Coming Together: Early Days of WRN
Founding meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2011.
In August 2011, Patricia Cooper sent me an email asking if she could chat with me about a women’s peace network. Having been part of early Track Two initiatives in the 1990s, I was immediately intrigued and Pat did not really have to sell me the idea when we chatted. In October 2011, four women each from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and one from Nepal, as well as a small group of facilitators, met in Kathmandu.
We were mostly strangers to each other. Over the four days, we learnt a little about each other, shared our priorities and pressing concerns, brainstormed the things we would like to do and debated vehemently the idea of this network—whether it should exist, what its focus should be and which countries it should comprise. There were genuine disagreements and different temperaments were at play. Even as the country members embarked upon field research projects, there was change within the membership. Some of our Founding Members have moved on, and away. Some of us remain.
Some histories cannot be told; suffice it to say that after almost seven years, we have achieved a working coherence, both internally within the country Core Groups and also, across the network. Having an enthusiastic and hardworking staff team has helped enormously. Last year, when a few of us joined the Latin American activists at their exploration in Antigua, Guatemala, I found myself thinking about this journey and what it has meant to me.
WRN gives me the chance, as a peace worker, to do more than just write quietly in my remote corner of the subcontinent. It is a platform where my work connects with others’ and my skills find a use. I treasure the relationships that have formed over the years. I have a sense of investment and ownership of the Network so that even when I want to disengage for one reason or another, I am drawn back in. I look forward to being a participant observer in our onward journey!
Swarna Rajagopalan in WRN founding member, independent scholar and writer, and founding trustee of The Prajnya Trust, a new centre for research and public education on security issues. Follow her on Twitter @swarraj