Apr 29, 2020

Blog by “The Peacebuilding Project”

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At the end of 2021, “The Peacebuilding Project” was awarded the Youth Carnegie Peace Prize. It is an international volunteer-led youth organization founded by Rhea Mahanta. In order to get more acquainted with the organization and its work, they wrote a blog that showcases what peacebuilding looks like in practice. In the blog, the young peacebuilders describe their activities and international projects, such as training and supporting women from Afghanistan. Please find the blog below.

The Peacebuilding Project (PBP) is an international volunteer-led initiative advancing SDG16+ and the Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) Agenda. Founded in 2017 by Rhea Mahanta at the University of Chicago, U.S.A., the project expanded its operations to India in 2018 with the Rohingya Literacy Project with the most persecuted minority in the world. While promoting conflict resolution and peaceful dialogue, PBP supports the participation of youth in peace processes across borders on matters of international peace and security. The aim of the organization is to educate and empower communities about strategies of peace by promoting a culture of peace and understanding.

PBP has previously hosted Training and Workshops on Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Strategies of Non-Violence, Women, Peace & Security, among others. To bolster academic instruction and discourse with real-life interventions, the project also implements various community engagement programs that include providing humanitarian support to vulnerable populations such as refugees. The organization has worked with Syrian, Afghan, and Rohingya refugee groups in various capacities in the U.S.A and India, including organizing donation drives, hosting community dinners to promote the integration of refugee families with host communities, cleaning drives, and more recently, a skill-building project with Afghan refugee women in India.

The Afghan Women Skill-building Project
Women around the world face taboos around menstruation along with varying levels of accessibility to menstrual hygiene products. With no path to citizenship in India, and livelihoods wrecked by coronavirus lockdowns, many Afghan refugees were left to fend for themselves facing an uncertain future. For a woman seeking refuge in a host country, the challenges are compounded due to socio-economic barriers, stigma, health risks, and lack of access to menstrual sanitation and hygiene. Easy and affordable access to menstrual hygiene products is one of the many challenges female refugees face, and economic limitations further contribute to difficulty in accessing these products.

With this in mind, The Peacebuilding Project, together with People Beyond Borders, joined hands to apply for Asia’s first-ever Human Mobility Challenge organized by UNDP Asia Pacific and Youth Co:Lab. The combined team underwent intense workshops and a rigorous selection process to win second place, securing a small grant to implement their project idea to support refugee women gain access to income-generating and sustainable hygiene products. The project’s goal was to build the capacity of Afghan refugee women by training them to self-produce eco-friendly, and reusable sanitary pads & products which would not only help generate livelihood and income but also offer sustainable access to menstrual health and hygiene products.

The project was implemented over three months from August- to October in New Delhi’s Malviya Nagar with four expected outputs (i) access to proper menstrual hygiene products, (ii) addressing stigma around menstrual health, (iii) tackling waste management through eco-friendly and sustainable products, and (iv) promote livelihood and entrepreneurial opportunities through skills training.

Implemented in separate stages, women were first trained in a peer-to-peer participatory model, to use creative tools such as music, art, and exercises to tackle everyday challenges around menstruation. Through training of trainers (ToT) offered by partner organization Kamakhya India, women were then taught to produce and sell sanitary kits, a proportion of which was bought back to ensure a small profit. Finally, the products were then examined and improvised for quality assurance for potential buyers. To optimize the sustainability and impact of the short-term project, the team paired each beneficiary with ‘Skill Buddies’ for continued mentorship on income generation and related skills development (eg. financial literacy, communication, sales, marketing, digital literacy, enterprise management, etc) so that they could continue to produce and sell their products even after the project is completed.

Although our pilot project was budgeted for 25 women, the number of women who attended the Training of Trainers workshops went above 30 and was not limited to Afghan women only. Somali refugee women who heard about the project also participated in some of the sessions. After assessing and evaluating the impact of this project, we found that the total number of pads sold by Afghan women was 1279, making a collective income of Rs.10,000. The project was able to increase the average income of each woman by 8%.

By conducting training modules that teach women and youth groups to recycle used cloth, sanitize, and manufacture DIY menstrual pads, it can open a conversation around best practices which can only be possible if the necessary resources and funding are made available to the groups who already possess high skills and knowledge. With greater investment, the project could be potentially scaled to other communities, inviting male gender champions and community leaders to promote and support women’s engagement in such activities.

