Imagine the US presidential candidate you voted for wins the election, but before you have time to celebrate, a brick crashes through your window. Screams cut through the night air. You reluctantly approach your window to find the members of the losing party attacking people who voted for the winner, smashing cars, killing their neighbors and setting homes on fire. It sounds more like a blockbuster movie than a reality.
During the election five years ago, it was reality for many Kenyan families. Members of the losing tribes erupted into rioting, arson, and murder to protest the Kikuyu tribe’s presidential victory. Kikuyus retaliated, and the violence escalated.
The problem with violent conflict is that even if you escape the front lines, the danger remains. The over-crowded camp lacked enough food and water. Disease was rampant. It wasn’t long before her baby became sick.
Without the right medical services, the mother carried her son several miles to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, when she signed in her Kikuyu last name, the nurse in charge refused to admit the baby. She barked,“Take him to a Kikuyu hospital.”
The baby boy died.
Violent conflict doesn’t end when the smoke clears. Even if bombs, guns, or machetes don’t hurt you, the fear and prejudice behind them can still kill.
This week we recognize World Health Day by addressing violence as a major health issue. Violent conflict cripples every facet of society, especially related to health and well-being. While remembering the problems that accompany violence, we also choose to celebrate the solutions.
After the violence quieted, the mother moved out of the camp. Soon after, she passed the same nurse on the street. To her horror, she found they were now neighbors.
Months later, the mother attended a Search film and discussion group on the conflict. One man confessed he destroyed his neighbor’s property during the riots. He asked for forgiveness. People from every tribe spoke about that terrible time. Nobody wanted it to happen again. Moved, the mother decided to reach out to the nurse. As they talked and cried together, the nurse openly expressed her regret.
She attended our group with the mother, and there they found the courage to reconcile. Without Search’s program, the mother admits she could not have reached out to the nurse. The nurse was inspired to join a group fostering peace in her community. She promised,
“I will never again withhold medical care because of my patient’s tribe.”
Just last month, after 5 years of painstaking work, Kenyans experienced a largely peaceful presidential election. On World Health Day, we celebrate their courage to change and work together for a healthier future for all Kenyans.
To learn more about our programs in Kenya, click here. Look for blog “Why Violence is a Health Issue”, by Search’s VP Susan Collin Marks, coming soon!
By Stephanie Fagan
Reality shows are all the rage these days. From The Voice to The Apprentice, nearly every profession has a reality series dedicated to discovering its next superstar. There are programs for chefs, fashion designers, dancers, and entrepreneurs….why not for politicians?
Well, fear not, because that void has been filled by Palestine’s newest reality show, The President! Last week, the Ma’an Network, in partnership with Search, launched the series that will document the journey to find a young Palestinian leader capable of earning trust and effectively representing his or her people.
Airing in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel, the 36–episode series is blazing a new frontier for Palestinian TV. The President is a unique initiative that combines reality television with constructive content. The goal is to showcase democracy in action, promote good governance, and support the development of a new generation of leaders.
The series features 50 contestants under the age of 35 that dream of becoming president. Starting April 12th, viewers will cast their votes via text messages for the young person they believe embodies the qualities they wish to see in the next Palestinian President. The winner will have to overcome significant challenges, such as: answering hard questions about issues affecting Palestinians; taking part in problem-solving exercises; showing self-discipline; being on call “24/7”; participating in live debates; and managing a large enterprise for a day.
Like any popular reality show, the series features prominent judges who lend their expertise to the project and critique the candidates’ performances. The chosen three are:
- Ahmad Tibi, an Arab-Israeli politician and leader of Ta’al, an Arab party in Israel. He currently serves as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset.
- Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, activist, and scholar.
- Ammar A. Aker, the CEO of Palestine Telecom Group and a member of Paltel Group’s Board of Directors.
The first episode began airing on March 14th, and we are extremely excited about the incredible support it has already received from the public! Over one thousand Palestinians auditioned to be candidates, and viewers are already raving about the constructive yet entertaining commentary from the judges.
