Of Equal Participation and Contribution: An Interview with Akbar Khan
Recently, WRN spoke with Akbar Khan, Chairperson of Dehi Ijtimai Tarqyati Social Workers Council (DITSWC) to learn more about his views on women and peace in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. Akbar Khan has more than 20 years of experience of working as a civil society worker in KP and FATA. He has managed and implemented several rights based projects. His organization DITSWC focuses on human rights, women’s empowerment, conflict resolution, protection, emergency preparedness, mediation, dialogue and climate change.
What are some of the biggest challenges with regard to peacebuilding in KP & FATA?
In my opinion, lack of protection and security, participation in the national development, strong governance, and political organization and will are few of the main challenges we are currently facing in FATA and KP. Militancy is also a great challenge.
What is the current state of women’s participation in peacebuilding process in KP & FATA?
There is very limited participation. Women’s role is not recognized in every walk of life, let alone in peacebuilding. There is a very limited access and mobility for women. They have almost no support to participate in decision making. Nonetheless, women are willing to progress and explore opportunities that comes their way.
In your opinion how can women can play an active and effective role in peace and security initiatives in FATA/KP?
They can play an effective role if they have access to knowledge, jobs and income opportunities. Awareness raising and capacity building opportunities can also help them in this regard. Men should also encourage and support women as peacebuilders, negotiators or mediators. They should be provided trainings on peacebuilding and assigned independent tasks as well. Overall, women’s political participation must be increased.
As a civil society worker what do you think what are some of the biggest challenges women are facing in the current state of peace/ security in the region?
Women’s critical role is ignored at every level of society and they lack opportunities to participate in many spheres of public life. There is a structural repression of women. Ensuring their protection and security is also a difficult issue. In addition, there is a problem in the empowerment opportunities provided to thee, which lack of innovation, are chronically stereotyped, and are limited.
How can womens inclusion in peace and security matters can be enhanced without violating cultural norms and traditions?
As I have mentioned earlier formal and informal education, awareness raising and capacity building opportunities should be enhanced. Women and human rights should be applied in all matters as cross cutting themes. In my opinion, a mechanism to ensure accountability of international organizations implementing projects related to women would be useful. Women's professional networking should be supported, as well as launching advocacy and awareness campaigns for women's issues and rights. Youth can also play a very important role. We should start trains with young people so they are sensitized on women and human rights early in their lives and the controversial nature that we see now with these topics will decrease with time. Similarly, media especially social media, can also play an important role in supporting the advancement of women's roles in public life.
What about ethnic and religious minorities? What is their participation level in peace and security matters in the region?
Ethnic and religious minorities in KP and FATA are facing the same situation. They are as marginalized as women. There is a general bias against them that prevails throughout. This is the reason that they get exploited at the hands of the majority or even by the influential among them.
How in your opinion can ethnic and religious minorities play an effective role in ensuring peace in KP and FATA?
Peace is only possible through social inclusion, so their participation is critical to success. We all need to contribute towards creating an enabling environment for their equal participation. Interfaith harmony should be promoted. Job and income opportunities should be created for them and like other marginalized groups their participation in political, social and economic spheres should be enhanced.