Biographies: Women and Leadership: Voices for Security and Development Forum
Publish date: 18 Nov 02
Dr. Paula Banerjee (India)
Paula Banerjee specialises in diplomatic history and has worked on American foreign policy in South Asia at the University of Cincinnati where she was the recipient of the prestigious Taft Fellowship. Her book entitled When Ambitions Clash: Indo-US relations from 1947 to 1974 is forthcoming. She has been working on themes related to borders in South Asia and has published extensively in journals such as International Studies and Canadian Women’s Studies on issues such as histories of borders and women in conflict situations. She has also worked extensively on women’s interventions for peace in South Asia both as a researcher and an activist. She has co-authored a book on Women in Society and Politics of France. Paula received the Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP) Fellow of Peace Award in 2001-2002 for her work on women in grass-root peacemaking in South Asia. She is the recipient of a number of international and national awards and grants. She recently coordinated a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees project on Practices of Refugee Rehabilitation and Care in India. Currently she is teaching at the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Calcutta. She is also a member of Calcutta Research Group, a body of young and socially committed researchers.
Ms. Kabita Chakma (Bangladesh)
Kabita Chakma comes from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. Since 1990, she has been working for the human rights of the indigenous Jummas in this region.
From 1990 to 1993, as an international student at the University of Sydney, she worked as the General Secretary of the International Students’ Association for the Chittagong Hill Tracts. She presented the situation of Jumma indigenous women in the First Asian Indigenous Women’s Conference in the Philippines in January 1993. She is a founding member of the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN). From mid 1993 to 1995, she worked in organising the Hill Women’s Federation in Bangladesh. During this period she had the opportunity to work in different parts of the CHT and in Dhaka.
In 1994-1995 she worked as an executive and founding member of the Bangladesh Indigenous and Hill Peoples Association for Advancement (BIHPAA), a research-based organization, in Dhaka. In 1995 she was instrumental in organising the first national conference on the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh with the National Committee on the Protection of Human Rights in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Since becoming an Australian resident in 1995, she formed the Jumma Peoples Network of the Asia Pacific and has been researching issues relating to the CHT and publishing in academic journals. Formally trained as an architect she is now studying for a PhD on domestic Chakma architecture at the University of Sydney. She is also a proud mother of two beautiful children.
Ms. Selvadharshini Thevanesan Croos (Sri Lanka)
Selvadharshini Thevanesan Croos (Dharshini) recently began as a field research officer with the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development (CORDAID), Sri Lanka. She has spent the past year intensively visiting over 100 communities in Northern Sri Lanka listening to the concerns of community-level groups. These groups felt repressed and unable to speak publicly. In many cases, groups of village women approached her quietly and in confidence to tell their stories. Ms. Croos has been collecting information and facilitating meetings with groups from diverse backgrounds to decide on common actions to resolve or improve dialogue on conflicts
As a member of CORDAID, Mrs. Croos has been developing a network of contacts with women’s groups in Sri Lanka, both formal and informal, to ensure the full and equal participation of women in community-level peacebuilding. More recently, Dharshini is responsible for drawing together the many threads to build confidence and trust across the conflict divide, and for ensuring that the full and equal participation of women in community-level peacebuilding becomes an attainable reality. Mrs. Croos works and lives in Mannar, Sri Lanka.
Ms. Shobha Gautam (Nepal)
As a journalist with 18 years experience, and a women’s activist, Shobha Gautam has recently worked the South Asian Women’s Institute for Peace Studies and coordinated the production of an in-depth report on ‘Children and Conflict in Nepal’ for Save the Children Norway, in October 2002 and for the Nepal consultation meeting with International Alert on “UN Security Council Resolution 1325: Women, Peace and Security in Nepal” in January 2002.
Shobha has conducted many field study visits to the Maoist-affected districts of Rolkum, Rolpa, Dang, Jajarkot, Gorkha, Kailali, and Shurkit to assess the situation facing women and children. She was also a member of consultancy teams working on “Development and Conflict” for DFID Nepal in July 2002 and “The assessment of the conflict situation in Nepal” for Oxfam in May and June 2002.
In 2001 Shobha was the Organiser and Coordinator of three-month research programme on women’s political participation in politics, culminating in the signing by all major political parties of the Declaration on Enhancing Leadership of Women in Major Political Parties.
Shobha is also the author of Women and Children in the Periphery of People’s War, published in 2001 called Study of Women Living in Conflict Situation in South Asia (Nepal Chapter), for South Asian Forum for Human Rights, 1999. Shobha lives and works in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Ms. Ayesha Haroon (Pakistan)
Ayesha Haroon, from Lahore, Pakistan, has a Masters Degree in English literature and journalism. She is currently Assistant Editor of The Nation, a prominent Pakistani daily. Previously, Ayesha did investigative reporting for The Nation on a wide range of issues including politics, economics, the social sector, women’s issues, and the environment. She has also worked as a stringer for Reuters, a freelancer for the BBC and Special Correspondent for the Frontier Post, a Pakistani journal.
Ms. Rita Manchanda (India)
Rita Manchanda is the Programme Executive of South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR), Kathmandu, and coordinator of its Women and Peace and Media and Conflict programs. Academically, she trained in International Relations at the Graduate School for International Studies, University of Geneva and she is a well known journalist and writer on South Asian security and human rights issues. She is a peace and human rights activist and local partner (for India-Pakistan) of ‘Women Waging Peace’ network, a project of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a founding member of the Pakistan India Forum for Peace and Democracy.
Currently Ms. Manchanda is researching feminizing security and developing, a methodology for gendered mapping by local women activists of their experiences and perspectives on conflict situations. It is a means of reclaiming an alternative cartographic narrative and a tool for enabling women to communicate with national and international agencies. SAFHR’s publication “Women Making Peace” (2002) is based on the Kathmandu experiment in gendered mapping. She is also collaboratively developing a model for more sensitive reporting of conflicts in the region and exploring a ‘peace journalism’ way of reporting from inside the mass media.
Ms. Rita Thapa (Nepal)
Rita has over twenty years experience as a feminist educator and community activist, initiating and supporting institutions for women’s empowerment and for peace in Nepal and Asia as well as internationally.
Ms. Thapa is she recognized for her ground breaking work in founding Tewa, The Nepal Women’s Fund, and is currently involved in founding “Nagarik Aawaz,” an initiative for conflict transformation and peace-building in Nepal. In recognition of this exceptional “innovative contribution to the public good” Rita has received the rare honour of being named an Ashoka Fellow.
She is known and appreciated around the world as an inspiring teacher/resource person on feminist leadership and development and has extensive experience in building links among community, non-governmental, governmental, and academic institutions. She has served on the International Committee of the Regional Center for Strategic Studies, based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is a past Board Member and Chair of the Global Fund for Women, and has just been invited to serve on the International Board of the Urgent Action Fund. She is currently the “2002 – Dame Nita Barrow Distinguished Visitor at the University of Toronto” Ms. Thapa is based in and works from Nepal.