Gabriele Gardenal – AFE Blog – Creative Associates International, Washington, DC

My experience and the first exposure to peace and violence:

 In 2004, the last year of my BA, I decided to study in Colombia for one semester as a member of the University Exchange program. Living and studying in Bogota was a very interesting experience, as travelling and discovering Colombia was enriching and eye opening. No need to say how amazing Colombian people are, with their cultural diversity and their interest in listening to your experiences. I had exposure to some of the difficulties typical of a country characterized by an ongoing conflict and with still considerable pockets of the population living in poverty. After my BA, I was interested in studying poverty from an economic perspective, with the ambition to understand the causes of poverty and to develop economic interventions to alleviate poverty. With this great ambition in mind, I went back to school, where I received my MSc in Public Administration and Economics. After two years of studying, I was looking forward to travelling to wherever the needs were, and so my trip started.

Since 2007, I have been supporting the development of communities suffering from social discrimination and extreme poverty, mainly in Sub Saharan Africa and Latin America. Between 2012 and 2016, I have been working specifically on humanitarian crises. This decision took me to one of the most fascinating and challenging countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C).

The job focused on managing an international NGO, the Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI), providing relief to populations escaping war and conflict in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C).

During those four years in D.R.C., I focused on developing new programs and solutions for households escaping war torn areas. Needs assessment showed significant gaps in a variety of sectors: nutrition, access to safe water, hygiene, health, food security, civilian protection etc. The families I met were seeking a safe environment, as a temporary solution toward better living conditions. The places these families thought to be a temporary solution, most of the time turned out to be long-term solutions.

Since the war in 1996, insecurity characterized the country and in particular the eastern region. After twenty years of insecurity, in 2016, D.R.C. was the country with the highest number of new displacements due to insecurity, 922,000, and has a total displacement population of 2,230,000. Most of the time insecurity lasts for several years in these areas. When discussing the wishes of these families, many wished to go to back to their homes, but insecurity stopped them from going back. So, the new homes of these people were: refugee camps, internally displaced camps, and most of the time, displaced families were hosted by local families in host communities. All this was happening in a challenging context, as D.R.C. belongs to a group of countries that constantly score at the bottom of the Human Development Index. This is a typical picture of a complex emergency. Usually, these emergencies are protracted, and governments have little capacity to respond to the crisis because their service delivery is weak and the political environment is facing different challenges.

The Peace Fellowship and its contribution to my education:

When providing relief to displaced populations it is important to understand what drives violence and the broader context. The conflict and political analysis along with risk analysis assure humanitarian assistance increases a person’s security and well-being, while reducing potential harming risks. To increase the chances of this happening, learning about local policy, politics, actors, interests, culture and behaviors can be helpful and was one part of my job.

The Peace Fellowship at the Duke-UNC Peace Center is a unique place to study this. In my Public Health Leadership program at the University of North Carolina, I am studying evaluation techniques that help me to read the context, especially from a health and behavioral perspective. It is interesting for me to learn why people behave violently, what can reduce such behaviors and how to identify the most effective interventions. Peace and conflict courses offered by the fellowship are a great way to learn more about the macro conflict dynamics, the importance of human rights and the impact on everyday life for people.

 

Evening walk by Capitol Hil

 

The Applied Field Experience:

To pursue this field of work, I decided to spend my summer with Creative Associates, a USAID contractor working on Education, Community in Transition, Citizens Security and Preventing & Countering Violent Extremism. The organization works mainly in fragile countries or areas characterized by high levels of violence such as South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Tunisia and so on. I wanted this AFE experience to be an opportunity to understand how governments, such as the U.S.A, design their policies and programs. When working for government contractors, I can analyze the US Agency for International Development and the Department of State policy goals. Usually, these policies describe very complex environments, similar to the one of D.R.C., and set very ambitious goals such as violence reduction, increasing security and democracy, supporting transparent and fair elections and so on. Design programs that address the needs identified by such policies can be fascinating and be challenging at the same time. Having the right lens to understand the problems can be an effective way to start developing evidence based solutions. The Public Health Leadership program is providing me with statistical, research and epidemiological tools that can be highly beneficial to understanding violence and address it from a prevention perspective.

Creative was interested in further developing their Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention and Reduction in fragile contexts. The research I am conducting helps to develop and communicate how an approach that focuses on prevention, people development, support to families and mental health, can effectively reduce violence in areas where violent organizations such as gangs, extremist organizations and armed groups operate.

The work builds on epidemiological tools commonly used in the public health sector to understand what are the characteristics helping a disease to spread and what are the protective factors preventing this from happening. When these tools are used to understand violence, interesting trends emerge. In some cases, violence can be a lifelong cycle where people who experienced violence in their youth are prone to be violent in the future or become targets of violence. The impact of violence on young people can be seen later on during adulthood and the effects of this can hinder people from living a fully accomplished life.

In the case of youth and gangs, violence is a reactionary behavior and appears with a higher frequency when youth spend time in antisocial networks and when parents have little control over their children.

My research looks at how to prevent violence at three levels:

  • Identification of those communities suffering from high rates of violence and finding solutions to increase their capacity to respond to violence,
  • Identification of youth who are at higher risk compared to their peers, to affiliate with violent organizations, and support the youth and their families to prevent this from happening,
  • Provide support to people who previously committed violent acts and who are seeking to reintegrate back into their community.

 

Meeting with Mike T. Harvey, Former Director USAID Nigeria

 

The research findings are very encouraging; violence prevention works and it is possible to prevent violence from happening or recurring in all the three levels mentioned above. I would like to share with you four key messages: there is a lot to be discovered about violence, gold standards research design found some interventions effective even in the most challenging environment, innovative and effective solutions can generate important earning for the society, and it is important to share this information with the general public and decision makers.

Context matters, having a model is helpful in understanding the problems and building effective interventions. Public Health relies on hard numbers to find where, when and how much violence is happening and helps to identify the risk factors associated with violence.

Rancone 2014, shows how the justice system can play an important role in reducing violence.

In fact, once in the justice system, people who once were unaffiliated with violent organizations are now more likely to become associated with these organizations. This is more likely to happen when youth share the same facilities with adults, or where people who committed minor crimes share facilities with people who committed violent crimes1.

