“All conflicts are identity conflicts…” — John Paul Lederach, Conflict Transformation Class, 2005
Growing up in Australia, identity was always a perplexing matter for me. My parents had emigrated from Hong Kong soon after the formal abolition of the White Australia Policy under the Whitlam Labor Government. As the only Chinese kid at school, my early school memories included being teased for being ‘Ching Chong’ and outwardly funny comments about small eyes. Unbeknownst to my parents, I secretly wished for blond hair and blue eyes to fit in like everyone else.
Ironically, upon graduation and relocating to Asia for work, the reverse happened when locals kept asking why I looked like everyone else but spoke like a foreigner. Quickly I learnt to disguise my identity by adopting colloquial slang. Over the process of time, new social identity demarcations adopted from work and family replaced identity conflicts of the past. Today, just as my hometown Australia has become a welcoming cultural melting pot, no longer do I view differing aspects of identity as being mutually exclusive or incompatible, but as a celebration of diversity.
It came as a surprise therefore, when these memories resurfaced during our recent class on Identity and Storytelling. Our professor Dr Dicky Sofjan, had asked a simple yet provocative question, ‘When you wake up in the morning, who do you see when you look in the mirror?’ We were to answer in priority of gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, social class etc. The resulting range of responses led me to a deeper opportunity of thought not only as to who we represented to others and self, but also whether and how it had influenced our chosen areas of work. What stories of the past still influence our present identity?
Upon reflection, I concluded that identity is an ongoing dynamic process, not static nor fixed, but represented by different spectacle frames through which we perceive the world. Whilst most have come to terms with our current frame of identity, the reality is that our past frames still influence our views of the world, how we project ourselves, and how we react to others. This further affects how we see and judge ourselves and others within the collective.
Like snapshots of memories, these frames do not simply vanish over time but become filters that act to crop away, dim, tint, or highlight information presented before us according to preselected lenses. Problems arise when biasedness contributes to negative judgement of situations causing us to choose one course of action over another. Unless we can objectively reframe and resolve unmet basic needs such as past rejection and fear causing such slants, our vision will be forever distorted, which affects not only ourselves, but also those we lead, and those causes we champion.
Our effectiveness as peacemakers relies on the neutrality of the frames that we put on. How well we understand our own identity determines whether we perceive others either to be allies to build bridges, or opponents to be conquered. Constructive win-win resolution requires deeper understanding of underlying needs that drive behaviours and identities of others and self. Only by allowing ourselves to explore alternative points of views outside of what we are accustomed and defined, will we create positive and sustainable peace.
Christina Cheng – Australia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
I want to tell you about an incident that changed my outlook on security programs forever. And, I hope it does the same to you.
After spending four years in the tech world working as a software engineer, I set out on a journey to become a peacebuilder some eight years ago. I was grateful to have found a way into the field I was always passionate about. However, I lacked professional experience or theoretical knowledge to back up that enthusiasm. I went through tons of educational material on countering terrorism to compensate for that gap. I devoured several theories on why individuals get radicalized. I learned about religious, socio-economic, financial, and many other broad reasons.
At that period, I was presented with an opportunity to speak to some of the prisoners in a country whose name I cannot tell you. But it was a prison where prisoners from different countries were brought in for its de-radicalization / disengagement program. The opportunity to speak with the prisoners came with a non-disclosure agreement covering the prison name and the country in public records.
At 10:30 am, I arrived at the prison on a cloudy and incredibly humid day, which did not help me control my already heavy perspiration fuelled by the adrenaline. I was given only 30 minutes to speak with them, of which the first ten minutes were a talk with the religious cleric who was in charge of de-radicalization and the next 20 minutes for the assigned prisoners. Being both excited and nervous about the opportunity, I prepared my questions in advance. Determined not to waste any time, I had a full-proof plan to jump right into tough questions.
The first ten minutes with the religious cleric helped me calm my nerves. The cleric was a good-humored old imam who visited the prison two times a week to teach Quran verses to the inmates. He told me that clerics of other faiths also visited the prison and offer teachings to inmates per their choice of religion.
After the priest, I met a young Afghan man named Ahmed (named changed for respect and security). He must not have been more than 25 years of age. He was in jail for launching a grenade attack on a local police station in Afghanistan.
He was calm and composed. I offered a brief hello and jumped into questions. He said he had been in prison for two years, and his trial is still incomplete. I asked him about his crime, to which he confirmed attacking a police station with a grenade launcher, an attack that killed two police officers and injured five. I inquired who asked him to carry out the attack. He said it was his own decision. I asked if he was religious, and he said yes. I asked if he was inspired to commit the attack based on religious framed terrorist propaganda. He answered a simple no. Even though he hadn’t met them, I asked if he felt any sense of belonging with his brothers after the attack, a reason most quoted in academia as the primary reason given for youth traveling far and joining terrorist organizations. To this question, the expression on his face showed that he had no idea what I was referring to. I asked if he belonged to a group and whether he received any money for his actions. He said that he didn’t know any terrorist groups, never spoken to any members, and never received any money. And now that he is in jail, there’s no one to earn an income at home, and his parents and siblings live a hard life.
This experience was over eight years ago, and I had barely started in the field. If given another chance today, I would ask better questions. Anyway, I was getting nothing out of it, and the time was running out. I closed my notebook, looked at him, and asked- so why did you do it? He told me a story in response, most of which I am paraphrasing here for brevity.
Ahmed and his family – mother, father, two brothers (elder and younger) and one sister lived in rural Afghanistan province. His family owned a small piece of land in the village, which his father had to mortgage to a local police officer one summer after a draught. Despite how much the family tried to pay off the debt, they could not pay for the land over the following three years. The local police officer then, using his power, influence, and intimidation, did not just take over the mortgaged piece of land, but also some other attached land owned by the family. The family begged the police for help, but they received more threats and insults instead of receiving any support. They would speak very aggressively with his parents, and some officers even passed remarks on his sister. It inflamed him, yet he decided to remain silent.
This kept happening to many families. But a few years later, when he heard this was happening to the family of a girl he intended to marry, his threshold was reached. Through his friends, he managed to arrange a grenade launcher and attacked the police station, which housed these corrupt police officers. And now, he has been labeled a terrorist for the entirety of his life.
I did not know what to say after this, but my outlook toward de-radicalization changed from that day forward. I am not condoning Ahmed’s action, what he did was wrong, but his reason did not fit into any of the widely quoted narratives. When we set out on the complex but ambitious mission of peacebuilding, we sometimes fall into the trap of bucketing the reasons why someone conducts a violent crime. I firmly believe that our efforts would be more fruitful if we take a step back and try to listen to individual stories, understand them, and then set out a plan. Small but significant change matters more than enormous efforts with no results.
Neha Vijay – India
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
As a teenager, I would impatiently wait for my father to return home after work – because we did not know where the next bomb would go off. Buses, trains, buildings – nowhere was safe.
For most of my life, I lived in a country that was grappled with war. People lived in fear. Some were affected more than others. Some lost their homes. Some lost their loved ones. Some lost their lives. Some lost everything. And I was among the lucky ones – the least affected.
The war ended in 2010.
But over a decade later, the question still remains – do we really have peace?
I believe there is so much more we must do to heal the wounds of all communities. I may not have all the answers, but my growing passion for contributing to sustainable peace and reconciliation led me to engage with Class 32 as a Rotary Peace Fellow from Sri Lanka.
The Rotary Peace Fellowship has helped me learn more about peace and conflict studies. Twenty of my classmates from 13 countries – over 15 weeks were guided by extremely wonderful and skilled mentors and lecturers who imparted their knowledge to us.
We learned about peace, conflict, and security – how vital it is to create inclusive communities in peace, security, and development building. We learned about conflict prevention and about world leaders and the strategies they used to prevent conflicts – what worked, what failed and that we have a long way to go. We learned about the importance of change leadership in a turbulent world, non-violent movements, human rights and social justice. We learned more about the conflicts we knew and conflicts we did not know about, we discussed how tragic some stories were and how they could have been prevented, and we learned that in war – no one wins.
