In May 2017 Peace Perspectives visited several villages in Umakunda in Ramechhap District, Nepal and asked what peace means to them. The initial phase of field research is the collection, documentation, and analysis of these definitions of peace. The themes from the interviews range from family to community and basic services to government assistance. The interviews also reflect that, for some residents, peace is an active verb with a long-term vision. Their definitions also comprise negative peace, which is the absence of conflict, and positive peace, which is the absence of structural forms of violence. Based on these interviews, Peace Perspectives is working with the local community to fulfill their peace aspirations. One of these aspirations relates to a better future for their children. With education as one of the key factors in ensuring a child’s better future, Peace Perspectives launched a book drive for the benefit of the elementary school in Bamti village.
When was the last time we asked everyday people what peace means to them? We, at Peace Perspectives, aspire to learn from local communities instead of imposing top-down, locally insensitive perspectives. Encouraging bottom-up and grassroots-level initiatives promotes lasting and more sustainable peace projects. Help us work alongside them via www.gofundme.com/booksforpeace
Listen to the voices of Umakunda residents in this video* and tell us what is the most common theme from their peace perspectives.
*We do not claim that these perspectives are representative of the whole population of Umakunda but we believe that every voice is worth listening to.
ABOUT THE PROJECT: In May 2017, we asked the residents of Umakunda in Ramechhap District, Nepal what makes them feel at peace. Most of the respondents associated peace with the future of their children. Since education is one of the factors in ensuring a better future for children, we coordinated with the principal of Bamti village’s elementary school. We decided to organize a book drive and establish a mini-library for the benefit of the school children. If you are interested in helping us fulfil the local peace aspiration of Bamti village residents, please consider donating books or donating funds to Peace Perspectives for us to construct and install bookshelves, purchase new books, and transport the books to the village.
ABOUT THE BOOKS: We are requesting non-curricular books to promote reading among the children outside their school’s curriculum. To encourage them, we will run a contest of book reviews by the students. The principal of the school also specifically requested science and world history books to guide the teachers in their classes. New/used and English/Nepali books are very much welcomed.
ABOUT THE SCHOOL: Two years after the 2015 earthquake that hit Nepal, the reconstruction of elementary school in Bamti village is still underway and they had to do with makeshift classrooms for now. The school has 63 children and 6 teachers.
ABOUT BAMTI VILLAGE: Bamti village is located in Ramechhap District, Janakpur Zone, eastern Nepal. As of 2011, Bamti (or Bamti Bhandar) has 3,144 residents in 739 households. The lack or inadequate transportation infrastructure contributes to the remoteness of the village. Heavy rains make the rough roads inaccessible leaving residents and visitors no option but to walk 17.6km for around 5 hours to reach Shivalaya, the nearest town where transportation is available during rainy season. Several houses in Bamti still sit in ruins since the 2015 earthquake as reconstruction support from the government is yet to be completely implemented. Like the rest of the country, agriculture remains to be the main source of income for local residents with potatoes, wheat, rice, buckwheat, and millet, among others as their main crops. In May 2017, Bamti residents also participated in the first local elections in 20 years and walked about an hour to their polling station dressed in their best to cast their ballots.
Peace Perspectives team talking with residents about the election.
Father and daughter manually threshing wheat.
Workers rebuilding a house destroyed during the earthquake.
On May 6, 2017, we held a charity event to officially launch Peace Perspectives. Around a hundred people attended our event and shared their definition of peace. We exhibited photos depicting peace and watched performances by Upendra & Friends and Mohit & Friends. Aside from our working committee, we also had peace volunteers who helped in organizing, setting up, and documenting our event. With our official launching successfully done, our real work starts now. We will be traveling again to remote villages in Nepal to collect peace perspectives from everyday people and implement community projects based on their peace aspirations.
The Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) interviewed our co-founder and Executive Director about Peace Perspectives, in addition to her PhD research and recent publication. The following is an excerpt from the ACUNS website.
