An interview by Farhana Shahnaz
Stories for Peace is a project that aims to promote peace education among adolescents by stories and workshops. Their teams shared their journey so far with us.
How and why was the concept of Stories for Peace conceived and what is the inspiration behind it?
The concept of the project was conceived at the Changemaker Xchange Summit Thailand 2018 as a collaboration project between Rhi Zan from Myanmar, and Mithela Haque from Bangladesh. The main idea came from Rhi who is already actively working with children and publishing storybooks for them in Myanmar. Hearing the idea, Mithela joined her as a co-leader, and Amp Deekong joined as a volunteer from Thailand. Considering the present situation, the project “Stories for Peace” aimed to plant the seeds of peace, tolerance, empathy and conflict resolution skills with peacemaking skills for children aged 11 to 13 years using different tools such as storytelling and other creative and fun activities.
In what ways do you hope to promote peace, tolerance and empathy among children?
We are doing this in two ways;
First by conducting workshops of 2 to 3 days for the children using storytelling tools to teach them about peace and conflict resolution.
Secondly, we involve children as peer educators to spread these skills within their communities. This will help address some of the problems caused by these children in their home country and also provide a perfect way to give them an education.
We use these storytelling techniques to engage with them about topics such as the environment, peace, and diversity. Children are better adjusted if they have the chance to learn. We have made a few significant strides towards promoting peace, tolerance and empathy and hope to achieve more important milestones in the days ahead.
What are the main activities of Stories for Peace and what kinds of events do you hold?
Our main activities include creating a peace education curriculum and providing trainings through workshops of 2 to 3 days long and also short sessions in both Bangladesh and Myanmar for early adolescents.
Why do you think it is important to build a platform that addresses conflict resolution and peacemaking skills?
In recent years, the world has witnessed heartbreaking events of conflicts and violence in different countries. When children grow up in such a world, they grow in misconceptions and traumas and develop a psychology of conflicts and violence towards people around them who are different. Myanmar and Bangladesh are no different. Myanmar has a lot of ethnic conflicts. In Bangladesh, some of the communities are facing communal violence and we have refugee children who witnessed conflicts and violence in Myanmar and are now dealing with traumas. The conflicts and violence in Bangladesh and Myanmar have some similarities and also some differences. And these cycles of violence and conflict are still ongoing. To put an end, we need to work on peacemaking skills and conflict resolution. And there is no better alternative of starting this process than with the children. First because they are the future.
On a broader scale, what do you hope to achieve through your work?
This project aims to help rebuild the communities and give children a space to talk about peace and develop preventative skills like understanding diversities and respecting each other. Part of what our project hopes to do is to give children spaces to learn about who they are, develop self-worth and a strong value system within a diverse environment. They will need these skills to live with people from different cultures. We also want them to learn how to prevent conflict in their day-to-day life so that they will be able to bring peace not only between themselves but also in their society as well.
On your journey to launching Stories for Peace, what has been your biggest challenges?
It was not so challenging for Rhi and Mithela to launch the project as they both have experience of organizing such workshops and it was made possible by Changemaker Xchange Program through funding. But in Bangladesh, as it was launched in Cox’s Bazar for Rohingya refugee children, it was hard at first to get a supporting organization who would allow implementation of the project inside the camp. However, a supporting NGO called Pulse Bangladesh assisted the project in organizing the workshop.
What constructive and specific advice do you have to give to a global audience of young people interested in starting a similar project or address the same issue?
Peace is for all, for all the time and for our survival. Clear vision, mission and planning make any work half done. And the rest will be done by your strong will power, action, knowledge and skills. And as it is a sensitive issue, it is possible that you will face barriers. But not giving up is the only solution. One particular factor of our success was being a part of Changemaker Xchange. We were able to secure funding and other resources, which are two very important aspects of starting any project. Being able to leverage any such platform would be a great idea. As such, always be on the lookout for such opportunities. A lot of such opportunities are featured in websites such as Youth Opportunities, OYA Opportunities, Opportunity Desk etc. If you can make a strong application and exhibit grit and dedication towards your cause, you are sure to make it into any accelerator or incubator program.
Share with us a message of encouragement to young people starting their own social initiative.
We all have the power of making a change. Do now, not later. Start with what you have to solve the problem then learn and grow. Never give up the dream you have and keep fighting for it. And lastly always believe in it and follow it.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”― Mahatma Gandhi