But this is not even the best part of the programme for me.
The incredible changemakers I met through the class were the highlight of this experience for me.
A group of strangers met virtually and transformed into friends over the weeks. From Africa, Europe to the Middle Ease, Asia, to the Americas – when we shared our stories, we found that, although miles apart – how similar our challenges were. How are relating to each other’s experiences. From peace practitioners to humanitarian workers to teachers and law enforcement officers – I was truly amazed by the difference we all are making in our communities and the world.
I was inspired by the stories shared by my peers to protect children, empower youth and women, be inclusive of the marginalized, to promote social cohesion among different nationalities and religions. Coming from different countries, with different experiences, we all had one common goal – a passion – to make the world a better place.
In a world where sometimes all hope seems lost, this experience has given me hope – hope that there are people out there filled with empathy and kindness who will do whatever they can within and beyond their power to uplift vulnerable communities and be catalysts for peace and development. They go the extra mile with the hope that in the years to come, no child will has to worry about losing their parent or a parent losing their child to a bloody war. A world where we all live in a society of nonviolence, where equality prevails, and we only find respect and strength in our diversity. And, we are united by our passions and dreams of a peaceful and just world.
Dishnika Perera – Sri Lanka
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
Since prehistoric times, humans have been impacting the environment. Whether it’s hunting for natural resources of food and water, shelter, exploring new territories, exploiting, displacing, and replacing other life forms (humans, animals, and plants). Contemporaneous advancement has seen humans creating boundaries and destroying nature through urbanization and industrialization.
The growth and expansion of the human population and the demand for essential lifesaving sustenance, modern amenities, and other human activities have placed an additional burden on the environment—a shift in temperature and weather patterns. Climate change has generated extreme temperatures, drought, fires, rising sea levels, and floods leading to habitat destruction. In some cases, complete extinction, pollution, deforestation, and displacement have resulted in a compromised and shrunken ecosystem.
The events of land degradation and drought produced by the change in climate, increased industrialization, the exploitation of humans by humans, depleting natural resources, and violent conflicts all impact infrastructure and livelihood, both directly and indirectly. When these changes happen, there is an increase in the movement and or displacement of the human population. Countries and communities continued grievance and conflict over resources, without peaceful resolution, also have a devastating effect on the people and the movement of people.
Forced migration and displacement are environmental, social, and political problems, whether the migration results from extreme weather conditions, people fleeing armed conflicts, suffering from the loss of livelihood, or urbanization.
Naturally, unplanned massive migrations don’t have the resources, proper infrastructure planning, the management, strategies, or a clear guideline to mitigate the far-reaching effect of further environmental damage. There may also be weak, divisive community political systems and a policy breakdown to manage immediate or sudden changes.
Caring for the community and the environment is of equal importance. As peace fellows, we are now aware of the interconnectedness of the environment, natural resources, and forced migration. We are also aware that all life forms are essential and need to be sustained for the continuity and well-being of planet earth.
We cannot deny knowledge of the complexity and fragility of the social, political, or environmental influences and processes that shape each community. However, we now have the tools and opportunity to reshape decision-making through our new understanding of environmental security and sustaining peace. We can now harmonize the relationship with the local community and government to build resilience, resulting from and or preventing the impact of armed conflict and or abuse of the natural environment and the deliberating challenges posed to the community. We have the opportunity to improve the well-being of humankind on the whole.
Oberlene Smith-Whyte – Jamaica
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
In Ethiopia, many agriculture dependent families have a long history of facing the effects of extreme weather events and unpredictable rainfall variations. Disasters disproportionately affect family members including children in the crisis period and afterwards. Regular intervention of humanitarian food aid has offset various crisis levels in assisting vulnerable families with provision of basic survival in-kinds. While this saved lives, it often failed to protect livelihoods, and this became a growing concern. The impact of climate change has attracted a growing number of studies and policy debates to shape the emergency food aid model towards more productive approach of providing conditional and predictable assistance through food security program.
