Monday, May 30, 2016

Building a Galaxy for Peace

Galaxy4Peace, a youth-led organisation geared towards peace and culture promotion, is all about taking action to build sustainable peace and to amplify youth voices in peace-building. Precious Ajunwa, the Co-Founder and Partnership Director, shares the story behind the Peace initiative.

Let's start with your story, can you tell us about yourself, your experiences and dreams?
I am a social entrepreneur from Nigeria: a peace advocate from Africa, an educator, a feminist, and public health promoter with extensive experience in creating and managing youth-led projects. My sojourn into this peacebuilding world all started when as a child, I constantly pondered on why my father got addressed as a 'Peaceful Man' by his friends, extended family, co-workers and everyone who came across him. It helped widen my horizon and I began studying closely what it meant for one to live a peaceful life, with my father's lifestyle being handy in shaping this process. It was not surprising that in life I found myself studying Peace & Conflict Resolution at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. That was the second degree I would be enrolling for, spurred primarily by my tenacity to acquire new skills and knowledge in that particular field. I continued from where my late father stopped, taking over the title of 'lady peace' ; I started practicing the knowledge I gained in classroom, settling conflicts between peers and within my environment during my course work in the college. I championed numerous school mediation, negotiation, and reconciliation activities, in addition to peace outreaches in the cause of my study. Peace and Conflict Management is not the only thematic area I have wealth of experience in. For more than four years now, I have also been involved in coordinating community level interventions focusing on the health and well-being of people living and affected by the scourge of HIV/AIDS. 

I have also been advocated for the actualization of global peace, a world where women's rights are properly upheld and I cherish a society where cutting of women will become history.

What inspired the creation of Galaxy 4 Peace?

Professionally, what birthed Galaxy 4 Peace was inspired in 2012 by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “It is through the youths that we see the future, and “If we are to have real peace in the world, we must begin with our children.” This quote spurred my zeal and interest to contribute my quota as a young person towards achieving sustainable peace in my society.  In addition, studying my father's lifestyle as a peaceful man shaped and inspired my love for peace-building, hence the inspiration led to my pursuit of a degree in peace and development studies, and the idea of G4P.

The core area you work with is youth and culture, culminating in peace. Can you tell us about the kind of work you do?

We recognize that sustainable peace is a collective responsibility, hence we execute programs providing tools for youths to create a healthy relationship among themselves, focusing on character building and inspiring youths to be peace agents rather than violent actors. We see young people as key partners in addressing causes of violent extremism, that is why we have dedicated our time passing a deep message of love, unity, tolerance, forgiveness and peace to young people in communities, so as to foster and cultivate sustainable peace in Nigeria. We equally provide innovative ideas, great teaching aids during our peace education learning classes for young people, with a combination of both formal and informal class learning settings which enables us to be flexible in our teaching methodology!

At G4P, we empower community peace-building, support comprehensive activities and strategies in communities working to address such challenges as crime, violence, and bad gangs. Teaching peace in schools, thereby bringing into the school system conflict resolution curricula with tools such as communication skills, social-emotional learning, mindfulness, empathy and other proven skills using United Institute of Peace Peace-building Tool Kit, Global Peace Education Toolkit, and ours also. We aim mainly  to transform violence, bullying, and other challenges facing youths in schools and communities, into what they can combat. It is our paramount concern to achieve all these through our Teach Peace Early Campaign. 
Cultivating personal peace, integrating peace in our own lives, taking it through our everyday life through our approach to activism, compassionate communication, mindfulness, empathy, and stress reduction championed via ‘Peace at Work Places’ & ‘Flash It for Peace’ programmes.

What have been your key challenges in the journey?
The danger of failing to rethink peace-building at pre conflict stage is vital for most people and if not addressed may lead to a terminal decline in financial support for peace-building initiatives. Over the longer term, this may be a danger, particularly if neither stakeholders is able to demonstrate considerable “value-added” as key elements of peacebuilding architecture at pre conflict stage. In addition, lack of funds is another key challenge we encounter. Most times our organization send out proposals for funding , few times we have gotten, but most times funds don't come at all and this interferes with the work plan. When funds are not enough, this limits the number of people, communities we work on, it also hinders monitoring and follow up processes on our projects because there is need to be in those communities physically, to interact with the youths who we focus on weekly.

How have you overcome these challenges?
I try as much as possible not to allow the challenges I have encountered weigh me down because I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past. These challenges have been turned to strengths.  These three Ps have been my key to overcoming challenges Perseverance, Passion and Patience. Perseverance - Bearing in mind, nothing good comes easily; Passion - the love I have for peace-building keeps me triumphant over every challenge. Rather than coming out broken from challenges we encounter, I come out stronger because peace-building is like my first love cause; and Patience - Doing what I have huge passion for, persevering and hoping that one day things will come out more beautiful than before. The patience of believing one day our communities will be more peaceful. In order to handle these challenges, we keep trying to find out the organizations and companies that funds the kind of the work we are involved in, we also network with other organizations that we are in the same field of work as, so that we can carry out some joint activities.

What inspires you?
Growing up my inspiration was drawn from my parents. As the first from a family of five, I was raised by my two parents who taught me that I could do anything - as they lived that way, I was able to experience it first-hand. Teaching me I could be myself, have ideas and implement them. Funny enough about 40% of my inspiration comes from challenges!  To be better than who I was yesterday is a major source of inspiration. The recommendation I get from people who believe in the work we do at Galaxy 4 Peace inspires and motivates me a great deal. Progress and growth equally inspire me to do better, to explore more and navigate through the difficult areas. My three Ps also serves as inspiration.

Would you like to share any stories of success?
Action is the key. Dreaming isn't enough. One must decide what he/she wants to do, and then take action to make it real. Having dreamt of starting a peace-building organization, presently pursuing this personal passion is a success story which keeps me going! As we envision and work towards achieving a world in which peace eliminates: hatred, violence, bullying, gender based violence; it resonates so strongly with the many people whose lives Galaxy 4 Peace  touch. This makes my work all the more rewarding and there lies my success. In all the challenges we encounter as a team, we have been able to find a pathway through all the obstacles in order to achieve a success that takes our work higher.

All these have helped me visualize my dream and understanding why it is important to me and my society. It has made us set goals and mapping out plans on how to achieve our dream. This has been a huge measure of success to me. Through our various programmes every year, each goals we had set and carrying it out with enormous impact, have all been a success story for Galaxy 4 Peace.
Another striking success story I am most proud of is when I get "thank you" calls from couples whom I have helped reconcile their differences through counseling programmes. We also get feedbacks from our ‘Peace Meal With Precious’ programme from peacemealers writing us the kind of peace meal they made to settle dispute between their spouses, friends, relatives.  My final words on this interview is that I would love to see peace education change the world one day, but for now, I want it to change a life, (Inner peace) - a community (outer peace) and - world peace (global peace).