Alison Morse



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Abstract or Description

In the following pages, you will find narrative stories about a Woman PeaceMaker, along with additional information to provide a deep understanding of a contemporary conflict and one person’s journey within it. These complementary components include a brief biography of the peacemaker, a historical summary of the conflict, a timeline integrating political developments in the country with personal history of the peacemaker, and a question-and-answer transcript of select interviews during her time at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

Ashima Kaul is a grassroots worker, journalist, policy analyst and social entrepreneur from India’s Kashmir Valley. Born and raised in Kashmir as part of the ethnic minority community of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, she and her family moved out of the valley when she was 15. A decade later, her extended family that remained behind was forcibly displaced to Hindu- majority areas of the region as violence broke out between Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus.

After later trips to Kashmir on journalistic assignments, Kaul was struck and saddened by what had transpired there since she left and decided to act: “I had to recover the dying, bullet-ridden soul of Kashmir, rebuild broken relationships, break the silence of women, give them a voice and establish new spaces for creation of a spirit of trust, solace and healing.” Her first step was to facilitate a group dialogue with Muslim and Pandit women, leading to the creation of a formal dialogue group, Athwaas, or “handshake.”

In addition to the Kashmir dialogue groups, Athwaas brought together 50 women to advocate for peace from women’s perspectives, in a parallel platform from the official peace process initiated in 2005 that excluded women’s voices.

Kaul later founded the Yakjah Reconciliation and Development Network. Yakjah, which means “being together,” focuses on countering the violence in Kashmir by building relationships between different religious and ethnic groups through dialogue and development projects. The organization has a program on Youth Expression and Leadership, which holds cross-cultural workshops and exchanges across the region to involve young people in peacebuilding and developing their leadership skills. The program has reached over 400 youth so far, and includes a core group of 50 young men and women. As Kaul writes, “The youth form the critical mass. While they do carry the conflict legacy and can be indoctrinated in the name of religion, they also have the potential to lead for change.”

Kaul is part of the Women Waging Peace Network of the Institute for Inclusive Security, and is a local correspondent for Insight on Conflict, a website published by the international NGO Peace Direct.

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peacebuilding, Women PeaceMakers, India, Kashmir


Peace and Conflict Studies

A SLOW BLOOM: The Life and Work of Ashima Kaul of India (Kashmir)