No Insurgency Can Survive Without Participation Of Women: Rashmi Saksena
Reporting on conflict zones can be a challenge, but what are the challenges that are unique to the women in the conflict zones? How do women get involved with these movements? Be it a warzone or leading a troupe women play both overt and covert roles in such movements but are we talking enough about it?
At the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Ideas Editor of SheThePeople.TV, Kiran Manral was in conversation with Senior Journalist & Author Rashmi Saksena and Journalist & Author Teresa Rehman to discuss women in conflict zones. They discussed what prompted them to write about real fierce women who spent a significant part of their lives in these conflict zones.
While Rashmi Saksena’s book She Goes to War: Women Militants of India shares the journey of Women Militants at war, Teresa Rehman’s book The Mothers of Manipur chronicles the lives of women who protested against such leaders or movements.
Women Are Misled To Wars
“When I was working in political reporting and later on in my career, I came across these references where women had joined groups that are politically unreliable,” said Rashmi Saksena. “Over the years, as a crime reporter and as a Journalist, I witnessed many women as the poster face of any given movements or violent march that led to destruction across the globe. It was then that it hit me who are these women and how are they getting involved in such calamities? What is their role? Where exactly are we heading?” she added.
“So I set out on this mission to find these women. I needed to meet these women and document their journeys. The revelation was that no insurgency or any such movement can actually survive without the participation of women,” Rashmi lamented.
“No insurgency or any such movement can actually survive without the participation of women.” – Rashmi Saksena
‘It Is A Conscious Choice, Not Forced’
“The women are the heart of these organisations, no matter what their roles are. Another truth was that taking up this life or the role was not the first choice of these women. I see them as victims of living in the conflict zone. Because they have taken this life only because they live in that zone. The things they have seen over the years, joining the group was a reaction, compulsion of that image in their mind. It is a conscious choice, depends on the state or society they belong to, thought process or the treatment they receive from the organisations. But sadly when governments negotiate a peace mission, men take the front seats. Women are never at the negotiating table,” she added.
Agreeing with Rashmi, Kiran Manral added that women are, indeed, the risk takers who often do not fall in the radar of suspicion.
A Bloody Affair
Teresa, on being asked whether or not she thought she would be able to detach herself from the conflict she reported, as she is a product of that situation, shared, “I am a product of that conflict. Living in North East and witnessing the protests, I still get goosebumps. I remember there was a bomb blast just across the street. The window panes of my house were shattered. Human flesh. Blood everywhere. I can’t even begin to explain the horror.”
“When any of our family members wouldn’t turn up at home, our first instinct would be either going to the hospital or to the morgue.” – Teresa Rehman
Women Make History And Go Unnoticed
“When I saw a gap that only the wars or the number of dead is getting written on the daily news, it struck me that the women who lived in the warzone, who survived the nightmares, are not spoken about. The stories of these women needed a platform. I felt the urge to chronicle their journeys. This is how we remember them and the sacrifices they’ve made,” she claimed.
“When you grow up seeing guns around you all the time, you are scarred for life. Yet the women of the families torn into the zone kept their faith alive, grown stronger by the minute. They’d want to protect their children from the violence, change the way society parasites the young minds but are incapable of doing so. Many of these women have lost their grandchild to the war, were raped or hunger made them turn into monsters. They either fight against the battle they have already lost or join them,” Teresa told Kiran.
“As a journalist, I felt it was my duty to share their journey,” she said.