Another important issue concerns mental health. In the UK, the majority of gang members in the prison system have accessed psychiatric and other mental health services before entering the justice system2.

These two studies gather evidence about gaps in the current justice system in which these results can be beneficial for the justice system to improve facilities and legislature, so the system can provide better support to the people inside.

 

Meeting at the World Bank with Gender Specialist, Johanna Lundwall

 

Some interventions proved to be effective even in the most challenging environments.

Providing psychosocial and economic support to former rebels in west Africa successfully reduced antisocial behaviors within a year since the beginning of activities. In this case, psychosocial and economic support are effective solutions; when offered together, the results of these two activities were positive and were protracted. The evidence from this study can be very beneficial to all the countries going through the reintegration process of former combatants. The reintegration policies have a high default rate, these interventions along with strong political support could provide practical solutions to such a problem3.

Another example comes from an intervention offering summer work programs to youth from at risk neighbors in Chicago. Results from studies about this intervention showed a considerable reduction in violent crime among those youth undergoing the program during the first year after the intervention4.

To support the conclusions of such studies it is important to use rigorous research design, and the collaboration between development actors and academic institutions can be a powerful solution toward this goal.

Despite how expensive some reintegration programs may sound, in reality, these are much less expensive compared to the cost of managing the prison system or other less effective reintegration programs.

In Canada, a new reintegration program was designed to help people reintegrate into their communities by supporting them with ad hoc activities based on their personalities and preferences. The program successfully reintegrated 30 of the 33 youth who initially joined the program. By successfully reintegrating 30 youth, the program saved 5 million dollars from the justice system, this is the one year cost of the justice system.5 The evidence shows that despite the higher initial cost, these programs can also generate enormous benefit from an economic perspective.

Considering that the work of academia in this sector is relatively new, and major discoveries have resulted, it is important to continue supporting research in this sector. Some of the new approaches and techniques have delivered impactful results, and this is just the beginning. Supporting the academic community will assure their work continues. Sharing the results produced by this research can help impact policies and support politicians and others in decision-making positions, to make better decisions.

I hope my work at Creative Associates has contributed towards increasing the efficacy of their efforts toward peace, especially in those areas where insecurity has spread and affects the everyday lives of the population.

Beyond my personal work, the AFE was an interesting opportunity to work with people from other sectors, such as security, the justice system, and economics and so on. Their experiences they shared with me were very enriching. I had the pleasure to work with Susan, a teacher who has dedicated thirty years of her life teaching in the Middle East. Now she is managing a project supporting literacy in Afghanistan, with her practical experience, she is able to communicate what being a teacher means. It was also great to work with 16 members of the summer program, to learn from their work and hear their thoughts on how peace can be enhanced from the economic, justice system and education perspectives.

 

Visiting the Capitol

Washington D.C. was a great place to spend my summer. Thanks to Creative Associates, I had the chance to visit: the United States Institute of Peace, the US State Capitol, the US Agency for International Development, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Brooking Institute. The meetings with all of these institutes were enriching. I had the chance to learn more about their work and meet with some of their directors. In particular, I had the pleasure to meet Michael T. Harvey, former director of USAID Nigeria, who led the action supporting civilian population fleeing Boko Haram.

 

4th of July by the Washington Memorial

 

Overall, this experience has been a great source of inspiration to continue my work, and I would recommend it to future Peace Fellows and anybody else interested in the sector.

 

  1. Roncone ES, Delisi M, Beaver K, Gangl A, Wold J. DYNAMICS OF PRISON GANG AFFILIATION AND VIOLENCE: THE HEARTLESS FELONS AND THE DOWN THE WAY BOYS—A SOCIAL LEARNING STUDY. 2014. http://media.proquest.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/media/pq/classic/doc/3287234911/fmt/ai/rep/NPDF?cit%3Aauth=Roncone%2C+Erik+S.&cit%3Atitle=%3CTitleAtt+RawLang%3D%22English%22+HTMLContent%3D%22true%22%3EDynamics+of+prison+…&cit%3Apub=ProQuest+Dissertations. Accessed July 5, 2017.
  2. Coid JW, Ullrich S, Keers R, et al. Gang Membership, Violence, and Psychiatric Morbidity. Am J Psychiatry. 2013;170:985-993. http://media.proquest.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/media/pq/classic/doc/3093377061/fmt/pi/rep/NONE?cit%3Aauth=Coid%2C+Jeremy+W%3BUllrich%2C+Simone%3BKeers%2C+Robert%3BBebbington%2C+Paul%3BDeStavola%2C+Bianca+L%3BKallis%2C+Constantinos%3BYang%2C+Min%3BReiss%2C+David%3BJenkins%2C+Rachel%3BDonnelly%2C+Peter&cit%3Atitle=Gang+Membership%2C+Violence%2C+and+Psychiatric+Morbidity&cit%3Apub=The+American+Journal+of+Psychiatry&cit%3Avol=170&cit%3Aiss=9&cit%3Apg=985&cit%3Adate=Sep+2013&ic=true&cit%3Aprod=ProQuest+Central&_a=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%3D&_s=1n4nA0oIE4ATdWEkqpxBcdbSKrI%3D. Accessed June 22, 2017.
  3. Blattman C, Jamison JC, Sheridan M, et al. Reducing crime and violence : Experimental evidence from cognitive behavioral therapy in Liberia ∗. 2016. doi:10.3386/w21204.
  4. Davis JM V, Heller SB, Bonhomme S, et al. Rethinking the Benefits of Youth Employment Programs: The Heterogeneous Effects of Summer Jobs. 2017. http://www.nber.org/papers/w23443. Accessed July 10, 2017.
  5. Beausoleil V, Renner C, Dunn J, et al. The effect and expense of redemption reintegration services versus usual reintegration care for young African Canadians discharged from incarceration. Heal Soc Care Community. 2017;25(2):590-601. doi:10.1111/hsc.12346.

 

Odette Rouvet – AFE Blog – World Bank, Washington DC

I started my internship at the World Bank in May and it has been so far, an incredible experience to learn from peers and to understand the complexities of the development work that the Bank does.

