“Since November 2007, we have set up six new Samanbals (Samanbal is a Kashmiri word, meaning ‘a meeting place’). Our vision is to create safe and secure spaces for women to come together, share, articulate and express themselves and make the shift from victims to change-makers.
These new Samanbals are still in their initial phase of formation but we are really excited by how diverse they are; we have widows in Dardpora, teachers in Badgam, young women in Bijbehar, internally displaced women in Purkha and Muthee, and small scale traders in Leh. Within each Samanbal the women choose an activity to pursue together, this tends to be income generating due to the high poverty levels in the region. They also plan and implement an advocacy strategy for creating peace in their communities.
In Purkhoo migrant camp twenty women, displaced from different villages in the valley, have come together to form a Samanbal. Camp life is dominated by hate, revenge and male politics. The Samanbal has given these women a secure space in which to share experiences, reflect and listen to one another.
The women are sharing skills in knitting, cutting, drafting, sewing and gabbah embroidery. Their aim is to perfect the art of knitting and gabbah so they can start selling their products and become financially independent. The basic principle of each Samanbal is to share information/experience, start the healing process and build financial independence. The women are then empowered to start tackling the big issues affecting the region and the broader conflict in Kashmir.
In the first three months of this Samanbal, twenty health workers were trained in counselling and trauma healing. The workers were selected from five villages of the district and will cater to the needs of their respective communities and also pass on counselling training. The final aim is to have a cadre of ‘barefoot’ counsellors to reach out to a maximum number of people throughout the district.”