Care givers are still active participants in studies related to impacts of climate change and periodic assessments to inform the safety net provisions. Engaging a diverse web of stakeholders and implementers is important to align programs with its intended purpose. However, Ethiopian children are not often part of consultation regarding climate change or crisis response, at family or community level. While children are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, they are not passive victims.
Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) grants a child who is capable of forming a view the right to express that view freely in all matters affecting him or her; and these views should be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. Children growing in CFI families have collective knowledge about many things like what capacities and vulnerabilities exist in their family and the community they live in. I would like to argue that identifying children’s feelings and reactions is not straightforward because caretakers’ decisions often play a key role in informing program designs. The perspectives of children within the field of climate change or its effect on food security have remained unexplored and is vital to better inform how we advance our programming. It is therefore important to work with children (who belong to vulnerable families) to understand children’s experiences and feelings about their own insecurities. Article 12 applies at all times, for example around family decisions and/or as related to a child’s food insecure life.
I would also like to highlight the intersection of children’s other rights, like the right to access information (Article 13), parental responsibilities (Article 18) and the right to life, survival and development (Article 6). Importantly, vital consideration of effective communication among children, parents, communities or local government officials can inform research with inclusive evidence while enabling children (as knowledge holders) to share information and engage them in program designs, implementation, and follow-up. Participation enables children with the opportunity to express their views, engage and influence research processes, in any matter concerning them directly or indirectly. For example, in the aftermath of the tsunami response in Asia[M1] , evidence was provided that demonstrated that children’s engagement in the design and delivery of related disaster-risk-response activities enabled them to play an active role in their communities and managed to minimize the negative impact of the disaster for themselves, within their families and communities. Therefore, the development of feasible models that mainstream children’s engagement—from listening and understanding their perspectives and experiences to supporting their engagement—is important to address the changing needs of children impacted by a change climate. This will also promote a reduction of inequalities among children and promote their future resilience to climate change and other disasters.
Beza Teferra – Ethiopia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32
Insightful analysis is essential to any conflict transformation process, from prevention to mediation to reconciliation. A one-size-fits-all approach cannot be applied given, for some examples, root-causes and the interests of stakeholders differ in each conflict context. Effective conflict transformation approaches must be based on the comprehensive use and understanding of peace, conflict and development analysis. Therefore, understanding the tools of peace, conflict and development analysis are essential when designing, implementing, and assessing all peacebuilding projects and programs.
During the 11-year Syrian war to date, thousands of social action programs/projects, and even organizations have emerged to respond to communities’ needs, to prevent, transform and respond to violence across the country. Many approaches were designed without an analysis of the evolving conflict dynamics resulting in potentially impactful social actions diminishing for many reasons, including the exacerbation of conflict, the intervention of other parties, and the imbalance of powers. As in any conflict, peace is not a static condition defined by the absence of war but is instead a dynamic and nuanced structural process required to advance toward more positive peace. The sustainability of any peace intervention is based on how practitioners are able to analyze, understand and maintain transparent and subjective perspectives regarding evolving conflict and development dynamics. And, how practitioners integrate this nuanced approach into their methods to ensure that continuous analysis is conducted to support the innovative and creative orientation for future peace action.
During our week exploring analyses methods, we engaged with our instructor Dr. Bernardo Venturi (Director/Co-Founder, Agency for Peacebuilding (AP); Associate Fellow, International Affairs Institute (IAI), based in Rome) in dynamic discussions on conflict and development analysis and how they could be applied to our SCIs and overall peace and development interventions. Conflict analysis is the systematic study of the context, causes, actors, and dynamics of conflict from a variety of perspectives that helps development, humanitarian and peacebuilding organizations to gain a better understanding of the context within which they are working. Dr. Venturi noted the importance of distinguishing between conflict and development analysis and context analysis where context analysis refers to the broader situation in conflict-affected areas. Dr. Venturi also emphasized the necessity to consider conflict and development analysis as an integrated, ongoing and frequently up-dated process that gathers information from a full range of stakeholders to nurture practitioners, activists, and peacebuilders work. We had the opportunity to analyze our different conflict and development dynamics through different essential analysis tools refined to our SCIs. Moreover, we had the chance to familiarize ourselves with other tools and methods utilized by international agencies and organizations, such as the World Bank, USAID, Swiss Peace, etc. We reflected on the theoretical and practical skills related to the analysis of global conflict, peace and development dynamics while mainstreaming youth and gender inclusion in peace, security, conflict and development.