I’m a member of the topic team of Seeds at the Global Indicators Group of the Bank’s Development Economics unit, which is responsible for the elaboration of the Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) report.

The EBA issued its first report in 2015, and since then, yearly reports have been produced. Each report reflects a full year of work that includes data collection, validation, and stakeholder’s meetings. The coming year is the first time since the beginning that an EBA report will not be produced. Timing for being at the Bank at this moment is precious. The rationale of the EBA and its more widely known Ease of Doing Business Report, also part of the Global Indicators Group, is to measure regulatory framework of countries and encourage a healthy “race” to improve themselves and measure themselves against their regional peers, and/or similar economies. Nonetheless, this year, the EBA unit is pausing, in order to stop and reflect on the impacts of this encouraged “competition” among countries and assess who is following the good practices highlighted by the Bank. The current efforts are focused on refining the methodology and increasing the potential to improve agricultural practices, as well as seeds quality and security in the countries that are measured by this report, 162 in 2016.

For me it has been a real learning experience, and humbling to be having essential discussions on how the competition of EBA can lead to good, but also poor policy practices. From my experience, I have been on both sides, at the government trying to address the good practices encouraged by international organizations such as the Bank, and trying to get everything done right so we can get a better score; but also, as part of international organizations trying to engage the country counterparts to assume a self-critical role to evaluate what has been done so far and what can be improved. It is never an easy or painless job.

The hard-to-achieve balance between having real policy addressed to improve regulatory framework, while also considering the specific context and limitations of each country, must be considered in marginal steps to enable the business of agriculture. The very end of our work here at the EBA, will not be only reflected by a reform or a published law, but will, and it is what we hope, increase the chances of millions of women having a better access to training for water irrigation systems, which will impact positively livelihoods of communities, many in conflict affected countries. We think about this every day, and we are aware of how, through the EBA report, we are shaping countries’ regulations and reforms. Therefore, the EBA has decided to pause and rethink.

We are addressing the concerns and questions raised by country counterparts and by academia regarding the role of the informal agriculture sector and the informal markets for seeds that are hard to measure.

The focus on the law and regulatory framework of the EBA is its biggest strength, but it is also a limitation itself when dealing, for example, with the particularities of developing countries and traditional agricultural practices. I am humbled to have a peer to peer relationship in the team to be able to ask questions, and also suggest, ways to improve the understanding of this hard to grasp reality of small-sized farmers. My experience working in many developing countries, in particular in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and in South Asian countries has brought some real life understanding of the day to day difficulties that farmers have to access formal markets for seeds, or the gender gaps in rural settings. My preparation so far as Rotary Peace Fellow, and in the Master of International Development Policy Program (MIDP) has helped to position me at the Bank with a useful and different lens to approach the work we are doing here. In this sense, I’m bringing my Peace and Conflict Management knowledge, and the Conflict Sensitivity analysis tools that I have learned and mastered during my first year at the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center. I can say that I feel confident that I’m bringing to the Bank, and in particular to my area, a multi-dimensional understanding of the problem, which I hope will bring more comprehensive and fine-tuned regulatory understanding of when and how are countries comparable, and where are the limitations of such comparison.

Although the EBA does not itself produce policy recommendations, the countries that are measured year after year (now every two years), will be introducing reforms and policies to better address how they are doing in comparative perspective. With the acknowledgements of the limitations, and the context and characteristics of the agricultural sector of each country, I think that policies will be better introduced by the countries, and will be addressing the contextualized problem, instead of trying to apply a regulation that is working well in one country but that can have disastrous results for another one.

I look forward to my last weeks at the Bank where I’ll continue to keep working to leave a positive mark on the team. My work here as Rotary Peace Fellow has been a constant reminder to the EBA team the relevance and impact on people’s livelihoods of what we are doing, that is what is behind a country’s scoring number, or behind the measurement of the frontier distance of good practice. We are trying to reduce poverty, and in many cases, contribute to peacebuilding through enabling the business of agriculture.

Techa Beaumont – AFE Blog – Alianza Arkana, Yarinacocha, Peru

A calling to return to Peru

Five years ago I travelled to Peru for the wedding of one of my dearest childhood friends. While visiting the Amazon I began a conversation with a group of Indigenous women artisans from the Shipibo- Conibo tribe.  A woman from Sweden arrived to buy 20 pieces of their traditional weavings and embroidery to send to Europe for a friend.  She bargained hard, forcing the women down from the asking prices for their handicrafts, a unique and beautiful textile embroidered with traditional designs called ‘kene’. Each of the pieces can take from two weeks to one month to make. She later boasted to me in English that she would make 1000 Euro from her effort of purchasing the items from the women and putting them in the post.

The strained looks on the women’s faces when they accepted these reduced prices told a tale that has become an entrenched part of their reality. With a lack of access to international markets and a reliance on the unpredictable flow of tourists into their township, they would take what they could now for their work rather than wait for a fair price and have their children go hungry next week.

This anecdote reflects the systemic discrimination and unequal power relations that characterise so much of the relations between Amazon tribes and the outside world. It is this reality that motivated me to return to the Amazon supported by my Rotary Peace Fellowship to undertake my Applied Field Experience (AFE).

Photo: Leeroy Mills, 2012 Shipibo designs were traditionally painted onto the body and face for beauty, protection and good luck

Photos: Alianza Arkana 2016, Hand embroidered textiles based on traditional Shipibo designs called Kene are now a principal source of livelihood for many families

Photo: Alianza Arkana, 2016 Shipibo girls dancing at a celebration in traditional skirts, each with their own unique embroidered design

About the Shipibo-Conibo people

The Shipibo-Conibo people[1] are an Indigenous people whose territories are along the Ucayali River, a major tributary of the Amazon River in the Amazon of Peru. Some  urban communities live around Pucallpa in the Yarinacocha suburbs, an extensive indigenous zone set around an oxbow lagoon and the primary location of my field work. The vast majority live in scattered villages over a large area of jungle forest extending to the Brazilian border. The Shipibo-Conibo have a rich and complex cosmology that ties directly to the art and artifacts they produce and a deep knowledge of and relations with the jungle’s medicinal plants. Like many other Indigenous people around the world they are on the frontlines of growing global consumption of forest hardwoods, minerals and other products that threaten their livelihoods, cultures and territories. Significant tracts of Peru’s Amazon rainforest, the earth’s most expansive buffer against extreme climate change, fall within Shipibo-Conibo territories, while ironically and sadly, many of the villages are now heavily impacted by climate change as longer lasting and increasingly more intensive annual floods inundate villages for two or more months each year. During this time villages suffer extreme food and fresh water shortages as well as health and hygiene problems. (Peace Fellow Linda Low’s recent AFE blog explored this subject, and specifically links between climate change and deforestation in Brazil and growing global demand for soy products.

