International Women’s Day Part I: The Art of Peace
By Alicia Clifton
This is the first part of our blog series celebrating International Women’s Day, March 8th. At Search, we work to end violence against women and empower them to be leaders for peace. This blog series will visit women leaders around the world who are making an impact in their communities and paving a new way for the next generation of women. The first stop is Nepal:
Surrounded by lush forests and marshes, Sunaina lives at the base of the Himalayan mountains. She practices a revered Nepali art, called Mithila painting. Her paintings always depicted the same themes: women getting married, keeping house, and watching children. The women in Sunaina’s village are restricted from working, community events, and leadership positions. Often trapped in their own homes by society’s norms, women barely speak to others, except family members.
Two years ago, Search began training Sunaina and her neighbors to become leaders and resolve conflicts in their community. The 10-year long civil war is still fresh in the minds of many villagers. Nepalis across the country lost their homes and family members in the war. In Sunaina’s village, we brought women together across dividing lines to learn and solve community problems.
After the training, we gave Sunaina a small grant of seed money. She used it to train other women in Mithila painting and start a cooperative to sell their work.
The change in these women is obvious in their art.
Sunaina proudly explains the first painting she created after her Search for Common Ground training (right):
“My painting shows my dream of a woman speaking with a microphone to men, women, and children in her village. It shows that women have a vision for leadership and living in peace with all kinds of people.”
This is the first time our Nepali staff had ever seen a Mithila painting of a community listening to what a woman has to say. Not only do women in Nepal think about themselves differently because of Search’s program, they are brave enough to tell the world about it through their paintings.
Join us these next few days as we acknowledge the brave women like Sunaina taking a stand in their communities. Next stop, Indonesia!________________ Alicia Clifton loves growing food and going new places. She is the author of a Gender Issues article on the impact of culture on gender-based violence. Alicia has a Master’s degree in international development and conflict resolution from Emory University. She is currently the Strategic Development Coordinator at SFCG.