Lama Drebati – Syria
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
We are in the 13th week of the Rotary Peace Fellowship (Class 32) and just had a brilliant session lead by Dr. Jessica Senehi on Storytelling: Coexistence, Social Cohesion, Reconciliation and Healing. The professor helped us step back and think about storytelling in various contexts but starting with us.
Stories. There are so many of them around us. Every day. Every interaction is either a story or a plot for a bigger one and several small ones. We reflected and shared one such personal story that made us think about why we do what we do. Too often, in our hyper busy lives in the peace, development and social work sector, we may not be reflecting on the powerful, inspirational and yet immensely human stories we come across, most of which help us keep going.
With the group of fellows, I shared one story project: People’s Archive of Rural India, called PARI in short. Interestingly, PARI also means “Angel” or “Fairy” in the Hindi language. This archive is an ongoing attempt to record and share the everyday lives of rural Indians in photos, videos, audio clips and text. In their own words “PARI is a living, breathing journal and an archive aimed at recording people’s lives. Many worlds, one website. More voices and distinct languages. It means an undertaking unprecedented in scale and scope, utilising a myriad of forms of media in audio, visual and text platforms. One where the stories, the work, the activity, the histories are narrated, as far as possible, as far as we can manage, by rural Indians themselves. By tea-pickers amidst the fields. By fishermen out at sea. By women paddy transplanters singing at work, or by traditional storytellers. By Khalasi men using centuries-old methods to launch heavy ships to sea without forklifts and cranes. In short, by everyday people talking about themselves, their labour and their lives – talking to us about a world we mostly fail to see.”
I am talking about rural India, specifically in the context of non-violent movements and storytelling, because of the rich history of India’s struggle for independence from the colonial rulers. Growing up in India, we are told so many stories of the movement for Indian independence, steered by the non-violent principle of Mahatma Gandhi, called Satyagraha. Even in modern India, Satyagraha is a powerful tool against oppression and tyranny. Over the last few years, India has experienced inspiring, peaceful, non-violent protests, such as the Farmers’ protests and Shaheen Bag women’s protests against the Citizenship Act (CAA-NRC) in the national capital region.
Similarly, there has been a rich history of non-violent movements in India that have fought for human rights, environmental rights and the mitigation of climate change through the power of storytelling, puppets and theatre. The origins of green activism in India goes back to Gandhian ethics and social philosophy. For example, the Chipko Aandolan is one of India’s oldest non-violent, environmental and social movements that initially started to save trees and grew to be much more than that in the years to come. The country is home to several green movements, started by ordinary Indians, many of whom didn’t or don’t have access to social media and the other tools of technology we enjoy now.
For an important example, The Barefoot College in the Tilonia village of India has used giant handmade puppets to spread awareness about various causes in the villages and tribal hamlets for several decades. Even in this digital age where mobile internet is easily available, storytelling in various forms is fundamental to bring social change. And that will remain so, irrespective of technological advances and changes
Srini Swaminathan – India
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
Thinking and working in the peacebuilding field has become more nuanced and complex while every day is full of richness. After ten-weeks engaged in the Rotary Peace Center Fellowship Program with Chulalongkorn University, I have learned there is an important inter-relationship between different areas of thematic work and also sometimes confrontations between them. Based on this growing knowledge, I have several questions I would like to share with all of you.
When speaking about innovations in the peacebuilding field, a great deal of focus seems to be placed on the “technical project” where the focus is placed on efficiency. Therefore, my first question is: Does such a technical approach lose the people centered vision and intended impact? Yes, “peacebuilding must have results,” as detailed by Professor Kai Brand-Jacobsen. From my perspective, with too much of a predominate results oriented focus as driven by requirements from many donors, the “before and after” for me misses the longer-term social process that is required for a people-center vision and nuanced impact.
