In March this year, Australian Creators of Peace Circle facilitator trainer, Shoshana Faire, was invited back to Nepal to train more facilitators following requests for the use of Peace Circles across various organisations in the country. This report was prepared by hosts Neichu Mayer and Meena Sharma.
Creators of Peace was introduced to Nepal in the year 2011, through the invitation of an organization leading peacebuilding work in Nepal, Search for Common Ground (SFCG). Two Creators of Peace women from Sydney – Susanne Rix and Shoshana Faire, came to Kathmandu and facilitated a Creators of Peace Circle at SFCG for women leaders from various organisations and also conducted a short Facilitator Training for some of the participants. Since then the team has been using the Creators of Peace Circle as an effective peace building tool to engage the hearts and minds of community leaders and stakeholders across the country. Besides several Peace Circles in communities, SFCG has also successfully facilitated a Peace Circle with women parliamentarians and political leaders, through a residential programme in one of their beautiful countryside resorts.
In 2015 when Jean Brown came to Kathmandu to visit Neichu Mayer, who moved to Nepal on her husband's diplomatic mission, the team who took part in the Peace Circle in 2011, and other women leaders were invited for an informal get together with Jean, whereby a Peace Circle taster was introduced. Since then the team has been meeting regularly at Neichu's home and formed a support group to encourage one another and to promote women's critical role in peace building work.
Meena Sharma, a Programme Manager of Search for Common Ground, has been most actively applying the Peace Circle tools in Nepal, with conflict survivors from different regions of Nepal. In 2016 she attended the Living Peace conference in Caux, together with Neichu and Jini Agarwal, a former Caux Scholar, who was part of the Living Peace communication team.
At the beginning of 2017, Meena and Neichu conducted a Peace Circle with 14 women representing various development sectors such as education, mental health, media, women and youth empowerment, community development and peace building. During the three day Peace Circle. the group covered all the ten Gathering Points and explored issues of common concerns, highlights of which includes conflict between people residing in the hills and plains (Pahad and Terai) areas of Nepal, that has been a major cause of violence in the last few years; conflicts around norms and values related to menstruation for example, such as the common Hindu practice of isolating women during their monthly period; social obligations of women especially the obligation to take care of in-laws; identity crisis of different ethnic groups; the social prejudice against girl child and gender based violence.
'As an active community development facilitator, I am involved in many workshops and trainings, so when I signed up for this one, I thought it will just be another regular workshop experience' said one of the participants at the end of day 1. By day 3, this same person concluded 'this Peace Circle has made me go so deeply and honestly into myself like never before and stretched my heart and mind so widely towards you all and everything around me with deep love and respect. I feel like a new person'.
One of the participant said 'We women have so much social responsibility towards our in-laws which drains out a lot of our energy. The society teaches us to please everyone first and does not talk about the concept of self-love and self-care. This experience with Peace Circle helped us to embrace our own needs and care for our feelings so that we can reach out better in love'.
Another participant said, 'I have felt my grandparents and elders at home loving their male grandchildren more than us, the grand daughters. This made me want to prove to everyone that I deserve to be loved too and that I am capable of doing everything that male members in the family can do. For this first time in my life, I felt that I need to forgive my grandparents for the bitterness in my heart against their partiality'.
Everyone remarked that having time for deep reflections and quiet time together was a very unique and refreshing experience.
A month later, Shoshana Faire, CoP International Coordinator and Facilitator Trainer, came to conduct Creators of Peace Circle Facilitator Training from 15 to 17 March 2017 for 12 selected women leaders who aspire to facilitate Peace Circles in their work as peace builders, teachers, social entrepreneurs, mental health advocates and social workers. The training was extremely participatory, with a lot of opportunities for practicing and demonstrating the skills; and learning the 'art of asking leading questions'. The participants were hugely inspired and motivated by the potential of co-facilitating, and thoroughly enjoyed working with their co-facilitators. Shoshana's skills of 'dancing around, going with the flow' rather than 'sticking with a fixed agenda' was a great learning tool for the team. Each day there was a session on 'what if.., moments' where participants could ask questions on moments when they are stuck. These sessions provided an opportunity for everyone to share and learn from each other.
'I can already feel the change on my thinking and reacting process. My understanding and acceptance level has definitely risen much higher in the last three days; this is one of the best trainings I have been to,' said one of the participants.
The team decided to work together across their project priorities and focus. Those representing the education sector agreed to work together to introduce Peace Circles to teachers and then to students and even to the parents, thereby reaching the communities in Nepal. A participant who works for a pioneer organization against human trafficking, is planning to organize a Peace Circle amongst the staff of the organization so that they can help and support the survivors of trafficking better. She will be inviting the other facilitators to co facilitate with her.
The team also decided to work together to conduct Peace Circles in areas of Nepal where conflict is brewing due to unjust distribution of representation in the government. Already there are plans to translate the Creators of Peace Circle facilitator's manual in Nepali. These will be possible thanks to a financial gift received from an Australian CoP woman.
Besides conducting the training for the facilitators, Shoshana also led a session on 'Building your CoP Community' with a larger group of participants. We also held an evening on Creators of Peace with some key women activists and leaders which was hosted in Neichu's home. These women leaders who came are important stakeholders for the newly trained facilitators, and it was wonderful to see how well they perceived the potential of the Creators of Peace Circle and agreed to collaborate in future endeavors for peace building in Nepal. As an immediate result of this evening the Head of Dept of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies from Nepal's oldest and most prestigious university, Tribhuvan University, invited the team to introduce the Peace Circle to their post graduate students. This resulted in a request from a group of 9 of these post grad peace building students who are keen to experience a Peace Circle. Another Peace Circle Taster has been held within an educational program on Non Violence.
The team in Nepal is now gearing to do a session on 'Telling a New Story' and is excited to be part of a new narrative based on shared aspiration towards a transformed future.
The Nepal Creators of Peace team is now formally part of a global network of women creating peace in the world, and is committed to taking its rightful place to lead from where they are.
Photos by Shoshana Faire