I am a bit of a wanderer — I love to travel, experience new things and meet new people. The beliefs and ideas that most view as what makes people different, fascinate me and make me want to learn more. For me, different is good…the world would be a very boring place if we were all alike.
Prior to 2015, most of my travel blogs focused on gorgeous old architecture in Europe, ancient ruins, amazing food, etc., which is a passion of mine that I will continue to write about. This year my travel has been work related in numerous countries in Africa, which is equally exciting but in other ways. The landscapes of the continent of Africa are some of the most amazing in the world. My work in Africa focuses on women, peace and security, with an emphasis on equality for women and girls, as well as programs that assist civil society organizations and members of government in countries experiencing conflict with implementation of peace agreements and United Nations Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820.
My most recent visit was to Goma and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, with a brief stop in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and its member, Synergie des Femmes Pour Le Victimes des Violences Sexuelles (SFVS), initiated the Girl Ambassadors for Peace program in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Girl Ambassadors programming is now operational in Bukavu and Goma DRC and also in Torit, South Sudan. The two-day literacy, leadership and peacebuilding workshop happened in Goma, DRC on August 12 and 13, 2015.
After introductions and an overview of the program, the young women participated in a workshop on conflict analysis. In the session, the women examined sources of conflict in North Kivu; for instance, natural minerals, unemployment and desperation. However, tribalism as a root cause was the main recurring theme among the group discussions. The young women explained that the prolonged conflict in eastern DRC has created dislocation of families, poverty, violence against women and girls, illiteracy, injustice, and trauma. There have been some positive outcomes including, assistance from the World Food Program, development initiatives, awareness raising and anti-tribalism, sensitization and capacity building for girls.
A peacebuilding session emphasized UNSCR 1325 and 1820, along with the concept of gender. Most of the young women had previous knowledge of the resolutions but the concept gender was new for some of them. Swahili and French are the main languages spoken by the workshop participants. Though French has a word for gender, Swahili does not. After the session, all of the young women had a better understanding of the concept that they can share with other girls in their community.
In another session the young women discussed the qualities that make a successful leader — a self-starter with the capacity to analyze and understand situations, vision, organizational skills, and the capacity to listen to all of the people in his or her community. They also described whom they view as leaders, which included presidents, community and religious leaders, both men and women, as well as other role models.
When the young women travel to the communities to talk about the components of peacebuilding, they will use theatre as a means to convey their messages about local issues such as tribalism, sexual violence against women, and land rights, among others. During the workshop, a local theatre teacher taught a session on the basics of theatre to the group to build upon their existing skills. She explained methodology, how to convey emotions, motivation, and basics on movement. The young women then performed short skits and after, their teacher offered feedback on the performances that will help them when creating future skits.
Literacy training is the other main component of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace program. These young women will teach literacy to other girls once they begin the programming in the communities. Though the Girl Ambassadors are literate, there was a session during the workshop where a teacher explained activities that the girls will use to teach the Swahili alphabet and basic numeracy in the local communities. He explained to the group that he uses themes for his literacy courses, which he refers to as literacy with consciousness. Moreover, he introduces attendees of the courses to the concept of peace, “Amani,” in Swahili. He discussed the various aspects of peace and how to achieve it. The instructor then instructed the girls regarding how to teach the alphabet and basic mathematics.
This two-day intensive program equipped the girls for the work that they will do in local North Kivu communities in the upcoming months. By the end of the two days there was a noticeable difference in the demeanors of the young women. The training helped to overcome shyness and body movements associated with nervousness, such as gripping or leaning on tables or podiums, which improved how the women spoke to the group. By the end of the second day, they were projecting their voices and their posture (gestures, body movement, facial expressions) had improved. The young women now exude self-confidence and are prepared and excited to visit local communities.
For more photos of the Girl Ambassadors, please visit the photo gallery.