As a person with a business background, it is easy to understand that peacebuilding projects need to be efficient, with an important focus on innovation and resulting impact. Impact, from my point of view, should always be considered when we talk about peacebuilding projects regardless of the intersectionalities: peace and environment; peace and security; inclusive peacemaking; etc. Further advancing my thinking, when we explored “community peacebuilding”, Professor Zahra Langhi emphasized not looking at peacebuilding as a series of “projects”, because we are working with people. People who are living and suffering from stressful situations, and this goes beyond a “project”. Peacebuilding work is about people foremost, and must always be advanced with a “people-centered” vision, must be inclusive, participatory, and representative, taking into account local contexts, self-organization, etc. Furthermore, from this perspective, any peace engagements will interact with the conflict and such interactions may also have positive and negative impacts.
As a Rotary Peace Fellow with Class 32, I want to highlight our focus on these methods and the challenges we will face as we continue to advance the design and implementation of our Social Change Initiatives (SCIs), any and all peace work that we do now and into the future. From my perspective, a “people-centered” approach is vital to ensuring a vision and impact that is nuanced, respectful and impactful – and ensuring more durable peace. This is even more important now as human relations appears to be becoming more dehumanized, social media environment contributing to further divisions.
Peacebuilding as a field of study and engagement remains young, and growing; we must assume ourselves as part of its development in the near future.
Alba Purroy – Venezuela
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
Pakistani society is comprised of diverse ethnicities, cultures, languages, faiths, interpretations of faiths, and so on. Pakistani society is more diverse than it looks on TV channels or as portrayed in the textbooks of our education system. Usually, we read that there are four provinces and four languages i.e. Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtu, and Balochi in Punjab, Sindh, KPK, and Baluchistan respectively. But the reality is different; there are several prominent and famous cultures and areas like Kashmir, South Punjab, Saraiki Belt, Gilgit & Baltistan Thar Desert, Kohistan, Chitral, and Tribal districts of Pakistan. All of these areas are have changing cultures, languages, castes, faith, etc. There are different religions and faiths including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Atheists, Bahá, Muslims and so many other faiths and sects of all these faiths.
Ignoring or suppressing such realities and dynamics sometimes creates unrest and violence. The citizens of my country, Pakistan, must learn how to accept, tolerate and celebrate the differences rather than reject each other. Therefore, we need a comprehensive plan to educate our children and citizens to support and promote harmony and peaceful coexistence.
It is therefore imperative to first realize and recognize the diverse cultures, languages, ethnicities, religions, faith, and/or different interpretations of our society. Then, we need to take steps at multiple levels for the transformation of these diversities into a strength by owning and respecting the differences within and among our communities. Multidimensional measures are required to transform the practices in religious, social & cultural festivals, education, and politics at multiple levels such as policy, strategy, planning and implementation, and so on.
Islamabad – The Capital of Pakistan
|Pakistani cultures of all provinces, Kashmir and Gilgit|
Diversity, on the one hand, can be challenging. And, on the other hand, diversity is very beneficial for a progressive society and development. As the world is now a global village and almost all major and big cities of the world are comprised of varied colors, castes, creeds, religions, and languages. As there are few employment opportunities in rural areas, these communities and groups usually migrate to the big cities like Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, and Islamabad for better jobs and enterprises. In an urban area, it’s very difficult for people to understand the different opinions, languages, and psychology of diversified people. In such circumstances, conflict may arise around different matters which sometimes leads to violence.
Khyber Pukhtun Khawa- Pakistan Afghanistan border
Kalash- Indo-Aryan – Estimated 2000 years old civilization
Shangrila Hotel Baltistan, near China border (same place two different angles/views)
Other Tourist Areas:
Lake Saif ul Malook Mansehra
- For a society like ours in Pakistan, there is a greater need for peace and dialogue centers in different parts of the country to guide people. There is always a need for an open debate, discussion and dialogue—at the local, regional and national level—on conflicting issues related to the rights and obligations of different segments of our society. Dialogue and negotiations always lead to accommodation and compromise.