After the airing of the first show, SFGC Jerusalem’s Ziad AbuZayyad explained:
“The President’s combinations of popular dramatic reality TV and political issues will bring together a new generation of Palestinians that are enthusiastic and ready to change their future. The Arab Spring changed the Middle East, but today Palestinians have opted for a creative and non-violent approach to the problems they face, using reality TV to communicate the demands of the people.”
With this new series the Ma’an Network has revolutionized reality television and morphed it into an instrument for leadership building. Search helped launch the network in 2002 and in little over a decade it has flourished into a force for constructive dialogue. The innovative nature of The President demonstrates that the Ma’an Network deeply understands the nature of the “common ground approach,” wherein one uses creativity to address important and sometimes controversial topics.
This new project reminds us that progress can emanate from the most unlikely of sources…even reality television.
Watch episodes of The President on the Ma’an Network’s YouTube channel.
Visit the series’ Facebook site to stay updated on the show’s progress.
Stephanie Fagan is a graduating senior at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, where she studies international affairs with a concentration in contemporary cultures and societies. She believes that understanding nuanced cultural differences is essential to the peace building process. Stephanie is the new media intern at Search for Common Ground.
By John Lynch & Stephanie Fagan
We want to share a story with you from Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
It begins with Oyowe, a widowed fisherman from Kobe. Oyowe’s community knew him as a tireless worker whose sole purpose was to provide for his adopted daughter, Tosan. One day, while pulling up fish from the river, Oyowe noticed a gang of youth dumping toxic waste into the water. He confronted the group and reported their illegal activities to the police. Oyowe did what he had to in order to protect his livelihood and the community’s ecosystem. Sadly, this act of bravery cost Oyowe his life. In retribution for telling the police, the gang members murdered Oyowe and raped his daughter.
This tragic series of events leads us to Sissy Caro – Oyowe’s sister-in-law and now acting guardian of Tosan. At first, Sissy wanted vengeance for the pain inflicted on her family. However, she realized that striking back against the gang would only escalate the violence. So, she decided that real change happens when you address the root of a problem – why were boys in the community joining gangs? To find answers, Sissy brought people, families, and communities together to discuss illegal oil refining, rape, and the effects armed conflict on the Niger Delta.
The surprise ending to this story is that Sissy Caro doesn’t exist. Well, not exactly. While her struggle is one that Niger Deltans face every day, Sissy is actually a character from the Search radio drama, “Day Don Break ” through our Tomorrow is a New Day project. We learned on World Radio Day that radio moves people in the same way as TV shows and movies. Story-telling, through any format, provides us with new ideas on how to address our own problems, and shows us that we do not struggle alone.
There is more to this show than just entertainment; it’s an outreach tool that helps facilitate constructive dialogues on painful issues. Although Sissy is a fictional character, she has practical ideas about how to bring change to conflict-laden Niger Delta communities. Each week, the fifteen-minute show is followed by an on-air discussion about relevant topics addressed in the latest episode. Popular on-air personalities and community leaders moderate the after show and use it as a tool to reconcile problems that affect the public. “Day Don Break” is only halfway through its twenty-six episodes, but it has the potential to transform the dynamic in the Niger Delta.
Another way Tomorrow is a New Day facilitates peace is through trauma-healing activities. Search has sent psychology professionals into distressed communities to understand the conflict dynamics. This information will be used to start a productive dialogue. Tomorrow is a New Day tailors all of its outreach to each unique circumstance and enables the type of community healing that Sissy Caro demonstrates in “Day Don Break.” Franklin Moulin, a local participant of the Tomorrow is a New Day project said this:
If it were not for TND, I would have still been looking out for what my community could do for me rather than what I can do to develop my community.
Franklin’s experiences with the TND project have inspired him to run for local office in the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area.