Photo: Techa Beaumont. Many Shipibo villages have been flooding more severely each year due to the impacts of climate change. Food shortages are more severe and health problems increase as many villagers are forced to live on the rooftops of their houses for months. Fruit and trees have been destroyed by these prolonged inundations in many communities, taking away a staple part of the villagers’ diet.

Photos: Leeroy Mills, 2012: The territories of the Shipibo are located along the Ucayali River in the Peruvian Amazon that extends to the Brazilian border.

Photo: Leeroy Mill 2017 Textile art is a daily task and a principal source of livelihood for a majority of Shipibo women.

Photo: Leeroy Mills 2017 Many Shipibo communities are only accessible by boat, and the dug out canoe remains a principal mode of transport for many.

While rich in resources, the dynamics of their relations with the outside world are often exploitative and do not recognise or fairly value the technology, skill and energy inherent in the traditional knowledge of the Shipibo that range from their incredible natural medicine, environmental and botanical knowledge to their unique textiles and designs. Language barriers (many Shipibo are not fluent in Spanish), poor educational opportunities in the villages, racism, government corruption and the proliferation of illegal logging, narco-trafficking, oil and mining speculation all play their part to entrench many Shipibo people in extreme poverty and decrease the natural resources they have traditionally relied upon for their needs.

 While relatively peaceful on the surface, the threat of violence is an ongoing reality for the Shipibo as it is for other Indigenous Amazonian tribes, in particular those seeking to enforce their rights against outside developers. The leaders of the community of Santa Clara de Uchana, who successfully took the regional government and an oil palm company to court in 2016 for illegally cutting down 5,000 hectares of their forests, continue to face death threats. Protests over other extractive projects that are damaging Indigenous livelihoods and lands across Peru have ended in the death or  extrajudicial killings of protesters.

Photo: Alianza Arkana 2016, Government officials at the oil palm project at Shipibo community Santa Clara de Uchana. As of the writing of this blog, the company has refused to obey court orders or government officials on site who have ordered them to stop work. Community leaders face death threats and fear violence from the company.

It is informed by this context that I chose to work for two small grassroots organisations for my Applied Field Experience. Rather than position myself with a large international organisation, I wanted to donate my labour and skills, and apply the generosity of the Rotarians who funded my fellowship where I felt it was most needed. I also wanted to experience firsthand the work and realities of those on the ground in the Amazon, both the Indigenous women seeking to survive and support their families from their traditional crafts, as well as the organisations that work with them. It is my view that international development practitioners are often far removed and out of touch with the realities of intended beneficiaries and I feel strongly that the deeper our relations and more direct our contact is to those we seek to work with, the better placed we are to be able to be friends and equal partners in assisting them meet their needs and aspirations.

With this in mind, the aim of my applied field research is to contribute in a small way to improving the opportunities of the Shipibo people to live peaceful and prosperous lives while protecting their forests, livelihoods and culture, and to improve the capacity of the organisations that are here in the long term to do their work.

For the last three weeks I have been working with two organisations in Pucallpa, Peru. Pucallpa is a frontier town that is the main link between the territories where an estimated 32,000 Shipibo-Conibo (making up around 8% of Peru’s Indigenous population) live in the vast stretches of  the Ucayali River and its tributaries and the regional and national government. The city of Pucallpa was developed as a camp for rubber gatherers at the beginning of the twentieth century and in 1930 it was connected to Lima by road (850km of it), and since then its expansion has been intense and unstoppable. Sawmills surround the city and spread up the main highway towards both Lima and the mountains.

 My main roles during my AFE and my work so far…

After three weeks I have acclimatised to the jungle heat (thankfully with a very relaxed dress code here in Pucallpa that takes account for the general absence of air conditioning).  My basic Spanish is rapidly improving, and I have a busy schedule that includes work for two organisations; Alianza Arkana, a non-governmental organisation, and the Maroti Shobo cooperative (translated from the Shipibo language  as ‘the house of mothers’ ), an artisanal cooperative of Indigenous women artisans from the Shipibo-Conibo tribe.

My principal host organisation, Alianza Arkana, is an intercultural organisation that has arisen out of unique collaborations between Shipibo people and a team of international volunteers and researchers to address the issues facing Amazonian communities. Its programs are diverse and responsive to specific requests, mostly from the surrounding Shipibo-Conibo, such as the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya whose lands were illegally sold to an oil palm company by the regional government, leading to destruction of over 5,000 hectares of their forest, and the community of Pouyan who are increasingly inundated with floodwaters for months of the year as an impact of climate change.  Taking a holistic approach based on reciprocity and relationships rather than hand outs and paternalism, their work supports diverse needs articulated by those in the communities, that includes mentoring youth leadership, enhancing the role of women and engaging young girls in health and sexual education to reduce high instances of teen pregnancies, providing researchers to investigate issue or problems, supporting effective bilingual and intercultural education through the production of educational resources in the Shipibo language, and forest regeneration. One of their major successes is the development of eco-latrines that can continue to operate during flood periods, a project adopted by UNICEF and the Peruvian government that addresses one of the major hygiene and health issues facing the Shipibo and other Amazonian communities, and that they are now seeking to roll out across Shipibo territory. By leveraging researchers such as myself who come for between three months to one year they create intercultural solutions that both respect and engage Indigenous knowledge and technologies and can effectively interface with the modern world.