In this Professional Development podcast, the 2015 Dissertation Award Winner, Dahlia Simangan, is joined by ACUNS Book Review Editor, Anastasia Ufimtseva, to discuss Dahlia’s experiences as a PhD student and her current work as a founder of Peace Perspectives. Dahlia won the Dissertation Award for her work on “The Limits of Liberal Peacebuilding and Pitfalls of Local Involvement: Cambodia, Kosovo, and Timor-Leste in Retrospect”. Considering the merits and pitfalls of both ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches, Dahlia proposes a middle ground that finds a balance between liberal peacebuilding and local involvement.
Since completing her dissertation, Dahlia has been dedicating her time to Peace Perspectives, “an independent, non-profit international organization committed to the promotion of inclusive and lasting peace.” Founded in March 2017 and based in Nepal, the organization operates on the principle that every local peace perspective deserves equal consideration, and promotes small-scale community outreach.
The podcast is available here and the discussion about Peace Perspectives starts at 18:40.
We are happy to share some of the photos of our volunteer models, Pragya and Robin, wearing our official Peace Perspectives t-shirt and taken by our Public Relations Officer, Sudeep. These are the t-shirts donors will receive when they donate US$101 or more and those who bought tickets for our launch/first charity event.
Narayan Mahat is originally from Arghakhanchi District but now resides at Gorusinghey, Kapilvastu. He served the Indian army for more than 20 years until his retirement last year. He now drives a e-rickshaw for a living. His rickshaw is a sustainable and affordable form of transportation benefitting local people of Gorusinghey for short distance travelling. He also sits as a Secretary in Hindu Hymn Association of Gorusinghey, Kapilvastu.
When asked what peace meant to him, Narayan responded:
If my family members, including myself, are able to exercise our rights fully, I’m at a state of peace.
Narayan believes that peace should start within the family as it is the most basic unit of society. He adds that if a family is happy and at state of peace then neighbours, and ultimately all members of society, get encouraged to live the same.
Nepal, however, is fraught with issues related to family well-being. Nepal’s legal stipulations on the rights of women and children, for example, look excellent on paper but it is often disregarded mainly due to absence of consistent implementation and oversight mechanisms. Civil society organisations are working with the government on how to protect women and children from oppression and exploitation. Peace Perspectives joins in this initiative by echoing the peace aspirations of all Nepalese, including women, children, and other marginalised groups. Learn more about our work and consider donating to our community outreach activities.
In line with our upcoming launch event on May 6, 2017, Peace Perspectives is starting a global peace conversation using #thisismyPEACE. With conflicts and humanitarian crises that we are witnessing around the world right now, this is our simple contribution to peace promotion.
You can join this global peace conversation through any or all of the following.
Take a photo of yourself holding #thisismyPEACE sign and include a 1-2 sentence caption of what does peace mean to you. You can download this sign and print or create your own.
Take a photo the depicts your peace perspective and include a 1-2 sentence photo description.
Take a video of yourself explaining what does peace mean to you. We request that your videos do not take longer than a minute.
We invite you to share your peace perspective via Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter. We also invite you to tap at least two of your friends to share their peace perspectives for us to engage as many people as possible and promote diversity in peace.
Jamuna Adhikari runs a local Bar at Budhhabhumi, Kapilvastu. Her two sons are currently studying at a nearby boarding school. As a student myself, her genuine response to what peace meant for her left me speechless.
When the atmosphere is favorable for my children to get good grades, that is peace for me. That is what gives me peace.
Jamuna has a reason to worry about his children’s performance in school. For example, in 2015, the average marks for core subjects tested for School Leaving Certification (SLC)* in Nepal were barely passing.
Confronted by these challenges, the Nepalese government is taking positive strides toward improvement of the educational system. In his recent budget presentation to the Parliament, Finance Minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel enumerated several plans for education covered by the 2017 budget.
“Primary education would be made compulsory and free while secondary education would be gradually made compulsory and free.”
“Rs 26.5 billion has been allocated for the School Sector Development Programme.”
“Special programmes would be introduced to bring dropout children back.”
“The government would adopt a strategy to prepare human resources needed for the national development within the nation.”
“Religious educational institutions would be promoted into mainstream.”
“More teachers would be appointed for Science, English and Mathematics subjects at community schools.”
“The community schools would gradually adopt English medium education.”
“Meanwhile, Masters level students would be mobilised for volunteerism for six months in their final year of the study.”
If these plans get implemented, mothers like Jamuna will have at least one less thing to worry about.