Peacebuilding is one of the core programs at Never Again Rwanda, under this program NAR works with youth and adults under various programs and projects with the aim of establishing sustainable peace and prevention of future violence through providing platforms for youth to discuss root causes of conflict and how to overcome them in their respective communities. Through its Societal Healing program NAR provides safe spaces for peace for both youth and community members from diverse backgrounds to dialogue on their sensitive past stemming from various events that led to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. The program also provides therapy sessions (Individual and group) for specific victims of sexual violence namely; women who were raped and children born out of rape during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. These therapy sessions are accompanied by income generating activities to enable group members to become dependent and address the issue of poverty.
Some of the approaches used in the Peacebuilding program are; dialogue, trainings, workshops and expressive methods such as critical thinking. These participatory approaches have been impactful to our beneficiaries most especially youth, of which critical thinking sessions are aimed at empowering youth to analyze issues critically in order to make informed decisions with the ultimate goal of fostering empathy, appreciation for diversity, open-mindedness, overcoming stereotypes & prejudices, rumors & evidence, blind obedience, manipulation and develop sense of self-responsibility. Public speaking and exchange have proven to be an effective way for youth to identify some of the challenges to peace in their communities and think together how to address some of these challenges using collaborative efforts which in turn has contributed to increase in self -esteem and confidence. The Peacebuilding Institute on the other hand has seen NAR reach more than 150 youth from across East Africa, Europe, Asia, South America and America to examine some of the challenges to peace in order to prevent and overcome violence and genocide as well as ethnic divides.
Under the Societal Healing axis safe spaces for peace comprised of close to 300 community members from diverse backgrounds have had a tremendous impact in their individual lives whereby majority of the participants have developed an understanding of healing and wounds in the Rwandan society. During their healing journey pathways such as openness, solidarity, empathy, understanding, togetherness, tolerance and peaceful co-existence have been established which we believe will highly contribute to increased trust among group members. Furthermore for some participants these groups have become temporary families especially for those who lost their entire family, participants testify to the fact that prior to their participation they used to live in isolation and they had developed hatred and anger towards families of ex-perpetrators despite the fact that they didn’t take part in exterminating their families.
Our future prospects
While the program has created an impact among more than 500 beneficiaries, we still need to reach a wider population with specific focus on youth since they are the future generation and they need to be provided with platforms to voice their concerns and emerging challenges in their respective communities. We also hope to continue empowering youth to use their talents to promote peace and empower them to develop innovative practices to address some of the challenges in their communities.
Lessons learned over the years will serve as a bench mark for future implementation, for instance youth born after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis have expressed the need to learn more about Rwanda’s history which we believe is key in order to prevent future conflict. For the older generation (community members) and non-schooling youth poverty has continually been identified as a major challenge that could hinder the healing process. It is against this background that the program will identify partners who could further provide start-up funds for groups that have demonstrated tremendous progress.
One of the key challenges in implementing Peacebuilding programs/projects is the absence of coordination among actors implementing Peacebuilding projects/ initiatives. We believe this is vital for success and to avoid duplication. By establishing a network of peace actor’s recommendations that emerge from various organizations could be jointly implemented, in addition partners can learn from each other’s experiences which will inform future implementation of various Peacebuilding programs/projects and their impact/needs of specific target groups.
To learn more about the Peacebuilding program:
Florence Abatoni (Peacebuilding Coordinator)
Never Again Rwnda