Friday, July 13, 2012

Peacebuilding through Storytelling

The co-founder and director of the Society for Awareness, Harmony, and Equal Rights (SAHER) in Mumbai (India), Rama Shyam was honored on 21st of June with the Martti Ahtisaari Peacebuilder Award, presented by the International Youth Foundation to a young leader who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the field of peacemaking and/or peacebuilding.

"I feel more at peace with myself," said 20-year-old Toral at the end of a group discussion "I recently facilitated involving youth from various religious, caste, gender, socio-economic, and educational backgrounds." Belonging to a Hindu family, Toral was often told “to beware, Muslims are dangerous.” Her discomfort with such advice, and desire to know more about this ‘other’ community, drove her to seek out SAHER’s office located in a Muslim ghetto. After hearing other Hindu and Muslim youth tell their stories and connect on a deep level, Toral found herself sharing her own fears and strengths. In the space of two hours, the room full of strangers she had entered was transformed into a familiar space where all felt welcome.

This is what you can call BUILDING BRIDGES! SAHER creates safe spaces through which youth connect. As they share their personal stories, peace becomes a possibility that transcends mere promises.

Beyond this focus on individual youth, we recognize that peacebuilding demands conversations at multiple levels and needs to include not only young people but adults, community leaders, policy makers, and social systems. Success over the long-term requires larger-scale systems change that addresses everything from electoral processes to how the media reports on events to how businesses invest their resources.

This is an example to see the possibility of creating such spaces and foster a new generation of young adults who perceive conflict from the position of facilitator, and who enable people to connect and overcome difficulties through fostering meaningful conversations and relationships.

Source: International Youth Foundation

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