2017 was quite a year for Creators of Peace. We held our first 'Peace in Practice' programme at Caux and launch our 'Change the Stories & You Change the World' booklet.
Our world today might feel increasingly fragile with natural disasters, political instability, divided communities, increased migration, violent extremes, climate change and land disputes. In any community, there is a need to create spaces for listening, to question negative narratives and find new ways forward. We all need help with trust-building to realise our own potential and enable one another to contribute to peace and human security.
As women, we have a part to play in responding to these shared challenges. We have a role in changing the story we live: from fear to trust; from distrust to honesty; from neglect to compassion and care. Alongside others working for change through movements such as #MeToo, which was created to expose and change the narrative of the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, our contribution brings women together to transform the consequences of violence and unresolved conflicts. Our Creators of Peace Circles for women explore which conversations are needed in our communities to help this larger healing to happen and which practical actions we can take together.
- Creators of Peace Circles took place for the first time in Trinidad & Tobago and Afghanistan and Facilitator Trainings were held in Australia, Cote d'Ivoire, Malaysia, Nepal, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
- We ran our first 'Peace in Practice' programme in Switzerland for 35 women from 17 different countries, with a skills refresher for experienced facilitators and workshops on topics such as safe space for dialogue, fundraising and social media.
- Our first French-speaking regional gathering took place in Cameroon with women from Cote d'Ivoire, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We celebrated International Women's Day, developed action plans for each country and generated a shared vision for peacebuilding in the region.
Our team in Burundi continue to run 6-day residential Creators of Peace Circles combining valuable dialogue for healing and reconciliation with practical cross community teamwork on development projects building dry composting toilets and processing cassava roots.
Creators of Peace women in Syria continue to gather despite the challenges of everyday life in the midst of civil conflict. They support one another through Creators of Peace Circles and supportive activities designed to build trust between generations and prepare for peace across denominations.
The second Creators of Peace Circle in Afghanistan took place in Kabul in combination with training in human rights. Topics explored by women participating included mental and emotional harm from decades of war and instability, as well as stress management and parenting.
- We launched our 'Change the stories and you change the world' booklet presenting reflections on courage and compassion by peacebuilders from Lebanon, Syria, South Africa, Romania, Kenya, Australia, Taiwan, Colombia and Burundi.
- We established our learning exchange online conference calls for women from different country teams to update one another on news, share learning and discuss focus topics such as evaluation, managing risk and caring for one another.
- We introduced our 'Peace Focus Gathering' resource to help women establish Creators of Peace programmes in new areas and to encourage teams to strengthen their outreach with themed discussions, films or meals with other local women.
Amina Dikedi-Ajakaiye, President, said: 'Most importantly, Creators of Peace is about the women, and sometimes the men, who participate either through our Peace Circles or other gatherings. The women in Baringo region, Kenya inspired to find healing in their heart and who have gone on to impact their communities; the women lawyers trained to facilitate Peace Circles in Uganda who are now influencing young South Sudanese women in a refugee camp; the recent training in Papua New Guinea that helped to break a cycle of revenge violence in the community… our work continues into 2018 and we invite you to join us.'
Kate Monkhouse, Executive Officer, said: 'Organisations working for peace also need to take care of themselves too, so 2017 has also been a year of "peace in practice" for our Creators of Peace network. Our newly elected international committee has settled into their governance roles and looked at ways to give better hands on care for our national co-ordinators. We have invested time in exploring how we measure the quality and impact of our work, as well as managing the risks and challenges of working in areas affected by conflict. We have renewed our fundraising strategy, reframed our budget and upgraded our auditing procedures. We are learning too about how to deepen cross-cultural understanding within and between our teams. And we have improved our communications materials to support solidarity across generations and share positive examples of peacebuilding with our wider communities. We do all of this to strengthen our personal and collective capacity to be able to give leadership for peace and create a surer foundation for us to be advocates for a new story for peace in our world.'