The people I have the opportunity to work with at Alianza Arkana epitomise the Rotarian values of service over self. One of its founders and the Director of Organisational Development, Dr. Paul Roberts ‘retired’ to full time work here,  voluntarily taking on various tasks including building the capacity of the organisation and its Shipibo staff to meet its mission. International volunteers often spend a year or more here donating their skills to the organisation. Shipibo-Conibo people themselves make up the core paid staff in this dynamic tri-lingual work environment. Any given conversation can alternate between Shipibo, Spanish and English.

My role with Alianza Arkana is to conduct an organisational assessment and help design and implement a strategic planning process within the organisation.  Organisational development has been one of my favourite professional tasks since I was tasked with building capacity of a not-for-profit environmental organisation in Papua New Guinea more than ten years ago.  I enjoy being able to support individuals and organisations to evaluate and strengthen their work and love the opening it provides into the workings of inspired and passionate people. This particular assignment allows me to apply learnings of my last semester in monitoring and evaluation while drawing on my existing experience and gaining insight into the unique context of NGOs working with indigenous people in the Amazon. The conversations not only assist me in helping the organisation do the work it does even better, but opens my eyes to the unique challenges and complexities of life in this part of the Peruvian Amazon and the work of a deeply multicultural organisation.

Photo: A meeting with Alianza Arkana workers Dr. Paul Roberts and Jane Shirely Mori Cairuna, and a representative of the Shipibo Council, Coshikox Consejo Shipbo Konibo Xetebo, Vice President, Demer Gonzales Vasquez

Photo: Alianza Arkana Some of the Alianza Arkana staff and volunteers

Photo: Alianza Arkana, 2016: A workshop organised by Alianza Arkana with young people exploring challenges they face within their communities as young people

Photos: Alianza Arkana, 2016: A project regenerating the rainforest and eradicating weeds in the community of Santa Clara

Photo: Alianza Arkana, 2015, The organisation pioneered eco-latrines that are flood proof, solving long standing health and hygiene issues that plague increasing flood prone communities.

The other organisation I am working with is “Maroti Shobo” (house of mothers in the Shipibo language), a cooperative of Indigenous women artisans. They are the same group of women I had the conversation with five years ago, at which time they had asked for help to set up a website to sell their goods. I promised in my heart to find a way to support them to shift the exploitative practices that confronted me at our first meeting.

Determined to have a meaningful impact and make the most of the opportunity this AFE presents, I came to Peru during semester break last December to set the groundwork for my summer’s work. From the direction and ideas I received during this visit I was able to conduct research that would better enable me to have impact while here over the summer. This included investigating some of the artistic knowledge and practices that are dying out and exploring opportunities for distribution of their products within fair trade and other international markets. I was also able to integrate the issues into my actual coursework in the semester in the lead up to my field experience. This research has enabled me to hit the ground running and come best prepared for a productive summer. In July I will be presenting outcomes of an independent research project I conducted over my last semester at Duke University that explores options to protect the tribe’s traditional designs and symbols, as well as their extensive medicinal plant knowledge using intellectual property and other legal regimes. Presented as an options paper for the Shipibo-Conibo Representative Council, COSHICOX, women artisans association representatives and other indigenous rights bodies who had identified this priority for research during my visit here in December, it will help the leaders decide upon the best way of protecting their culture from outside appropriation. This will be my first formal presentation (ever!) in the Spanish language and a great opportunity to gain confidence in engaging professionally with Spanish speakers.

Reviving old traditions while creating opportunities for the future:

On my way to the jungle I had arranged a meeting in Peru’s capital, Lima, with Dr. James Vreeland, an anthropologist turned social entrepreneur who, after discovering that ancient Peruvian coloured textiles were not dyed, but rather were natural cotton colours, started a company to create markets that would enable the revival of a 4,500 lineage of almost extinct native cottons species whose natural colours range from greens and browns to purples. After twenty years of dedication, he has successfully created sustainable fair trade and organic markets for these products, ensuring the motivation of local people to continue to cultivate them. He has created a vibrant industry that supports the maintenance of previously declining cultural traditions. I came out of this meeting with both inspiration for the work ahead and the perfect materials for the women to work with.

As I write, the women of Maroti Shobo have begun to design products from these better quality and fair trade fabrics that can be sold for higher amounts than their current products and can now meet stringent requirements of international fair trade markets (using the 100% Peruvian grown organic and fair trade cotton mentioned above rather than the cheap Chinese fabrics and threads they otherwise find in local stores). Using the fabrics inspired discussions on the native cottons that Shipibo grow and traditional techniques for weaving and dying fabrics that are being lost as cheaper manufactured and synthetic goods flood the market. Many women have also stopped making traditional loom work that involves weaving cloth out of native cotton and then painting and embroidering on this handmade fabric because most tourists don’t value the product, and with some initial inquiries we have already found three galleries keen to buy these more traditional items at a fair price. Seeing firsthand the effort involved reinforces how important it is to find fair trade markets for their work both to provide decent livelihioods and to help keep traditional knowledge alive.

Photo: Leeroy Mills, 2017. Celedonia is an 85 year old great grandmother who has ten children. She is one of only two women in the village that still practice making traditional cloth. Much more intensive than embroidering on purchased cloth, finding markets that value the artistry and time is essential if the next generation is to maintain this practice.

Photo: Leeroy Mills, 2017 Discussing with Se Le, one of the children of the artisans, who speaks close to fluent English, plans for their online shop at the “Etsy” marketplace.

Photo: Leeroy Mills, 2017 Some of the artisans of Maroti Shobo during a workshop to learn about the potential of fair trade production.

Photo: Leeroy Mills, 2017 Maroti Shobo member Claudia Mori Valera, hands on with new organic fair trade materials

Photo: Techa Beaumont, Luzmilla, the cooperative president, and Claudia sewing the first products with organic fair trade native Peruvian cotton materials.

Photo: Techa Beaumont, 2017, A beautiful cotton scarf, One of the first organic fair trade products to be produced by the women of Maroti Shobo, finished last Friday!