The Peacebuilding Project’s approach is to empower conflict-affected and displaced populations through engaging educational and interactive modules. This not only creates an environment that enables sustainable practices but also hopes to provide a potential pathway for social cohesion and integration with the host community. Our vision is to replicate this model in more communities to empower displaced populations and build a culture of self-reliance, entrepreneurship, and sustainability; one sanitary pad at a time.

-By: The Peacebuilding Project

Peacebuilding from home – a step by step guide to building peace from the comfort of your own home

Peacebuilding is often thought of as an activity that takes place outside of ourselves: helping to build peace within a family, a neighbourhood, a conflict-torn country… However, in order to be as effective as possible in these externalised peacebuilding activities, one needs to be truly at peace and comfortable in one’s self. This week’s edition of Peacebuilding From Home dives into the topic of finding inner peace, which later translates into a smoother, more genuine external peacebuilding effort. 

There are many articles online that go in depth about how the outbreak of Covid-19 may cause us to feel stressed, depressed, or lonely, and how to effectively deal with these new circumstances. This article, for example, encourages you to identify what is impacting your mood-change, and how you can address it. Or you may want to look at this article that focuses on self-compassion during Covid-19. Here are a few additional tips that we came up with for you to feel your best in isolation, and contribute to your inner peace:

Do things that make you happy

Make the time to reconnect with your interests and passions – what could you spend hours doing? What did you love to do as a kid and never do anymore? What activities make you happy? If you feel like further exploring what your passions and purpose in life might be, you can answer these fun questions in more detail. Alternatively, if you are interested in a longer read, I recommend “A New Earth”, it is a beautiful book about finding your life’s purpose.

Connect with friends, relatives, and strangers

The benefits of social contact are so important, especially when we are physically isolated, and particularly if you are in a difficult position in which you need help and support. Make some time everyday or multiple times a week to reach out to people in your life or those who have slipped out of it. And if you would like to take it one step further, send them a postcard or a hand-written letter – it brings a wonderful feeling to receive something handwritten in the post. Maybe consider challenging yourself by writing a letter to a stranger – I recommend checking out the beautiful peacebuilding project by Bogot’Art for inspiration.

Most of the time, we are drowning in distractions, noise, and mindless scrolling on social media. We don’t often give ourselves the time to be still and in silence, and this is so crucial to our wellbeing and having a more peaceful state of mind. You might want to try a few mindfulness practices, or you can:

  • go for a walk (if possible, during this quarantine period) without any distractions: no music or podcast. Absorb the environment around you, and let your thoughts go in wild directions. And stay 1.5 meter away from people of course.

  • do some breathing exercises: if you don’t have much time and need a quick moment to catch your breath, try this simple exercise. Or take more time and try a longer breathing exercise. There are endless research papers that go in depth into the benefits of breathing exercises, so I will let you explore how this practice affects you.

  • try journaling: journaling can be awkward to start with if you are not used to it, but the benefits are worth the uncomfortable, bumpy start. This is a great practice for self-reflection as it forces you to sit with your thoughts and feelings and work through them instead of casting them aside and distracting yourself from them. You can try following these simple prompts if you need some help with starting this practice, I promise it gets easier and more beneficial the more you do it!

Move your body

This is a classic piece of advice for anyone feeling down or stuck – and it works! The best option is to go outside, get some fresh air, connect with nature, but for many of us this is impossible or highly discouraged at the moment. So instead, make sure you are moving your body at home: you might start an exercise routine if you are motivated, or you might just start implementing a daily stretching practice. There are so many resources online to develop your stretching or exercise routine, so please find what works for you! Here is a link to a simple stretching sequence you can do from your chair while you are working, or you can try out a short yoga sequence for stress-relief.

Take a break from screens

Of course, this had to be mentioned. During isolation, we seem to be spending even more time in front of screens: either you are working from home and on our computer all day, or maybe you have extra free time and end up scrolling on social media more. Not only does this exposure to your screens drain you physically and mentally, it also makes you feel terrible to constantly compare yourself to others on social media. Perhaps try taking regular breaks from your screens throughout the day, and avoid screen use late at night – this will allow for better, more restorative sleep and will make you happier, lighter, and more peaceful overall!

All of us at YPI truly hope that you and your loved ones are doing well during these unprecedented events, and that you can find some form of peace at home. We would love to hear from your experiences on how to work on your inner peace, feel free to exchange with us on our Instagram, Facebook, or Linkedin!

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