Edit Schlaffer and the Pakistani and Indian panelists at the India-Pakistan Youth Dialogue
Pakistani and Indian scholars and students at the University of Mumbai
On 22 November 2011, Women without Borders/SAVE-Sisters Against Violent Extremism facilitated a dialogue event between Indian and Pakistani youth in Mumbai to bridge the longstanding political divide between these two countries and create a more stable future for the region. Committed female youths from both sides demonstrated their commitment to defying longstanding stereotypes between Pakistanis and Indians and to finding new ways for dialogue.
The dialogue event, entitled “New Hope for a New Beginning: Breaking Down Barriers between Indian and Pakistani Youth”, was hosted by the Department of Sociology at the University of Mumbai, in cooperation with the Defense University of Islamabad.
“The thing about stereotypes is that most of them are bred by prejudice. And this prejudice stems from the fact that people don’t have enough knowledge about the object they have prejudice against.”- Netra Ramakanthan, Sociology Student, University of Mumbai
Dialogue that takes place at the highest political levels, often does not trickle down to the community level and only infrequently can impact harmful stereotypes held at the local level. In order to therefore achieve a sustainable change in mindsets that will pave the way for stronger interactions between India and Pakistan, the young generation—the future leaders of their countries—must be tied directly into the dialogue process. Youths will thus be encouraged to think about their own prejudices of ‘the other’ and develop new perspectives based on personal experience.
Over the course of the day-long event, the participants revealed a strong commitment to cross-border and people-to-people dialogue, consistently highlighting the similarities between their cultures: they listen to the same music, watch the same Bollywood movies and sometimes even admire the same poets and authors.
Both the Indian and Pakistani panelists, as well as audience members, stressed the crucial role social media can play in bridging the gap between the two countries and contributing to new, alternative perceptions of each other. Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and online forums provide a space for virtual dialogue in which Indians and Pakistanis can meet each other and openly discuss a range of ideas.
SAVE’s decisive inclusion of women in the spheres of dialogue and security reflects growing international awareness of the central role women play in conflict resolution and their potential to combat the ideologies of violent extremism. Women’s advancements in education and the professional world must be reflected in innovative new approaches to establishing regional stability.
“Women tend to invest more in constructive, culturally rich and peace oriented relationships in the international and global macro-scenario.” - Kamala Ganesh, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Mumbai, Advocate for SAVE India
As a follow-up to the dialogue, the young panelists will conduct a ‘This is Me – Who are You?’ survey with family and community members, to determine their prejudices toward the other country and discern which stereotypes could potentially lead to acts of violent extremism. They will publish their experiences and findings on a new blog.
Women without Borders/SAVE is extremely grateful to the University of Mumbai and the Defense University of Islamabad, who joined efforts and helped make this dialogue a great success. We are also very thankful to the University of Mumbai’s Sociology and Philosophy departments, without whom this event would not have been possible.
We also wish to thank Prof. Kamala Ganesh for her remarkable efforts in co-organizing the event. And last but not least, we extend our gratitude to all the students, from Indian and Pakistan, who participated in the dialogue.
“For peace to start at home, we also have to include our neighbors. Without peaceful interaction with our neighbors, there will never be peace on our home territory.” - Edit Schlaffer, Founder of Women without Borders/SAVE
Watch the India-Pakistan Youth Dialogue film: