Promoting Peace and Security in Support of Children and Youth in India
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 31