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”Women’s leadership is one of the best hopes we have”

Jahan Ara Begum at a food distribution point in one of the areas in Hyderabad where the HMI works. Bild: Henry Martyn Institute

The Henry Martyn Institute – International Centre for Research, Interfaith Relations and Reconciliation (HMI) is situated in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. This is where I work, as a coordinator, with Rev. Dr. Packiam T. Samuel, among others. At HMI we undertake peacebuilding activities in the slum communities which experience communal violence.

Some of the challenges that I see in our work for peace and reconciliation are that women’s voices are unheard in the decision-making process and that there is gender injustice n the communities. Interfaith and peacebuilding work by involving and empowering the women is one of our major challenging tasks. The community members, political parties and the menfolk do not appreciate the women’s intervention and usually try to delay or hamper the progress.

There is social segregation based on religious lines and a lack of common spaces for people to interact and share concerns on peacebuilding and reconciliation. Building capacities of the community members is a long-term intervention and needs continuous training and capacity building.

There is also a lack of proper employment opportunities for youth, and poverty and indebtedness limit the people’s participation in peace processes. 

The signs of hope that I’ve noticed are that there is community participation in interfaith dialogue meetings and that there are interfaith and peace building initiatives at the community level. There are festival celebrations and participation in cultural activities, and with the increase in the community participation, we see that the community members are also able to accept and respect each other’s faith and practices.

Jahan Ara Begum. Bild: Henry Martyn Insititute

With education change comes in the community. Children are the future of the community, and if they are given proper education, they can be peace makers in the community. With awareness programmes, change is possible. When the standard of life is improved, healthy relationships within the community members are developed.

Women’s leadership is one of the best hopes we have in our peacebuilding and reconciliation process.