"My people... my people are humans who put the planet and others before profit;
My people care deeply about the future generations and our environment;
My people have strong personal beliefs but are respectful and tolerant of others;
My people are those who are neither afraid nor ashamed to work against the crowd if that is what it would take to get the job done;
My people, live and act in a manner that shows respect for the rights and liberties of all persons irrespective of whatever labels that seem to disenfranchise them;
My people are resilient;
My people have been told 99 times that they can’t do it, they shouldn’t do, they wouldn’t do it, but they do it anyway."
With this personal affirmation, my three days of intensive ‘Conflict Management and Leadership Training’ organized by Generation Change, a United States Institute of Peace (USIP) program, held on June 16 – 18 in the eco-friendly, quiet, relaxing and mentally stimulating Speke Resort and Conference Centre, Munyonyo, Uganda commenced.
At first glance at the agenda, I thought I already had a holistic idea about what was in store. Having benefitted from conflict management and alternative to violence trainings in the past.
I was reassuringly disproved.
Group exercise such as: Dialogue and Debate – distinguished the differences between these two concepts.
Working with women and girls, local chiefs and religious leaders in Ajegunle, a slum in Lagos, towards promoting women’s rights and access to better opportunities, has made me witness firsthand, how easily, one may mistake one for the other when resolving conflict. For example: while dialogue is collaborative, encouraging all parties to work together towards finding common grounds on which mutual trust and understanding thrives, debates are oppositional. Parties to debates are often committed to winning by proving the other parties wrong.
Being mindful of the bullet points below, as pointed out by Alison Milofsky, Director, Curriculum and Training Design, Academy for International Conflict Management and Peace building, United States Institute of Peace, could forestall future occurrences:
Stick to the dialogue principles even when other parties come into the situation ready to debate;
Find underlying values/similarities between parties to begin dialogue;
Language is very important, e.g., instead of using ‘but’ which is contradictory and implies a disagreement, we might want to use, ‘and’, ‘or’.
Crafting my vision stand
For two years, I believed that my personal vision was the best version I could come up with, until the exercise on ‘crafting vision stand’.
Not only did this engender a recreation of my personal vision statement, communicating it to my peers and listening to their feedbacks helped me improve and create a better version:
‘Empowering women and girls is key to bringing positive changes and sustainable development into our world. And, I am committed to making this a reality, by empowering them with: Education, to help them better understand and demand their inalienable rights and liberties, thereby improving their life chances and outcomes; Economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, which provides them with more options and freedom as it pertains to their bodies and choices and Mentorship, which avails them to ongoing support and handholding as well as linkages to a supportive network of women, who despite challenges, excel in their chosen endeavours.’
which, I have kept improving, though the training has ended
The last activity for the first day ‘River of Life’ was deeply emotional and thought provoking.
For the first time in years, I vividly recalled past events, many of which were discomforting.
I saw, clearly, how these events might have informed my choice of a career and, maybe, even how I handle challenges I encounter in the course of my work. Being bold enough to share these experiences, some, for the first time with a fellow participant was a reminder of how much trust we have built as a group.
The fine art of Storytelling
'Stories elicit certain emotions between narrator and listener, it creates a bond, an understanding. In telling our stories, we realise just how similar and connected we all are. In that moment, we becomes witnesses to the lives of others; almost saying ‘speak, I hear you clearly.’
Listening to fellow participants - Ijeoma Idika-Chioma (Executive Director, Teens Global), Fatima Madaki Abubakar (Program Officer, Mercy Corps), Evelyn Okwara (Program Officer, Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy & Development), Abdullahi Bindawa (Peace Brigades, International) share their story was both reassuring and inspiring. I felt like I understood their passions better, i could look on and literarily see the motivation that nourishes their work.
Conflict is inevitable. It cuts across all spheres of our daily existence. Whether in intra/inter personal instances. Therefore, conflict management is essential in ensuring that these seemingly little misunderstandings do not snowball into intra/inter group, communal conflicts;
Learning is more enjoyable in a mutually stimulating environment, that enables all persons, irrespective of their backgrounds, speak their truths;
Like Manal Omar (Associate Vice President, USIP) said in her welcome address on the first day of the training, it helps to belong to a community of likeminded persons whose interests aligns with ours, this helps us feed off each other’s energy when we may feel discouraged;
Many youths stand ready to be engaged to meaningfully impact their communities and effectively resolve conflict, if, only they had the needed support such as these. Going forward, Generation Change Fellows could play a pivotal role in indentifying these persons and equipping them.;
Reflecting on these words ‘As you walk the path of privilege, do not forget the less privileged you have left behind” by Oprah Winfrey, i intend to put these newly acquired knowledge into good use, in building a crop of young persons who would become staunch advocates for peaceful coexistence in their communities.
My profound gratitude goes to the LEAP AfricaSIPA team, for nominating me for this opportunity that I greatly benefitted from. The ripples from this capacity building will continue to be felt throughout the scope of my work and the course of my career.