The Optimist Citizen

Painting for peace: Using arts and games in Nagaland to engage youth into discussions and to disengage them from violence

The Union Home Ministry, in a notification issued on 30th December 2016, invoked the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) for another six months, stating that the area comprising the whole of the state of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of Armed Forces in aid of the civil power is necessary. Section 3 of the AFSPA empowers the Central government to declare the whole or such part of a state to be a disturbed area if it is of the opinion that the whole or any part of such state or union territory, as the case may be, is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs data, on an average, nearly two people are killed every day or more clearly, 569 lives, including those of extremists, civilians and security forces, are lost each year in the north-eastern states.

Such a long term observation of violence and turmoil is immensely detrimental for every living soul; especially children and the youth. The violence acts as a long term detriment that can disrupt life, livelihoods and families that come in its path.

WAY Foundation, a Guwahati based organization, got a first-hand experience of this violence and thus decided to innovatively engage children and youth to be active citizens and involve in peace talks through their initiative “PAINT FOR PEACE” supported by Foundation for Social Transformation for engaging children and youth from marginalized communities to ensure active participation of children in peace building and development. Over the past couple of months, WAY has engaged with children from Silchar, Assam and Wokha, Nagaland.

“We are surpised to see the amount of understanding these children has for peace, they just need a non-judgmental space to express themselves freely… May be this is one of the many ways we can create active citizens” says Abenthung, Program manager, WAY Foundation

The program design follows various stimulating games to understand conflict and peace. As an outcome of the workshops, the children expressed their understanding of peace and development through mural paintings in their locality.

‘The paint for peace project was a wonderful opportunity for the pupils participating to express their feelings about peace and conflict and their hopes for world peace”- Mr. Surojit, Vice- principal, Libemo Memorial School, Wokha, Nagaland.

The program also has a scope for engaging government officials and administration to listen to these children and take their voices forward in the policy level dialogue making. After meeting Ms. Anguno and Ms. Yapangmenla, the two young officials from the civil service cadre from the district administration, Wokha; Phybemo, a 15 year old child from the initiative says “This happened for the first time that we could share our views and opinions with an official from the district administration”.

The organization is looking forward to reach out to more children in Nagaland and neighboring states with this initiative and is inviting more schools to join us in this movement.


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