18th June 2017 the day when cricket teams of India and Pakistan played final match of the ICC Champion trophy, my social media account was filled with notifications about hatred for Indian team from my friends. That was a war-like situation for people from both sides. I was hurt seeing all that hate and aggressiveness. A few years back I was doing exactly the same, the cricket match between India and Pakistan was more than just a game for me. I realized that this hate has been nurtured in our minds through our text books where India is portrayed as an enemy. I found this hate in years of our India centric foreign policies. This is so unfortunate that in international politics states create conflict in the name of national interest and feed hate in innocent minds while using different societal institutions such as the education system, religion and media as a tool.
When I was leaving for a month long course in Nepal my younger brother advised me: “Do not interact with Indian people there they are our enemies don’t befriend them, just try to stay away from them.” This is the hate our generation from both sides of the borders have grown up with. I met women from 12 South Asian countries such beautiful souls and loving human beings. I must say I find my Indian friends the most loving and respectful. I came back as a changed person with more love and respect for every human being. This was the start of my practical struggle while working with Insan foundation Trust, an organization striving for peace and democracy through peaceful means and the Women’s Regional Network an initiative of women leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India which works towards the powerful idea of borderless, sustainable peace in South Asia. These experiences helped me review my preconceived notions about society.
International politics is all about power and power is always associated with men being masculine and strong, and women being considered irrational and emotionally weak. Women are kept out of international politics and they have always been used as tools for power politics. I as a student of International Relations and a women from Azad Jammu Kashmir (a conflict zone for years now) find this very problematic. I always aspired to work towards the change of stereotypical roles of women into equal opportunities by challenging the preconceived notions of the society. WRN is a space owned by the women leaders and a voice for the oppressed. Here we do not ask for sympathy we ask for our voices to be heard. WRN gave me a platform to speak for what is right and to become a voice of those hundreds of thousands of women and young girls whose rights are denied. ‘If it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you’ is something I believe in. I believe when women are empowered as political leaders, countries experience higher standards of living with positive developments in each area, they are capable to bring peace in the world. All we need is a transformation of power relations and a chance.
Sadia Bibi is one of the newest young women leaders and WRN Members and currently working with Insan Foundation Trust in Islamabad, Pakistan.