidents are quite low compared to other countries, even developed countries, (Messy Matters. Retrieved 2013-03-17) a new case is reported every 20 minutes. In.reuters.com. (Retrieved 2013-03-17) New Delhi has the highest rate of rape-reports among Indian cities. (Indiatribune.com 2012-09-11) Sources show that rape cases in India have doubled between 1990 and 2008. (Human Rights Watch, 2013) Eve teasing is a euphemism used for sexual harassment or molestation of women by men. Many activists blame the rising incidents of sexual harassment against women on the influence of “Western culture”. In 1987, The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act was passed (24 December 2006) to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings or in any other manner.Of the total number of crimes against women reported in 1990, half related to molestation and harassment in the workplace. (A. K. Shiva Kumar, 2001) In 1997, in a landmark judgment], the Supreme Court of India took a strong stand against sexual harassment of women in the workplace. The Court also laid down detailed guidelines for prevention and redressal of grievances. The National Commission for Women subsequently elaborated these guidelines into a Code of Conduct for employers. (A. K. Shiva Kumar, 2001) In 2013 India’s top court investigated on a law graduate’s allegation that she was sexually harassed by a recently retired Supreme Court judge. (India Supreme Court investigates ex-judge for sexual harassment, 12 November 2013) Recently, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 came into force on Dec 2013, to prevent Harassment of women at work place. (The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956) However, many cases of trafficking of young girls and women have been reported. These women are either forced into prostitution, domestic work or child labour. A Thomas Reuters Foundation survey (Reuters, Thomas, 13-08- 2011) says that India is the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women to live in.(Lakshmibai, Gayatri, 13-08-2011) Women belonging to any class, caste, creed or religion can be victims of this cruel form of violence and disfigurement, a premeditated crime intended to kill or maim permanently and act as a lesson to put a woman in her place. In India, acid attacks on women (Carney, Scott, 22-08-2007), who dared to refuse a man’s proposal of marriage or asked for a divorce (Nadar, Ganesh, 11-07-2011) are a form of revenge. Acid is cheap, easily available, and the quickest way to destroy a woman’s life. The numbers of acid attacks have been rising. (BBC News, 9 April 2008)
Violence and History of Men
June Purvis (2004) has written in his article: “Women’s History Today” that history was written mainly by men and about men’s activities in the public sphere – war, politics, diplomacy and administration. Women are usually excluded and, when mentioned, are usually portrayed in sex-stereotypical roles such as wives, mothers, daughters and mistresses. History is value-laden in regard to what is considered historically “worthy”. The representatives of the male-based society have the prejudices against women for the last many years. Women have been harassed in many ways.
Hence the tendency of violence in men has increased. Men are gradually becoming more cruel and are fond of war. The one-sided intelligence of men has planned for exploitation of humanity and destruction of the world. Rabindranath Tagore (1917) rightly observed, “At the present stage of the history, civilization is almost exclusively masculine, a civilization of power in which women have been thrust aside in the shade. Therefore it has lost its balance and it is moving by hoping from war to war. Its motive forces are the forces of destruction and its ceremonies are carried through by an appalling number of human sacrifices. This one-sided civilization is crashing along a series of catastrophe at a tremendous speed because of its one-sidedness.” In the view of Indira Gandhi, when women are neglected humanity is deprived of half of its energy and creativity, women’s liberation is not luxury for India, but an urgent necessity to enable the nation to move ahead to a life which is more satisfying materially, intellectually and spiritually. (In Women, Education and Peace, 1995)
Nonviolence and History of Women
Woman has been glorified by great saints, thinkers, poets, authors and artists of the world, in all ages and clime, as God’s consummate art, none so fair in seduction, both psychic and physical. She is the symbol of all the virtues of veiled and intuitive Divinity: bliss, love, truth, harmony, power of beautifying all on which she smiles, radiation of vision, golden balance with man, the twin spheres of light to rule this passive earth, this world of love with all its fruits and flowers; magnetic might of heart and mind, attraction and repulsion rent and pent in twain in order that all the world and peace were ever young. She is “a beauteous soul with fair conditions thewed”, symbolic of God’s creative revelation, virtue embodied visible with the beam from on high lodged in a body, gifted with music of music in her voice which can excite the passions, so ardent, so true, so direct and so noble.
|Manu, the author of the very popular ancient Indian book Manusmriti said, “Where women are respected, there the Gods delight, and where they are not, there all work and effort come to naught.” Swami Vivekanand (1942) Hence he urged strongly, “Daughters should be supported and educated with as much care and attention as the sons.” In the words of Swami Vivekanand, (1962), “There is no hope of rise for that family or country where they live in sadness.” Prasad and Shukla (1995) have reported that according to Marx, “the progress of society can be measured with the status of women in the society”, in the opinion of Lenin “without achieving complete salvation for women, proletarian class could never get full freedom for themselves”, and in view of Acharya Vinoba Bhave, who had hope only on women who can save the humanity, and Mahatma Gandhi (1939) said, “Woman has rightly been called the mother of the race”Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity… If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior…
If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with women…” According to Mahatma Gandhi, true nonviolence should mean a complete freedom from ill-will and anger and hate and an over- flowing love for all. (Mahatma Gandhi, Mahatma, Vol. 2, p. 318) And John Donne (1896) expressed his sorrow asking we-equals – male and female both in his song:“But, O alas! So long, so far,
Our equals why do we forbear?
They are ours, though we not theirs.”
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Mar 2015.
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