The Women in Peace Festival was a two-day event organized in Rawalpindi, Islamabad by grantee and previous Hollings Center participant Uzma Yaqoob. The festival is one of several initiatives to come out of the Center’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Partnership program, sponsored in part by the Hollings Center and by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The festival was hosted at the Fatima Jinnah Women University, a public women’s university in Pakistan with about 6,000 students. The aim of the festival was to have a dialogue on sustainable, inclusive peace solutions in the region for all vulnerable groups.
The event entailed two days of panel discussions. The first day included panel discussions on the current security and political situation in the region and women’s health and education – avenues connecting sustainable peace in the region. The second day continued with panel discussions on peace talks post US/NATO exit and the role of Taliban affecting women in the region and the role of women in cultural exchange and media for peace in the region.
Speakers included academics, experts, refugees, psychologists, civil society representatives and members of the Pakistan National Assembly. Among the speakers were three speakers from Afghanistan and three Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. The organizers also made sure to have the participation of Afghan refugee students at the event as well.
The speakers and opportunities to interact led to significant engagement from the students in attendance. The audience also had many questions and comments after the panel presentations. University representatives expressed honor to gold the festival, the first such event of this kind the university had ever hosted. It also represented the first time the forum for dignity initiatives (fdi) partnered with a public university in Pakistan. fdi is a research and advocacy forum established in 2013 working for sexual and gender minorities in Pakistan.
In addition, the three Afghan guests also had an opportunity to speak with one of the Pakistani National Assembly members in a small group setting at the end of the event. They were able to discuss issues affecting both sides.
Another event that was occurring simultaneously to the panel discussions was an activity held with the arts students of the university called Paint Your Peaceful Region. Students from the arts department were asked to paint their visions of peace for the region and the paintings were presented at the closing ceremony. A total of ten paintings were drawn and the paintings were very well received by participants and speakers.
Overall the event was a great success with dynamic speakers, engaged audience members and committed partners.