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Portraits of peace: Community heroes share their stories


N-Peace Award winners with Helen Clark.The N-Peace Awards celebrate women, and their male allies, working to make their communities more peaceful and tolerant. UNDP Photo

“Don’t stay aside, help each other to get to peace, and help men…Women are the core of the society and so they have very important roles in bringing peace. That is why I always ask them: join together, make networks and help each other… We women should bring peace in Afghanistan.”

These are the words of Hassina Neekzad, a teacher in Afghanistan who inspires young girls and women to believe in themselves as individuals and future leaders.

Hassina is one of this year’s 10 N-Peace Award winners. Her sentiments ring loudly as we mark the 15th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on 31 October. The resolution mandates the further inclusion and promotion of women in conflict and fragile settings.

While substantial effort has been made to advance this agenda, women’s roles in waging peace remain under-recognized. That’s why UNDP founded the N-Peace initiative in 2010. N-Peace is a network of 2,400 people committed to empowering grassroots women activists and their allies from across Asia.

On 23 October, UNDP honoured 10 peacebuilders and activists at a special N-Peace Awards ceremony presided over by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. The N-Peace Awards are an annual celebration of the many different ways women, and their male allies, contribute to making their communities more peaceful and tolerant in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, and Nepal.

To further highlight the efforts of the N-Peace Awardees, UNDP has used StoryCorps’s mobile application to record the narratives and wisdom of these awardees so that their efforts and advice can provide inspiration to others.

We can now listen to the Awardees as they describe the obstacles they have overcome and the realities that they face as peacebuilders and changemakers. Hearing of their courage in challenging traditional power structures and in advocating for the most marginalized individuals in their communities is extraordinary.

Hear of Ja Nan’s inspiring leadership in Myanmar’s peace process. As a coordinator of the April 2015 peace accords, Ja Nan has played a crucial role in finding a solution to the decades-long civil war in her country.

Learn from Rahmat Ullah’s persistance in his mission to educate the girls of his community on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Driven by the dreams of his mother; he has overcome community criticism and repeated Taliban threats to build six girls schools.

Be inspired by Kaushila, who was born into a family of bonded labourers and deprived of her basic human rights. Today she wages a war of peace for the freedom of herself and tens of thousands of Kamaiyas, the bonded labourers of Nepal.

Storytelling, as N-Peace Awardee Rubina Feroze Bhatti recognized in her interview, has the capacity to drive change. “Stories impacted me a lot and nurtured my imagination, my dreams, and my vision. So, I believe listening to stories and telling stories is a great tool for peacebuilding,” said Rubina, whose advocacy for the empowerment of women and minorities helps to build tolerance in Pakistan.

Through the sharing of insights, experiences and best practices, the N-Peace StoryCorps interviews serve as a tool for further engagement and empowerment. We are excited to share these stories with you.

Blog post Gender equality Governance and peacebuilding Conflict prevention Sexual and gender-based violence Michele Bornstein

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