By Preeti Mangala Shekar
The Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network is based in the north-east Indian state of Manipur (bordering Burma) and empowers Manipuri women survivors of armed violence, and also works to eventually end the small arms trade in northeast India.
Northeast India has experienced ethnic armed conflicts for over 70 years now. Today, the state of Manipur has more than 32 different ethnic groups, 24+ armed rebel groups, dozens of Indian army battalions, and several units of Indian paramilitary forces stationed along the Indo-Burma border. Amid the entrenched military violence, our grantee, the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, empowers Manipuri women survivors of armed violence to thwart growth of the small arms trade. Manipur Women was founded in 2004 by noted feminist activist Binalakshmi Nepram.
The group researches and documents the impact of the gun crisis on women and also supports Manipuri women survivors of gun violence to become economically independent; and brings them forward to play a crucial role in small arms policy. It is the first initiative of its kind in India, and in Asia.
Research by the group illustrates the ways women are disproportionately affected by gun violence:
- As targets of armed groups and the military
- When male family members are killed or injured, women must flee and/or become the sole economic support for their families
- Nearly 60 percent of small arms are in the hands of private individuals
- Majority of those who make, sell, buy, and misuse arms are men
Thanks to the group, 40 women survivors of gun violence are now economically independent and an inspiration to women-led household disarmament campaigns.
In addition, the network actively lobbies and educates government, civil society, and international agencies about this specific form of violence against women. In the 52nd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women held in 2008, Binalakshmi Nepram addressed the UN and screened the group’s film, “The Story of Manipur Women Gun Survivors.” Next year, Manipur Women plans to conduct mapping of areas affected by armed violence in India’s northeast.
Most recently, Nepram received CNN-Indian Broadcasting Network’s Real Heroes Award for 2011 in the women’s welfare category. This award reflects her work to empower hundreds of Manipur women survivors of gun violence. Nepram was also recognized for her disarmament work when she was given the Sean MacBride Peace Prize in 2010.