- Diversity is the beauty of our society. It can be utilized in the best interest of the country and its people. If we create awareness and educate our citizens about our different cultures, languages, ethnic groups, and minorities, we’ll create social cohesion and peace.
- Besides this, the role and responsibilities of minorities and majority groups in the overall development of the country must be elaborated and encouraged.
- Moreover, the contribution of all must be acknowledged and highlighted. Only then a peaceful co-existence and harmony can be created among all of our diverse groups.
- Developing and underdeveloped countries like ours are always in need of more education and awareness to strengthen our system.
- Peace is important for development and diversity is also needed for progress. A multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary team is always important for a progressive society.
- At least 3.5 million Pakistanis are working in foreign countries. They are a member of the international community, promoting our country while also earning an important income that also contributes to Pakistan. Similarly, millions of other nationality holders are working in Pakistan and living happily here. Sadly, diversity sometimes leads to violent conflict as in the case of religious extremism in some parts of the country.
Diversity is beautiful and we must eat the fruits of diversity and celebrate the opportunity to development of all segments of society together in Pakistan and beyond. Supporting positive peace among our diverse groups, castes and faiths will support progress for the entire society and country. We all can initiate social changes and develop leadership in all fields of life for a peaceful and progressive society. What I learned from the Rotary Peace Fellowship is to include peace studies in all kinds of training and education as a compulsory subject. Peace is important for development and development is important for peace.
Habib Ahmad – Pakistan
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 31Read More
I was born and brought up in a lower-class family in Mumbai, India. Surviving by receiving assistance from our community institutions, this life experience engrained in me the importance of helping others around me while supporting the capacities of organizations in need. Currently, government agencies, corporate and foundation donors are trying to create equal opportunities for the less fortunate. My only persistent question is: “Is this enough? Can we build peace and security by providing trainings, knowledge and skills, through offering rotating loans while providing equal opportunities and employment options?”
As we all know, major issues which impact peace and security are illiteracy and poverty. However, there are many issues apart from creating equal opportunities such as conflicts that arise from gender, age, culture, religion, ego, etc. Some of these issues remain and are carried forward with vengeance from generation to generation. As such, peace projects should be holistic; covering literacy, employment to broader conflict resolution. For one important example, there is sometimes minimal say of women around household decision making in families plagued with illiteracy and poverty. In these situations, transforming the mindset of senior men is sometimes difficult considering they have been engrained with this view of gender engagement since their childhood and onwards.
Children are our future. We have seen umpteen examples of children from humble backgrounds rising to the pinnacle of success and who have become role models. However, in the majority of underdeveloped and developing countries, education delivery is still based on a learning approach in which there is mindless memorization which doesn’t promote any analysis and creativity. This results in weak self-images among children, while not being fully ready to take on the world when out lower schools and universities. I feel mentoring and guiding children at the right age should give them the confidence to take control and be successful in life, irrespective of whether they are coming from within the country, among minorities or otherwise.
For my Social Change Initiative (SCI), I plan to work with 9th grade school children from minority communities. I will design and support young people for at least 1-2 hours in a month by engaging them in topics pertaining to confidence building, goal setting, stress and time management, ethics, identifying and engaging with their particular interests/passions, relationship and collaboration building, along with book reading exercises. My SCI will integrate interesting assignments on a weekly basis during the month, so that they remain on track and come enthusiastically well prepared for the next months’ session. This project is intended to run for one year and we will monitor the same students for one more year to ensure that they are working towards achieving their dreams and goals. The Rotary Peace Fellowship Program at Chulalongkorn University is an excellent opportunity for me to understand and design this project as per the specific needs of all stakeholders, use various tools such as videos, entertainment modules, etc. and keep a long-term goal of writing a curriculum depending upon the learnings and success of this pilot project.
I intend to work with one class of students at a school first. The goal of my SCI is to make a difference in one child’s life at a time. I feel this is similar to that of the small boy who, upon seeing thousands of starfish on the shore after a storm, was committed to throwing one starfish back at time back into the ocean. Thereby, he made a difference in the life of that particular one starfish!!
Azia Fidai – India
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 31Read More