Another task with the women for the summer is to explore different ways to cut out the middle wo/men who often take the majority of the profits from the women’s labour. This requires accessing international markets directly. Some of the steps towards this are small, but still significant in breaking barriers and setting a precedent amongst the women themselves.  Over the coming two months we are working with the support of the NGO Allianza Arkana to help the Maroti Shobo cooperative to establish their own online shop on ‘Etsy’ a global online marketplace for handmade and artisanal goods. While there are existing Etsy shops selling Shipibo crafts, none of these are owned by Shipbo people, so the main profits are going outside the community that makes them.  An ongoing program of training and mentoring for both the artisans and a number of their adult children who have computers, Spanish and English skills are essential to help the ‘mothers’ manage the online shop. This includes classes in quality control, marketing and social media, smart phone photography, online sales and marketing, posting and shipping that will enable them to manage the Etsy shop on their own in the future.

At the same time we are linking this and other Shipibo artisanal associations to potential wholesale clients in the fair trade industry, and exploring raising funds so that one Association of artisans can attend the Santa Fe Fair Trade Market where they have the opportunity to raise significant funds for their group and gain ongoing international customers.

There is so much more I could say about this work, and I wake each morning with passion and excitement for the tasks ahead of me.  I am so deeply grateful to the Rotary community for making it possible for me to take these significant advances towards realising a vision dreamed up with the Maroti Shobo women five years ago.  I invite anyone interested in staying abreast of its development or with ideas or contacts that may assist going forward to contact me directly at techa.beaumont@duke.edu.

And a little of my life in the Amazon:

Pucallpa as a town is a sprawling urban environment with an abundance of three wheeled motorcars, which reminds me of the toktoks that define my experience of urban India, where my mother was born. The distinct sounds of their horns and engines is the backdrop to much of my day.

While these projects make for a busy summer, I have found time to begin my exploration of life in the jungle. Being surrounded by one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet is an opportunity for constant learning and wonder.

The joys are diverse and including sampling exotic fruits, making friends with monkeys, cooling off in waterfalls, adopting a street kitten (and, bittersweetly, finding it a good home due to my inevitable departure). I am still hoping for an encounter with a pink river dolphin, a species of toothed whale found in the rivers around Pucallpa, but I have included a picture for animal lovers reading this post.

Photo: Pink River Dolphin from the Amazon (shared pinterest photo, Nic Bou, 2013)

Photo: Techa Beaumont, 2017.La velo de la novia (the bride’s veil), a beautiful waterfall 3 hours from Pucallpa

Photo: Techa Beaumont, 2017. Majestic trees dot the urban landscape of Pucallpa

Sunset over Laguna Yarinacocha, the oxbow lake on the edge of Pucallpa

I will be visiting and sharing my work with the local Rotary Club here in Pucallpa (Yarinacocha) whom I first made contact with last December, and will catch up with the wonderful Elohim Monard, Pucallpa’s own Rotary Peace Fellow (Class 13 at Duke University) who lives in Lima but visits his family here from time to time. It’s inspiring to see how the Rotary and peace fellow network both extend here and have provided me opportunities for connection and local knowledge.

I am also deeply grateful to my partner Leeroy Mills who has previously volunteered and travelled in the Amazon and shares my passion for this place and its people. He has taken time off work in Australia to be here with me and is self-funding in order to work on these projects with me. The use of ‘we’ in the blog above reflects his presence in enhancing the work I am undertaking here.

You can find out more about the Shipibo people and the work of NGOs in this area at the website of one of my host organisations, Alianza Arkana, at http://alianzaarkana.org/.

 

[1]  The Shipibo-Conibo, sometimes simply referred to as the Shipbo people  are part of the Pan ethno-linguistic group. Formerly two groups, the Shipibo (apemen) and the Conibo (fishmen), they eventually became one distinct tribe through intermarriage and communal ritual and are currently known as the Shipibo-Conibo people. Eakin, Lucile; Erwin Laurialy; Harry Boonstra (1986). “People of the Ucayali: The Shipibo and Conibo of Peru”. International Museum of Cultures Publication: 62

 

Linda Low – AFE Blog – Environmental Defense Fund, Raleigh, NC

My growing fascination with climate change

The first time I understood that the world did not have infinite resources was in the year 2000 when someone told me it would take seven planets to sustain the current level of world consumption into the future. I absorbed the comment but didn’t process it until much later. In 2006, Al Gore released the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, a call to action to the world that global warming was a man-made disaster in the making that, if left unchecked, could melt ice caps, create floods, force millions of people to flee coastal communities, and increase temperatures to the point where biodiversity on our planet would change forever. I remember seeing the movie and being intrigued. It was the second time I recall thinking about the sustainability of our world. I started a new job and the words “climate change” and “global warming” fell off my radar.

Climate change gets real

From 2010 to 2016, I served with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). On a daily basis, we were coordinating assets and expertise from Red Cross societies around the world to support disasters on all continents. I witnessed the real-life implications of our changing climate every time we issued an emergency appeal, for example, in response to a drought, food insecurity, unprecedented flooding, or increased dengue epidemics because longer periods of rain and still water serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Within a six-year window, from 2010 to 2016, the IFRC doubled its international emergency appeals for natural mega-disasters because local communities could not cope with the shocks of climate change. I found myself being more aware of the issues that caused many of these crises. I found myself increasingly concerned with the concepts of inequity, scarcity, and climate change. When I moved to North Carolina to attend Duke University as a Rotary Peace Fellow, a key question that weighed on my mind was: how can I contribute to making our world more sustainable, and how can I learn more about climate change?

Tackling climate change, one soybean at a time

This summer, with support from Rotary International, I am interning at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a leading NGO that marries science with market incentives, policy levers and practical partnerships, to make our world more sustainable. I am part of the EDF + Biz team which works with corporations to drive responsible sourcing through local and global supply chains: from how raw materials are derived in fields and forests and processed in factories, to how they are manufactured, packaged and placed on store shelves, and everything in between.

Linda Low, Rotary Peace Fellow, Class IV, is interning with Environmental Defense Fund in Raleigh, North Carolina, with the aim of reducing deforestation in Brazil and combatting climate change.

