international womens' meet on nonviolence and peace, india

International Women’s Meet on Nonviolence and Peace- 2016 (IWMNVP 2016)

2nd– 13th October 2016  

Held at Gandhi Research Foundation (GRF) in Maharashtra

Ekta Parishad, Madhya Pradesh

India International Centre  


Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony was held under a large pandal on the GRF grounds with over 1200 women and girls in attendance. The invitees included 150 women activists from 17 states in India, 41 women peace leaders from 24 countries and hundreds of school and college going young women students. This opening celebrated  Gandhi Jayanti (Gandhi’s Birthday) as well as the International Day of Nonviolence. Senior Gandhian Sarvodaya leader Krishnammal Jaganathan lit the inaugural lamp of ‘nonviolence and peace’ at Jalgaon, and she blessed the participants and extolled them to keep working with commitment for the poor and marginalized people. Jill Carr-Harris of IGINP and the key organizer of the program gave the inaugural speech. There was an invocation song by P.V. Rajagopal Founder of Ekta Parishad, followed by greetings by Nisha Jain, Principal of the Anubuti School, and keynote address by Justice C.S. Dharmadhikari, Chairperson of Gandhi Research Foundation. Other dignitaries such as Ashok Jain, the son of the Founder of the GRF was in attendance.

In this opening program 50 grassroots women from across India, were honored by the international dignitaries for their exceptional work as peace leaders in bringing social justice to marginalized communities. They each had a profile that illustrated how they used nonviolent action as a tool for negotiating change in getting entitlements for their community.

Also each of the grassroots women, Indian activists and international participants brought soil from their place as a symbol of they being part of one earth for one human community.  This soil accepted by veteran Gandhian Krishnammal was later used to plant an “International Peace Tree for Global Solidarity” (peepal tree) planted on the grounds of the GRF.


Conference Program:

There were four panel discussions, one interactive discussion and one small group interaction.

In the first Panel “Dealing with Emerging Global Crisis and Solutions”, the speakers expressed concern that currently the socio-economic situation is grave and we are passing through a global crisis.  What we are looking for is global justice, economic reforms and equity. Nations need to acknowledge their interdependence and promote all of this in a nonviolent and peaceful manner.

In the second Panel ‘‘Women’s Role in Transforming Society Using Nonviolence: Moving forward on Gender and Economic Equality”, panelists said, culture and fundamentalist radical thinking is making people violent and much of the direct and structural violence targeted at women, leaves women feeling insecure. Gandhi recognized that he was a religious (ethical) person and he did not make religion his politics. Marginalized communities want education, social security, jobs and economic stability; these are critical needs for mainstreaming people into law-abiding citizens. There ought to be a culture that internalizes values of nonviolence and cooperation. In a nonviolent manner, voices experiencing oppression have definitely been amplified.  Human rights need to be re-assessed as new forms of violence and HR violations are taking place.

Interactive Session: Experience sharing in Panels and Small Groups

  • It is necessary to address issues of poverty and economic oppression among marginalized communities, and the growing divide between the rich and poor needs to be countered: there are wealthy territories such as in Kerala where, money is on display in terms of lavish living spaces.

  • There is increase in violence against women (VAW) in many Indian states, and due to poverty there is a high level of human trafficking of women and girls. The state is doing very little to curb human trade.

  • Women do not have rights over property or land and they are vulnerable and poor. Local women’s leadership is often resisted and leaders are often shamed and harassed.

  • Cambodian activists narrated how during the Khmer Rouge period, school children were given guns to defend themselves but slowly after the war the gun culture went away, and children began to learn ahimsa and nonviolence as professed in Buddhism.

  • Identifying root causes is important said the Kenyan delegate, for women being landless does exist in Kenya, but no man can sell land without the permission/consent of the woman. Women had to struggle hard to get this constitutional law in place.

  • Wherever, marginalized communities are empowered and made aware of their leadership, they are able to negotiate and get their basic entitlements, as can be seen in Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere, where hundreds of poor farmers could demand their land and forest rights.

  • In Gujarat, the gender index of women in panchayats (local governance) is high and women members aspire to create a Salamat prashasan (a safe administrative constituency…especially for women.) They asked people and panchayats to identify places under their jurisdiction that are not safe for women and then began to make these into safe zones.

  • In Trinidad and Tobago, they mobilize domestic workers and they demand basic wages and rights in negotiations with the government.

