Pakistani Women Waging Peace the World Over
It was when children began painting ambulances, hospitals and dead bodies in art class that Bushra Hyder decided it was time to actively work towards healing.
That was 2009, and there were almost daily blasts in Peshawar, a Pakistani city not far from the border of Afghanistan, where Hyder runs an elementary and high school. The whole city, including the students and teachers at her school, was traumatised by the conflict raging around them. Those who could, fled to the capital Islamabad, or abroad, or anywhere but where they were on the frontlines.
“The violence affected the people…socially and psychologically,” Hyder said, speaking at a seminar at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) on Tuesday.
“People lost businesses and loved ones. Blood and death was brought to our doorstep. All this violence really took a toll on the children. Boys played war games, and parents told me their daughters were mangling dolls’ limbs like victims of bomb blasts.”
Hyder began holding counselling sessions for the children and developed a peace syllabus to be taught at her school. She also started a children’s club (Peace Angels) and a mothers’ club (Mothers of Change) for women and their children who were victims of extreme violence. Peace Angels visited hospitals and orphanages, “to meet those most affected by the violence and see for themselves the results of violence,” while the mothers come to Hyder’s school to talk to students about the their own experiences and “how to get rid of the hatred.”
The USIP panel discussion, co-sponsored by The Institute for Inclusive Security, highlighted the work of Hyder and other women from Amn-o-Nisa (“Peace and Women”), also known as the Pakistan Women’s Coalition Against Extremism, which was formed in April 2011. The 20 women who came together in this voluntary coalition have been working for years on these issues, highlighting the unique role women play in the struggle to preserve human rights amidst a fight against extremism in Pakistan that too often leaves civilians caught in the middle.
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