WISCOMP has been a pioneer in initiating the discourse on women, peace, and security in South Asia. It was at the forefront of engaging with these issues, well before they found articulation in the UN Security Resolution 1325 in October 2000. WISCOMP’s work has converged with later international articulations on the role of women in building peace and security. Its pioneering efforts have yielded a robust network across borders and boundaries that highlight the leadership of women in the areas of peace and security—a space that was hitherto not fully encouraging of the participation of women.
WISCOMP draws on innovative and experiential pedagogies that synergize research, training, and practice. These are used to build linkages between individuals who work in the fields of education, gender studies, peacebuilding, public policy, law, and the creative arts. Its practice builds on a body of research that covers over 200 scholarly publications, reflecting cutting-edge ideas from the areas of international relations, displacement, climate change, and their impact on gender.
It is an initiative of the Foundation for Universal Responsibility, which was established with funds from the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to His Holiness The Dalai Lama in 1989. WISCOMP has drawn into its fold several vibrant regional networks that strive to translate the normative imperatives of UN global compacts such as the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), and UN resolutions that impact on women’s roles in building peace, promoting justice, restoring rights, and fostering empathy.
- Enhance the role of women in collaboration with men as peacebuilders, negotiators and as agents for nonviolent social change.
- Empower a new generation of women and men with the expertise and skills to engage in peace activism through educational and training programs in Conflict Transformation.
- Contribute to an inclusive, people-oriented discourse on issues of security that respects diversity and which foregrounds the perspectives of women and marginalized groups.
- Facilitate innovative research on ways to resolve and transform violent and destructive conflicts.
- Build synergy between theory, practice and policy—between academicians, grassroots peacebuilders, political leaders, and lawmakers.
- Build constituencies of peace through multi-track diplomacy, peace advocacy, and national, regional and global civil society dialogues foregrounding gender-sensitive training, research, and practice.
- Work with educational institutions to foster a culture of peace and respect for the rights of peoples through the development of curricula and innovative pedagogy.
EDUCATING FOR PEACE
WISCOMP believes in releasing the liberatory potential of educational institutions—schools and colleges—to play a role in the fostering of cultures of coexistence. Their power as ‘vehicles of change’ and transmitters of knowledge, empathy, and equity can transform mindsets ans sustain infrastructures of peace. Our Educating for Peace initiative works with teachers trainers, school and college educators, youth (in the 14–30 age-group), and their families to build capacities to prevent violence, practice empathy, and support processes of social justice, sustainable development, and pluralism.
WISCOMP’s training courses for educators and students
Education: A Tool for Social Change: This module, designed for school and college educators, enhances the capacity of participants to identify and nurture the potential and power of each student to change both personal and collective reality at multiple levels, using the frameworks of global citizenship, social justice, and sustainable development. It builds the educator’s capacity to understand the essentials of a constructivist classroom and the centrality of critical thinking, reflection and creativity. Educators are also sensitized to the need to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in the classroom and free students of the crutches of ignorance, prejudice, and arrogance.
Structured Dialogue and Active Coexistence: This training module, designed for both educators and students, provides participants with a skill-set that includes active listening, nonviolent communication, and dialogic methods to improve adversarial relationships and reduce conflicts—whether in the classroom or in the community. Participants are introduced to innovative ways to express dissent and approaches for nonviolent communication and active coexistence with a particular focus on the teachings and practices of Mohandas Gandhi. The methodology of heritage education (including heritage walks) is also used to highlight South Asia’s multicultural and plural history and lessons that may be drawn for contemporary practice.
Gender, Conflict, and Peace: Gender-sensitization workshops are organized for male and female teachers and students with a view to influence their beliefs and attitudes and build their capacity to reduce gender discrimination and prevent gender-based violence. Through a focus on expectations around women and men’s roles in the private and public spheres, this module includes a diverse range of topics, such as: the influence of patriarchy on attitudes and behavior, gender stereotyping, the objectification of women (through popular culture), and violence against women and girls. Participants are trained to become rights’ advocates in their families and schools so that they can envision creative solutions to prevent gender- based violence. This module also addresses the impact of armed conflicts and women’s role as agents of nonviolent social change. Informed by UN Security Council Resolution 1325, it sensitizes students to the need for women’s participation in conflict resolution.
Engaged Leadership: The youth, today, is faced with a bewildering array of virtual choices, intergenerational tensions, and performance pressures. The equilibrium between rights and responsibilities proves tenuous especially since earlier mores and traditions do not seem to‘work’ in a globalized environment. In this atmosphere of ethical dilemmas, the handling of pressures emanating from home and those from school become especially challenging for adolescents. This module provides a context for students to introspect on the possibilities and responsibilities of choice; helps them to improve listening and communication skills; builds their capacity to resolve conflicts without resorting to force or violence; and empowers students to value democracy, pluralism and active coexistence within their immediate environment.
Mindfulness in Education: Cultivating Compassion on School Campuses: The practice of mindfulness—rooted in meditation and reflexive thinking—is introduced to educators and students as a tool they can use and share to reduce stress and hostility, enhance feelings of well-being, and infuse their school campus with a culture of compassion. Mindfulness is increasingly being recognized as an essential educational tool, providing optimal conditions for learning and teaching. It has shown to develop skills such as attention, concentration, emotional and cognitive awareness, bodily awareness and coordination, and interpersonal awareness. The module includes talks, group discussions, guided meditations, exercises in stress reduction, relaxation, and the practice of techniques to restore and maintain constructive communication.