It turns out that life can imitate art just as much as art imitates life. Sissy’s problems are highly realistic and so are her solutions. The Niger Delta experienced unfathomable tragedies in the past decades. The hope is that programs like “Day Don Break” and Tomorrow is a New Day will help make positive, lasting change in the community. Click to read more about our programs in Nigeria or to listen to Day Don Break.
The final installment of our blog series celebrating International Women’s Day finishes in Tunisia, with two empowered young women, destined to become future leaders in their country.
You might ask yourself: Why has Search, a peacebuilding organization, dedicated decades to women’s empowerment? For one, women are key voices in the pursuit of peace. In Liberia, a group of women put the pressure on the politicians to make peace. Second, violence is not only physical action like war or domestic abuse. Ways of thinking and talking can be violent. Laws can be violent. When we seek women’s empowerment, we’re working to end violence against women in all its forms.
Take Tunisia, for example. Women played an instrumental role in the 2011 revolution. Since then, Search has been building up women leaders for peace.
Nour El Houda Bayou, 30, and Rania Jmii, 31, serve on Search’s Youth Leadership Councils. Both young women attended Search’s recent National Youth Leaders Meeting. The initiative brought together youth leaders of different regions, ideologies, political affiliations, and religious views for the first time at the national level. Nour and Rania were kind enough to share their thoughts how Search’s leadership project in Tunisia has impacted their lives.
How are women traditionally perceived and treated in your community?
Nour: There is no real equity and equality between men and women. Women have a lot of rights in Tunisia compared to other Arab countries, but we are not necessarily respected.
Rania: It is far from the level required… Some women are their own worst enemy; they believe that they are naturally inferior to men.
What have you learned from working with Search?
How do you feel youth council has impacted your life?
Rania: Through this experience I realized that the disagreements, clashes, and disputes are just futile. The group’s interest is what is most important.
What is your favorite thing about being on the council?
Nour: The very strong relationships I have built with youths not only in Zaghouan, but at a national level. We share the same mind-set; we saw and felt this during the first national meeting.
Rania: The success of the first round table was just unbelievable. The number of attendees and the interest they showed… was amazing. This will remain as a special moment in my mind.
What progress have you seen since being on the youth council?
Nour: We think, we commit, and then we act. We now know where we want to go and have a strategy.
Rania: The cohesion of the group is strong and the intellectual skills have improved. We are moving really fast towards our goals.
How do you see yourself as a leader now in your community and what do you hope to accomplish?
Nour: The civil society now shares our ideas and perspectives on the different issues in Zaghouan. Our work model is inspiring new associations. We are well known and trustworthy. Our objective is to be a link between all the civil society organizations in Zaghouan and to try to efficiently work and change together.
Rania: I can convince and transform my idea into reality. For the interest of my region, especially the youth, I’m working with the youth council to improve conditions at the local level.
If there is one thing you want people to know, what would it be?
Rania: Search’s program has literally changed my life. You must believe in your full potential and what you can really achieve by committing to your values and ambition!
On International Women’s Day, we recognize women making a difference. Nour and Rania are two such women. They rejected restrictive cultural norms and took hold of their own destinies. These women are natural born leaders, and their presence on the Youth Leadership Council helps to solidify women’s place in Tunisia’s future political structure. So let’s celebrate these women! Happy International Women’s Day!!!
For more information on our projects in Tunisia click here.
Strength. Confidence. Wisdom.
Three traits we would want in any leader. Three traits these Indonesian female parliament members carry in spades.
Watch the obstacles these women overcome in order to improve the lives of their constituents and increase the role that women play in the decision-making process.
These women’s achievements are testament to their intelligence and determination. Moreover, we are proud to say that SFCG’s Transformational Women’s Leadership Program (TWL) provided them with needed support along the way. Watch this video to hear their stories:
Watch the video below to learn how SFCG’s outreach and training programs inspired these women and provided female legislators with the tools that they need to succeed!
Check back tomorrow to learn more about International Women’s Day and the work Search is doing to empower women in Tunisia. Click here to read the first part of our International Women’s Day blog series, 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.