My specific task this summer is to research the supply chain impact of soy farming on deforestation in Brazil – where some forests are being cleared to make way for more soy farms, to accommodate the world’s growing demand for soy. I am talking to experts, reviewing reports, and researching the economics of the soy industry, the stakeholders, and agricultural and environmental policies. At the close of my internship I will make recommendations for my team to consider, ideally, potential levers of positive change – be it at the community, policy or business level; only time – and research – will tell.

How does this connect to climate change? Forests play a key role in cleaning the air we breathe by capturing the global emissions of carbon dioxide from things like cars, planes and power stations. According to EDF, deforestation causes climate change on a global scale, and is responsible for about 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Brazil’s beautiful forests have been called the “lungs of the world” for their role in cleaning the air we breathe by capturing global emissions of carbon dioxide from things like cars, planes and power stations.

The US Department of Agriculture projects that global soybean production will surpass 345 million tonnes this year, and that Brazil will be the largest exporter of soy; research agency BMI predicts that 100 million tonnes will be produced in Brazil alone. So what does the world do with all this soy?

Surprisingly, soy is in many things that we consume, not just soy sauce. For example: beverages, oil, flour, bran, desserts, and protein supplements. Soy also goes into pet food! Derivatives of soy are even used in pharmaceuticals, paint and plastics. But the majority of soy that gets produced globally goes into animal feed for beef and poultry which we eventually consume. Clearing more forests for soy is a bad option for our climate, but intensifying soy production on existing farm lands could be a good one.

Speaking of the climate, in the wake of the US Administration’s recent decision to leave the Paris Agreement, I have seen concerned citizens, communities and corporations double-down on their commitment to addressing climate change. Over the weekend, some business leaders matched public donations to EDF to demonstrate their continued dedication to the cause. It makes me proud to be part of an organization that is recognized for their hard and good work. It makes me proud to be part of EDF.

By mapping the supply chain of soy in Brazil in my internship, I hope we can get a sense of the soy footprint in the country and perhaps try to collaborate with stakeholders in the supply chain to drive more sustainable sourcing practices to reduce deforestation. Perhaps it’s possible to tackle climate change one soybean at a time.


Linda Low, Canadian, is a Rotary Peace Fellow pursuing her Masters of International Development Policy at Duke University. She is based in EDF’s office in Raleigh, North Carolina, for her summer internship.

Spring 2017 Rotary Center Review

Our Spring 2017 Newsletter is available here. Read about our 14th Annual Spring Conference. See where all the Class 15 fellows are interning over the summer. Also, read about the latest news and events from the center.

2017 Professional Development Trip – Washington DC

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Call for Applications – Peace Fellowship Program

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Fall 2016 – Rotary Center Review

Our Fall 2016 Newsletter is available here. Read about Class 15 Fellows, and updates on the graduating class of 2016. See where all the Class 14 fellows interned over the summer. Also, read about the latest news and events from the center.

 

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Natsuko Sawaya – AFE Blog – MaiKhanda, Lilongwe, Malawi

Applied Field Experience (AFE) became Amazing Field Experience (still AFE)!

Searching for an AFE opportunity:

Spending two to three months in the field, between my first and the second-year of graduate school as a Rotary Peace Fellow, sounded like a great opportunity and I was eager to work in one of the fields below:

  •  Neonatal health, in a country which has a high neonatal mortality rate
  •  Neonatal and infant health, in conflicted areas
  •  Any project focused on Ebola orphans from the most recent Ebola epidemic in western Africa.

For me, a sense of peace that one has, always comes from childhood; family, community, education, friends, environment… The very first years of life are crucial for one’s future development.

 

Kangaroo Mother Care:

When I started to look for an opportunity, I came across a BBC documentary with a very shocking title, “Dead Mums Don’t Cry”. It was filmed about ten years ago and was about maternal mortality in Chad. I wanted to see what had changed since the filming of the documentary, as well as the current neonatal health situation. It took me a couple of months to get in touch with the doctor who was in the film. Unfortunately, she was not working in the same position anymore and could not take an intern. I kept searching and contacting various people and organizations, eventually I came up with an idea to go to the site where the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) method is implemented. From my previous field experiences, I had seen babies carried this way, but I had never researched the scientific evidence of the its effects.

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KMC drawings on the wall of a hospital in Lilongwe

Series of my AFE:

Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is a method of infant care where the baby is held skin-to-skin with the mother (or caregiver). Forty years have passed since this method was presented in Bogota by Colombian pediatrician Edgar Rey. Since then, the effectiveness of thermal control, improved breastfeeding, and bonding in all newborn infants has been firmly established as benefits of the KMC method. The implementation of KMC is also recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). I believe KMC is an important tool for addressing neonatal mortality in places where adequate health services are limited, such as developing countries, conflicted areas and refugee camps.

 

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Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC)

IHI is a not-for-profit organization, leading innovative partnerships in pursuit of health care improvement worldwide. IHI gives technical guidance and program support to MaiKhanda Trust. IHI offers a variety of open school courses, related to quality improvement, which I took prior to my IHI internship. At IHI, I had briefings about the ongoing preterm projects that MaiKhanda conducts at health facilities in Malawi. I was also analyzing the monthly data they received from MaiKhanda. It was great that I could see the parent organization side prior to my field work, learning how they supported and communicated with MaiKhanda and what they expected in the field.At the end of my AFE opportunity hunting, I had established a very unique path, starting at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in Cambridge, Massachusetts (4 days). After IHI, I would participate in an intensive Kangaroo Care certification course in Ohio held by the United States Institute for Kangaroo Care (2 days). Then, off to Malawi, interning with MaiKhanda Trust, a Malawian non-governmental and nonprofit organization, working on the reduction of Maternal and Neonatal Mortality and Morbidity, both at the health facility and the community level in the country (2.5 months).