  • Women in tribal belts had no property rights, but now in Jharkhand after the new laws are in place, thousands of people have got joint land/forest rights entitlements, in the names of both men and women.

  • In Azerbaijan, 5% of oil and natural gas is under the State ownership and the remaining 95 % belongs to large multinational companies. Hazards are plentiful, but, digital technology and modes of SMS communication are being used to keep distant rural communities updated on different issues of governance and disaster management, and awareness among people is  increasing.


Youth session: Learning Peace from Youth

  • Need to innovate appropriate technology such that it does not contribute to violence.

  • Gandhian principles are relevant even today, as they speak of decentralization of decision-making powers.

  • In Georgia, young women are the worst affected by conflict, they bear the brunt, they often become targets of sexual violence, their family members may be killed, leaving them without support; they are also the majority of casualties of war and 80 per cent were women from Aprasia and South Ossetia  who had to flee their homes.

  • Young people are at the heart of conflict, they have to deal with the lasting consequences of war. Allow the young to have a voice in decision-making; they have intelligence and power to find their own solutions to conflict.

  • The ancient African concept of ‘Ubuntu Humanity’… meaning ‘being humane to others' (I am, because you are) shows faith in your humanity and faith in others humanity as well.

  • Peace and justice are important, for what is peace if there is no justice?

  • Capacity building is done for women’s leadership, young people are encouraged and education is promoted in Nepal; women are trained to be entrepreneurs as well.

How to make Peace?

  • Women need to be present at peace negotiation tables, and not sit behind them; they need to feel ‘equality in expertise’ on peace issues. Obstacles of conceptual understanding will crop up; technical and political issues will also have to be addressed through trainings.

  • Palestine has been at war for the past 25 years and discussions on political issues were forbidden. Talking to “the enemies” meant that you were legitimizing the opposing voices in your midst. Women of both sides are trying against all odds to keep open the channels of dialogue The political dispensation did not want to give women any role in political discussions, thereby telling that they did not want to give women any role in politics either.

  • Young Columbian farm girls established the Humanitarian Zones (HZ, as these came to be called) and these were places internally displaced refugees could take shelter and feel safe. This became necessary as there were many victims of direct atrocities and conflict and displacement, and Columbia gave no guarantees that they could return to their lands any day soon.

  • Youth are concerned about violation of human rights but are also concerned about the rights of the Environment and the Earth. Activists from countries outside, seek spiritual strength from India and its concept of nonviolence and ahimsa.

  • In Bihar and other places have women’s shanti senas in several villages, we are under-estimating what women are a force. We need to capture learning and develop it as a forceful tool to be used in peace processes.

  • Need to harmonize morality with legality and a ground level movement can do what law cannot do.

  • ‘Peace’ personal or societal? It needs close reflection.


Voices for Evaluating the Meeting:

  • “Sab ko sath lekar aage badheinge”…We will take everyone along with us, as we move forward towards peace.

  • Since the Beijing Women’s Conference in 1995, this was perhaps the next big thing to happen. Women from so many diverse backgrounds came together on a common platform to share their concerns and experiences. Youth groups were fantastic, they had clarity on politics and they wanted freedom “azadi.”

  • We thank organizers, for such a meaningful program, so much of sharing across borders, a program that gave energy because so many young people could articulate hope and a vision for world peace.

  • Such events should get incorporated into one’s life for this is not an event, and it is a life discourse. Basic tenets of Gandhi speak of equality on human terms and not in gender terms. Equality thus is in recognition of a human entity. The discourse on equality is an integrating process of humankind.

  • A ‘shabd kosh’ or a meeting (issue-specific) jargon list should be prepared to facilitate translation and common understanding for all participants of vernacular languages.

Write to Us:

Advisory Committee: Yves Berthelot (France),  PV Rajagopal (India), Vandana Shiva (India), Oliver de Schutter (Belgium), Mazide N’Diaye (Senegal), Gabriela Monteiro (Brazil), Irakli Kakabadze (Georgia), Anne Pearson (Canada), Liz Theoharis (USA), Sulak Sivaraksa (Thailand), Jagat Basnet (Nepal), Miloon Kothari (India),  Irene Santiago (Philippines), Arsen Kharatyan (Armenia), Margrit Hugentobler (Switzerland), Jill Carr-Harris (Canada/India), Reva Joshee (Canada), Sonia Deotto (Mexico/Italy),Benjamin Joyeux (Geneva/France), Aneesh Thillenkery, Ramesh Sharma, Ran Singh (India)