Indigenous Women working for Change (In memory of Kalpana Chakma)
One of the main challenges I have found in creating change to the situation of women of the Jumma Indigenous community in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh where I was born, is the inherent danger that exists in speaking out. Things have changed, but even today, highlighting the human rights abuses perpetrated by the military in the region is not without its risks. The situation was very bad during the 25 yr long conflict that kept the area out of the eye of the international community for so long. The reports of atrocities and massacres were largely ignored and swiftly denied by the Government of Bangladesh and the Army. There are so many women and girls who have suffered brutal rapes at the hands of the military and settlers. One activist Kalpana Chakma, who was disappeared by the Army in 1996, remains a reminder to all of us of the culture of impunity that exists. Lt Ferdous who led her abduction has never been properly investigated or punished for his actions. http://www.newagebd.com/2010/jun/12/special/special.html
The solutions to these problems come from the roots of the conflict and displacement. Many Jummas have gone abroad to study or have sought asylum due to political activities back home. The diaspora Jummas work closely with Jummas from the CHT to bring out unheard stories. There are large Jumma populations in the US, Australia, Canada, India and the UK. These citizens seek accountability from their new Governments for the rights of the Jumma and ensure their tax dollars are spent appropriately. Bangladesh is a huge recipient of foreign aid and development. The Jummas have been able to campaign for greater scrutiny of the situation in the CHT. The internet and Web 2.0 has been central to making this happen. They are also able to bring the stories from the village direct to the international politicians and decision makers. Although, one of the most important steps has been in getting forward thinking Bengalis and activists in Bangladesh to support the Indigenous movement.
I would like to use World Pulse and other online networks to build on this campaigning work and to encourage more women who live in the CHT to join World Pulse and share their experiences, as well as encouraging other women from conflict or post conflict zones to contribute to lasting solutions for peace. I want to reignite a campaign to look at greater accountability of UN Peacekeepers and military personnel, and work with NGOs to set up an international blacklist of human rights abusers, who should NEVER serve on UN Peacekeeping missions.
The possibilities are endless and I think continuing dialogues started during the VOF process is an exciting step. May be in order to move forward and put the past behind us, a form of truth and reconciliation is needed. I would like to learn from women from conflict zones what solutions they have found, that respect the memories of our fallen sisters. We can never forget their sacrifice.