The Role of Women in Modern Conflicts by Avani Kabra (A’23)

by tuftsigl
Aug 06

This summer, I have had the pleasure of working with four other Tufts’ students on a project called A Woman’s War with Elizabeth (Biz) Herman, an IGL alumna and a PhD candidate at the University of California Berkeley.

This project documents the varied experiences of women in modern wars, focusing on women in Vietnam, Bosnia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Northern Ireland, and the United States. I was initially drawn to this project for its emphasis on understanding war through a gendered lens. History is often demarcated based on conflicts that have led to the rise and decline of different empires and civilizations. The narratives of these conflicts have historically excluded the direct voices of women, while giving them a one-dimensional archetype as a ‘victim’ of war. I am so excited to contribute to a project that provides this necessary account of the various roles, contributions, and experiences that women have during war.

For me, the most interesting part of working on this project has been the diverse set of skills and experiences I have gained. Each week, the six of us meet to discuss updates and receive training in all aspects of the research project, including movie editing and interviewing. Through this process, I have been able to research countries, such as Egypt and Northern Ireland, to understand how women have contributed to conflicts and what histories are missing. I have transcribed interviews from Bangladeshi women about their experiences in the 1971 Liberation War. I have edited raw footage of Egyptian women speaking directly about their experiences during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. I love that I am constantly learning, and, consequently, I am always challenging my assumptions on what I thought I knew.

Through researching, transcribing, and editing, I have gained an insight into the many ways women have been fighters, survivors, and most importantly, leaders, of revolutions and wars. While historical narratives have often led us to believe that women are simply ‘victims’ of wars, women are actually strong, multi-facilitated, and intelligent fighters, who have been the backbone of many victories without the praise or appreciation they deserve. This project recognizes and highlights the diverse ways women have advanced their nationalist agendas while also fighting for their own rights.

I am so grateful to Biz for providing the opportunity to work on this project and to the other interns- Carlos, Riya, Mahika, and Maddie- who are all so talented and hardworking. I look forward to continuing this work throughout the summer, and I cannot wait until the final project is ready!

Alumna Elizabeth Herman provided this remote internship