LAHORE: Women are not only one of the key drivers of change of mindsets but also act as agents of conflict prevention and peacemaking as well as reconcilers in peace-building efforts in a particular society, according to speakers at a one-day workshop held here at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). The event titled ‘Role of Women in Promoting Peace in a Diverse Society’ was hosted by FemSoc and Hum AaHang in collaboration with the Campus Climate Unit of the Dean of Student Affairs Office. Campus Climate Manager Hiba Zakai delivered the welcome address, while Punjab Minister for Health Dr Yasmeen Rashid, MNA Romina Khurshid Alam, former MNA Dr Samia Raheel Qazi, Balochistan Assembly former speaker Rahila Durrani, Okara Deputy Commissioner Maryam Khan, Islamic Research Institute (IRI) Director General Dr Zia ul Haq, Hum AaHang President Fatima Mohsin Naqvi, FemSoc President Nawal Zahra, psychologist Dr Fia Paracha and University of Lahore Dean Dr Rabia spoke on the occasion. In their speeches, the speakers said the role and contribution of women to the culture of peace is not only important because they represent almost half of the global population but also because they are one of the key drivers of change of mindsets and the cultures. “Women and their empowerment is crucial to advancing the culture of peace in all its vectors – education, sustainable economic and social development, human rights and equality, democratic participation, tolerance and understanding – at all levels in the family, community, country, region and globally,” they said. “There is no question that culture of peace requires the participation of women, especially young women. So, their empowerment is vital to ensure that at least half of the humanity is liberated from violence and discrimination, has the power of decision-making, and has the economic muscle to nurture a culture of peace and rollback the tides of extremism and terrorism,” the speakers said, and called for improving the access to education of girls, providing a secure environment for them to learn, breaking down gender stereotypes in school curricula, advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity, and ultimately spreading a culture of gender equality which will lead to a culture of peace in the society. Punjab Minister for Health Dr Yasmeen Rashid spoke about the impacts of hormonal changes on behaviour especially in women, while former MNA Dr Samia Raheel Qazi threw light on the role of women in promoting peace in the light of Holy Quran and Sunnah. In their speeches, MNA Romina Khurshid Alam and IRI Director General Dr Zia ul Haq introduced the ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan’ and ‘Dukhtran-e-Pakistan’ initiatives of the government of Pakistan launched with an aim to promote the narrative of peace in the country and defeat the forces of extremism and terrorism through unity, brotherhood, tolerance and an inclusive approach. University of Lahore Dean Dr Rabia discussed the role of women in promoting peace by countering social and cultural taboos, and Balochistan Assembly former speaker Rahila Durrani laid emphasis on the responsibility of the parliament to engage different segments of society, especially women, to promote peace and stability in the country. At a separate workshop held at the University of the Punjab, the speakers stressed the need for adopting an inclusive approach to negate the narratives of extremism, hate and terrorism and promote peace, harmony and respect for others in the society. The training workshop organized by the Department of Islamic Studies was attended by a large number of students, faculty, ulema and civil society members. Addressing the participants, the speakers stressed that empowerment as well as promotion of social, economic and political inclusion of all irrespective of their age, sex, race, ethnicity, origin, religion and economic status was vital for reconstruction of an inclusive Islamic society in Pakistan. They said the narratives of extremism, hate and terrorism can’t be defeated nor can peace and stability be promoted without adhering to an inclusive approach, for which the Paigham-e-Pakistan initiative of the government of Pakistan can prove to be a leading light and the way forward. Published in Daily Times, November 30th 2018.