“Together, women of the third world, the first world, the middle world, this one globe, have to be united and work together to bring the shift and bring the end to sexual violence against women.”
Meet BINALAKSHMI NEPRAM.
Bina is a disarmament activist-writer from the Manipur state in Northeast India, on the Burma border. Her work is significant in highlighting the link between rising militarization and the increase on violence against women—particularly sexual violence. She is devoted to tackling small arms proliferation and empowering women survivors of violence to rebuild their lives.
Bina grew up in Northeast India—an area that has endured ethnic-based armed conflicts since the late 1940s—in what she describes as ‘the shadow of the gun.’ Growing up in the region, Bina thought conflict was ‘natural.’ It was only as adult studying in the capital that she the she came to question that assumption. Bina’s activism is motivated by “a need to understand how weapons have controlled our lives on the Indo-Burma border”.
Bina began her activism in research and mapping the proliferation of weapons and insurgent groups doing narco-trafficking on the border. She saw how women in conflict suffered the most, even when not directly targeted by the violence. Bina decided to convert her research into activism by working directly with women.
In 2007, Bina launched the Manipuri Women Gun Survivor Network (MWGS) to help thousands of women who are affected by gun violence in Manipur. The Network assists women in launching small-scale entrepreneurial work and is working towards the goal of building sustainable livelihoods for gun-affected women. Women in Manipur must not only endure daily violence in a conflict zone, but also the hardships of poverty. Thus, says Bina, it is imperative to empower women survivors with a livelihood that sustains them economically.
Bina has repeatedly dedicated her activism, writing, and awards to the hundreds of women survivors of gun violence in Manipur. Above all, she pleads for the unity of efforts to bring justice to the world’s forgotten areas: “There has to be a collective, concerted effort at the local/national and international level, where men from New York join hands with women in Bangladesh and parts of the South Asia and the rest of the world to be able to say no to violence against women, especially sexual violence.”
Bina has vowed that the journey for a much-needed women-led initiative for peace in Northeast India has just begun. For the rest of us, solidarity with that journey must start with supporting the work of Bina and other people in Manipur and Northeast India towards reducing violence and bringing lasting peace.
Learn about The Control Arms Foundation Of India
Learn about Manipur Women Gun Survivors
Follow Binalakshmi Nepram on Twitter: @BinaNepram