A Consultative Workshop on Mainstreaming Rights of Widows and Single Women in Public Policy was organised and hosted in Islamabad by Aurat Foundation Pakistan on 23-24 May 2012. Aurat Foundation is a member of the South Asian Network for Widows’ Empowerment in Development (SANWED). Born out of concern for the plight of widows in South Asia, SANWED was established in 2003 and is based in Kathmandu. Its vision is a world in which all widows enjoy their full human rights and live with dignity. It owes much of its recognition to the efforts of Lily Thapa, founder of Women for Human Rights (WHR) in Nepal and the determination of Margaret Owen, Director of Widows for Peace Through Democracy (WPD) who is SANWED’s international focal person.
I attended SANWED’s meetings on behalf of Aurat Foundation in Chennai in 2005, Kathmandu in 2010 and the conference launching International Widows’ Day on 23 June 2006, with Cherie Blair in the chair, in London. For different reasons and to different degrees, widows are marginalised in South Asian societies. In Hindu communities, they suffer from the worst forms of discrimination, which led Lily Thapa to found SANWED, after she lost her husband many years ago. Continue reading
The lessons from Auschwitz must be understood from a radically anti-nationalistic, anti-racialist and anti-ethnocentric perspective.
For a person of Jewish descent, there are two ways of drawing lessons from the Nazi genocide of the European Jews: one leads to saying “Never again to us, the Jews”; the other “Never again” tout court.
The former conclusion stems from a narrow ethnic outlook, reversing the Nazi perspective by taking the side of “the Jews” against the rest of the world. In both cases, “the Jews” are singled out as a particular group of people with extraordinary features: whereas the Nazis saw them as the embodiment of evil to the point of trying to annihilate them, the holders of the Jewish ethnocentric perspective believe that the defence of “Jewish” interests – which like all brands of collective interest, whether national or class or whatever, is a hotly disputed notion, with rare occasional unanimity on what it could mean – is a value superseding all others. In the name of this defence, they end up denying the humanity of the victims of Israel, the purported “State of the Jews”, just as most oppressors throughout history have denied their victims’ humanity.
The latter conclusion – “Never again” tout court – is the only true repudiation of the Nazi Weltanschauung; not its symmetric reversal, but a radical rejection of all its underlying assumptions. Continue reading