Apr 22, 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

Most of us are either self-isolating or social distancing right now, making it difficult to continue to engage in our usual activities. To inspire you with tips and tricks on how you can use the extra time you might have on your hands to deepen your knowledge about peacebuilding, we published a guide on how to develop your capacity online last week.

In this second edition of Peacebuilding From Home, we hope to give you ideas and inspiration on how to stay engaged in peacebuilding during these times of social distancing. Of course, we do not encourage anyone to put themselves and others at risk by approaching people outside, but instead we recommend to use the beauty of virtual connections! These young activists demonstrate how easily you can engage in advocacy work in isolation. If that’s not motivating enough yet, maybe we can inspire you to take action with these tips put together:

Sign petitions you believe in

This is the easiest way to show your support towards a specific cause, it doesn’t require any effort except filling in your email address. We will let you explore petition sites (,, and are just a few from the many you will find online) to find the petitions that truly speak to you. And while you’re at it, why not use your social media outreach to engage in some advocacy work, promoting these petitions to your network?

Donate money to worthwhile causes

Similarly to a petition, donating money to a good cause can be an easy way to support ongoing efforts – if your financial situation allows. It does not require very much effort, and you can decide how generous you would like to be. Maybe think of it as spending the money you saved on not going out for coffee or drinks these past weeks. There are currently many individual fundraisers for people suffering from the financial effects of Covid-19, but you can also choose to donate to a charity or organisation to support their work in general. Maybe a local initiative you care about needs support? Just do a bit of research and find a cause you truly care about.

Participate in online movements

Strikes have now gone online, and it’s so easy to join! Moving from the streets to social media, many movements make use of hashtags and visuals to engage in activism. The classic example is the Fridays for Future movement, led by the iconic Greta Thunberg, but a bit of twitter and instagram research shows that many other activists continue to demonstrate online.

Speak up for what you care about

Become an advocate and make use of your social media channels to promote, inform, or generally just speak up for what you care about. Share articles, news information, websites or resources you find useful so that people around you can benefit from and engage with these topics as well. This is the best way to raise awareness around you right now, and you might end up engaging on these topics with unexpected people, or even collaborate with them on a shared interest! Delving into topics you care about and then sharing knowledge about them is the best way to make new connections with likeminded people – or to start a conversation with people who think differently.

Local peacebuilding

Beyond the online world (I know right, does it still exist??) you may also want to engage in peacebuilding activities in your neighbourhood. With this recent radical change to our day-to-day life, it is important to broaden our understanding of peacebuilding: peacebuilding does not have to take place in a war-torn or conflict-ridden region, it can take place within your own family, shared flat or – if you are not in lockdown – neighbourhood as well. 

  • You might consider offering your services to your neighbours: buying groceries, cooking something for them, working out together at a safe distance, volunteering with your local initiatives… If you’re based in the Netherlands, the website NL Voor Elkaar can connect you with those who need.  Many other countries have similar websites, so just do a bit of research to find local initiatives.

  • Make a “donations fence” – in some cities in Germany, people have hung up plastic bags filled with food, clothes, or other objects they do not need so that homeless or underprivileged people may have access to them.

  • Volunteering opportunities in certain countries are very nicely mapped out on this website, or more broadly on this one

  • I have also seen people leaving piles of books in public areas with a sign saying “stay safe”, which is also a beautiful gesture that is worth trying out (make sure you disinfect the books though!).

If you are based in the UK you can also check out The Neighbourhood Watch for more information about looking after each other locally. 

Whether these ideas on how to stay active speak to you or not – with all the different initiatives and campaigns out there, and with a bit of research done, it’s easy to find a way to engage. Of course, some days we too just feel like hiding from the world, escaping into a good book or a gripping series, or distracting ourselves with our work. But with a bit of (joint) effort we can all contribute to ongoing local initiatives, support campaigns and advocacy work, and ensure no one is left behind during this crisis, that, as so many, disproportionately affects some of us who need our support now. 

Give us your feedback, ideas and inspiration for staying active in peacebuilding on our instagram and facebook pages!

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