Dialogues with Iconic Thought Leaders: WISCOMP provides opportunities for school students to dialogue with iconic thought leaders, many who are Nobel Peace Laureates. This is done with a view to help students learn from leaders who have a long history of practicing the values that WISCOMP promotes: compassion, coexistence, universal responsibility, and reflective practice.
Our initiatives have created safe spaces for articulation and trust- relationship-building in areas of violent conflict. Through dialogue and visits to sacred spaces of ‘the other’, inter-religious understanding has been enhanced. The Program has also built networks of educators and youth across myriad faultlines of region, religion, class, caste, and gender. Our geographic reach extends from the National Capital Region, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, the Northeast, and some states in North and South India.
Methodology and Approaches
Through the Hum Kadam (‘Co Travelers’) initiative, WISCOMP has partnered with more than 35 schools and 25 higher educational institutions and brought over 1500 young people and 500 educators from Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi together for peacebuilding. Read more
The Mentor/Internship Program has been a vital aspect of WISCOMP’s evolution as a leading think tank, opening up avenues to bring experience and potential together in a stimulating exchange. Over more than a decade, 80 young professionals have learnt to explore careers in security, peacebuilding, gender studies, and other related areas. Sensitization and Mentoring Workshops are also conducted for parents and other family members of the students who attend our trainings. WISCOMP’s training modules are mostly organized on institutional request. Program participants and partner institutions do not have to pay fees. However, logistical support from participating institutions, in the form of venue and other facilities, is appreciated.Read more
Developing Pedagogies for Peace
Developing curriculum forms a vital part of WISCOMP’s engagement in this field. WISCOMP has developed innovative curricula, syllabi, and teaching methods to build a culture of peace in areas that have seen violence and conflict. It has also helped institutions of higher learning in India to develop curriculum for peace studies and conflict transformation at the school, under-graduate, and post-graduate levels. Read more
The Mentoring Program has been a vital aspect of WISCOMP’s evolution as a leading action research and peacebuilding organization that draws on innovative and experiential pedagogies synergizing research, training, and practice. These are used to build linkages between individuals who work in the fields of education, gender studies, peacebuilding, public policy, law, and the creative arts. Its practice builds on a body of research that covers over 200 scholarly publications, reflecting cutting-edge ideas from the areas of international relations, displacement, refugee flows, climate change, and their impact on gender.
The context of mentoring cuts across programs and is mainstreamed in the organization’s work. Building positive mentoring relationships that enrich both professional and personal trajectories form the essence of the Mentoring Program. This vital aspect of WISCOMP’s evolution as a leading practitioner in the creation of empowering spaces for women has informed its articulation on issues of democracy, representation, foreign policy and peacebuilding. Our inclusive and low key approach has enabled us to work with diverse constituencies that are often sequestered into silos.
As part of its efforts to build constituencies of peace in contexts of violent conflict, WISCOMP has supported women-led initiatives in regions such as Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir, and Gujarat. These have included the participation of students, activists, educationists, journalists, and even policymakers with the intent that the perspectives of women can be mainstreamed in social change processes. The initiatives have empowered women and men from regions of protracted conflict with skills in nonviolent action and conflict transformation so that they can engage with the peace process, both at the local community level and in official negotiations.
Two of our flagship initiatives under this Project are:
Making Women Count for Peace: Gender, Empowerment and Conflict in South Asia
This is a collaborative research initiative involving associations with the Peace Research Institute Oslo, the Nepal Center for Contemporary Research, Malaviya Center for Peace Research, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, and NambolSanoi College (Manipur). With a focus on contemporary Northeast India and post-conflict Nepal, the research explores the role of women in local governance and politics, particularly in the context of peace and security processes. The primary aim is to generate new knowledge on what empowerment means to women in situations of armed conflict. Through consultations with policymakers and roundtables with civil society groups, the project has led to both academic- and policy-relevant output, including recommendations to policymakers on how women can play a more prominent role in peacebuilding. It has provided a platform for dialogue between policymakers, researchers, and grassroots practitioners to collectively discuss how women can be made active participants in ‘formal’ peace initiatives, while examining the challenges to their full participation in peace processes and identifying how policy establishments can put in place structures for effective implementation of these processes.
Athwaas: Building Constituencies for Peace
In 2001, WISCOMP initiated a grassroots peacebuilding initiative in Jammu and Kashmir called Athwaas(which, in the Kashmiri language, means ‘a warm greeting or handshake’). It comprised Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Ladakhi women representing the diversity of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Between 2001 and 2012, the WISCOMP Conflict Transformation Workshops generated a repertoire of books, discussion papers, reports, and films that have made an important contribution to the discourse on peacebuilding. The strategic relationships built between the Indian and Pakistani participants at the Workshops have generated broader processes of change, most visibly reflected in their commitment to undertake Joint Research Across the Faultlines of Conflict. While the cultural affinity and shared interests and lifestyles play a big part in changing the way Indian and Pakistani participants interact with one another, what has acted as even stronger glue are the common professional aspirations, which have taken the form of collaborative action research and book writing projects. WISCOMP supported these in an effort to deepen professional partnerships between ‘third generation’ Indians and Pakistanis.