Imagining a vision of the future: Cambodia and Kashmir
- Ayesha Saeed participated in a study visit with a group of 20 others from either side of the line of control in Kashmir
My visit to Cambodia has more than lived up to expectations. It was designed to be a comparative learning experience, where women from the wider region of Kashmir could study the transition that Cambodian society has made from war to peace.
Listening to life stories
Not only did we get a deep immersion into history of conflict in Cambodia, but we listened to and learned from the transformational life stories of women peacebuilders.
These stories demonstrated the strength of the human spirit as well as the particular mechanisms through which women build peace in their communities.
This experience then served as the perfect vantage point, from where we could reflect back on the experience of conflict in Kashmir and explore paths for the future.
The journey of understanding
One of the most interesting aspects that we explored on this trip was the existence of multiple understandings of the history of a conflict and the variety of mechanisms used by communities to reconcile with those understandings.
Exposure to this Cambodian experience also enabled us to explore the wide range of opinions and perspectives on the Kashmir conflict. This experience also provided an excellent opportunity to study the approaches used by women peacebuilders in Cambodia.
I believe that we will have a lot to learn from that as we think about the future of our work in Kashmir.
Learning to adapt
At the start of our time in Cambodia, we carried out a conflict analysis exercise on the Kashmir conflict. This exercise resulted in a contested and somewhat heated discussion on historical facts – at times, it appeared to reinforce traditional narratives and positions on this conflict.
We repeated the same exercise a few days later, after our detailed exposure to story of conflict and peace in Cambodia.
This time however, the conflict analysis exercise produced discussions which moved away from the narratives of the past to visions of the future, a more accommodating attitude towards alternative opinions and a stronger belief in the capacity of local individuals to start meaningful processes of change.
The distance we had travelled in our thinking was very much evident.
Ayesha Saeed shared these reflections on her return from a group visit to Cambodia in March 2012, facilitated by Conciliation Resources and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
Ayesha teaches at the NUST Business School, Islamabad and has been associated with Conciliation Resources’ Kashmir programme since 2009. She holds a MA degree in Peace Studies from University of Notre Dame. Her area of specialisation is conflict transformation and strategic peacebuilding.
Interested in other perspectives on the study visit?
- Read Ezabir Ali's Lessons of peace and reconciliation