By Preeti Mangala Shekar
Usually quiet on weekends, the Global Fund office was bustling last Saturday when we held a panel discussion on the India-Pakistan, “Indo-Pak,” peace processes. Nearly 50 people from throughout the bay area attended on the 64th anniversary of Pakistan and India’s independence from British rule.
The illustrious panel included Lalita and Admiral Ramdas from India, and Nosheen Ali and Samar Minallah from Pakistan. The program was co-facilitated by Global Fund’s Anasuya Sengupta and Anu Mandavalli, an activist from Friends of South Asia, a bay area based South Asian activist collective.
Samar Minallah, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, shared how media has been a key tool to build alliances between Indian and Pakistani audiences. Lalita Ramdas, a renowned peace activist from India, spoke about her experiences working with school children on both sides of the border and how women’s call for peace can lead the way for a different reality.
Nosheen Ali, a visiting scholar at Stanford, pointed out how despite the devastating floods that has affected over 20 million people’s lives, both governments continue to prioritize defense. Former head of the Indian Navy, Admiral Ramdas, highlighted the staggering amounts both countries spend on defense, which is simply unsustainable given the extreme levels of poverty and deprivation in both countries.
The panel also discussed the grim situation in Pakistan in the aftermath of the floods and poorly coordinated relief efforts. We encouraged the audience to give to the Crisis Fund for Pakistan the Global Fund established to leverage more resources for women’s groups on the ground coordinating critical relief efforts.
In the robust discussion that followed, many audience members strongly supported the need for people-to-people dialogues across borders as the most powerful and peaceful way to reject the state-sponsored rhetoric that justify spending disproportionate resources on defense.
Organizing the event made me realize why spaces and organizations enabled by the Global Fund are truly valuable – to not just support women’s groups working on a range of issues including peace in countries like India and Pakistan, but also to highlight the futility of militarized boundaries.
GFW has supported groups in both India and Pakistan with grants totaling over $5 million to date.