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Between 2000 and 2010, Malawi has reduced under-five mortality after the first month by 7.1% per year and neonatal mortality by 3.5%.[i] Although the neonatal mortality reduction is slower than the reduction of under-five, it is faster than the regional average, which is 1.5% per year. A comprehensive national health sector approach integrates newborn survival programs, which was initially focused at a facility level, but was lately extended to the community level. Implementing the KMC method was one of the initiatives for newborn care at the facility. In the Malawian national protocol for postnatal care of newborns, KMC is specifically for babies whose birth weight is less than 2000g. Hospitals where MaiKhanda works for quality improvement, have KMC rooms for mothers or caregivers. They can place babies in the kangaroo care position until the baby meets the criteria to be discharged. However, not all babies that weigh less than 2000g are admitted into the KMC rooms. The main task that I was given by IHI was to find out why those KMC eligible babies (with birth weights less than 2000g) were not admitted into KMC rooms. They also wanted to gather information about neonatal deaths. We also agreed to find out the reasons why the birth weights of all babies were not reported.

Upon my arrival to Malawi, I had meetings with MaiKhanda staff to plan my internship. Unfortunately, my time was too short to work at all the hospitals; therefore, I chose one facility, which was facing a huge challenge on KMC admissions. Every week from Tuesday to Friday, I was based in Kasungu, about 130 km to the north of the capital city Lilongwe. I have been observing at the maternity ward, following the babies, especially the ones below 2000g at birth, from their delivery till their discharge. I have been making a process map from my observation, which will enable both IHI and MaiKhanda to see the gaps and obstacles regarding the points that we focused on. Hopefully, those findings will be useful for them to think of ideas and quality improvement projects. When the MaiKhanda staff comes to the facility, I join the team for data collection as well as quality improvement meetings. My daily activity includes trying to encourage the mothers and caregivers of the KMC babies to understand the benefits of KMC and to continuously hold their babies in the kangaroo care position. I also visited villages with the MaiKhanda staff in Kasungu, to see some of their activities related to maternal and neonatal health. One of the aims is to mobilize communities for health and social change. They work closely with community health workers, local government, the Ministry of the Health and other partners, engaging the committee members from each community to inform the population on antenatal care, health facility delivery, hygiene, sanitation and HIV among others. It has been a wonderful opportunity to understand more about the mothers and the families that I see in the hospital.

In Malawi, and with Rotary:

I have about two weeks left and the process map is almost complete. Although I have been enjoying this rewarding internship here in Malawi, I also have to go through sad and tough realities; that newborns are losing their lives each week. Those deaths are mostly preventable, but not only by improving the quality of health care, but also by improving many other factors that I would need another opportunity to blog about. Each day, when I leave the hospital, I hope to see those most vulnerable ones the following day. Each day, when I arrive at the hospital, I hope not to hear or see any neonatal deaths… it’s too soon to go…

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In the KMC room (left) KMC demonstration by midwives/nurses (right)

 

When I go to a place for a short time, I always prefer staying with a host family. By being exposed deeply into their daily life, I can learn about their culture and their country. I contacted the Rotary Clubs in Malawi and Rotarian, Rachel Silungwe, kindly offered me to stay with her during my time in Lilongwe. Rachel is also a Rotary alumnus who had traveled to Indiana, USA, through the Rotary Group Study Exchange Program. We had a lot of rotary experiences to share. At work, both the MaiKhanda and the hospital staff are all Malawian and they embrace me with the essence of their culture every day. Malawians say that Malawi is the warm heart of Africa. People affectionately greet you and welcome you. Once they find out that I am Japanese, quite a few greet me in Japanese. Many of them had a Japanese teacher when they were at school and some have been to Japan on the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) training programs. In fact, the JICA has been sending volunteers to Malawi since 1971. Malawi is a peaceful and stable country despite the poverty, lifeline shortage, drought and other problems that the country faces. On the street, you see a lot of Japanese used cars with the former company logos. It reminds me of some Asian countries that I have I visited. But here, interestingly, I was asked by some Malawians to listen to their car when they turned the engine on. Initially, I was not sure what they meant, but later I figured out that the car navigation system was activated each time the car started and was giving them instructions in Japanese. Amusingly, I translated a couple of times what those car navigation ladies were saying to them.

 

Rotary connected me to other fellows; one Malawian Peace Fellow, Ian Saini, who studied in Thailand for 3 months in 2014, and an ex Rotary Youth Exchange Student, Laura Turrini, from Brazil who stayed in Japan for a year and a half when she was in high school. Surprisingly, she was in District 2760, the same in which I applied for both the Ambassadorial and Peace Fellow scholarships. She was introduced to me by the Past District Governor Ryusetsu Esaki, who was also one of her host families. Recently, Ian gave a speech at the Rotary Club of Lilongwe and Rachel kindly invited Laura and I to attend the meeting. Ian works for the Ministry of Agriculture and is also a Global Peace Index Ambassador at the Institute for Economics & Peace. Laura works for the Brazilian Embassy here but at the same time, she is writing her thesis for her master’s study about Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi. Rachel works for the National Aids Commission. I am grateful to have met these active and inspiring Rotary alumni here in Malawi. I am also very happy to have had the chance to participate in the meetings of this very active Rotary Club of Lilongwe.

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Top right: (from the left) Rachel Silungwe (Rotarian/alumni) Ian Sinai (Rotary Peace Fellow) Hutch Mthinda (District Governor Nominee) Natsuko Laura Turrini (Alumni) Sophie Kalinde (Past President) Bottom left: Lake Malawi Bottom right: sunset in Kasungu

UNC Project:

You may or may not know that UNC has a great presence in Malawi, mostly in the medical and epidemiological field. In the capital city, Lilongwe, you can see “UNC Project” signs and you hear “UNC” quite often. At the hospital where I work in Kasungu, a Maternity Waiting Home was constructed under a UNC project. I heard about the project of waiting homes at one of the lectures at UNC but I did not know that the Kasungu District Hospital had one. It officially opened in April of this year. As a UNC student, I was curious to visit the site. Expectant mothers in their 8th and 9th month of pregnancy, who live far from health facilities or who are referred at antenatal care, stay there until they give birth. The chief midwife/nurse at the maternity waiting home told me that before mothers started to live here, there was just an open space. Expectant mothers were staying under the sun and the moon, without being visited for checkups and many had lost their lives, just outside the door to the maternity ward. Now, they receive antenatal care, treatment if needed, nutrition-cooking and sewing classes, daily physical exercises and can attend many healthy talk sessions. The midwives/nurses warmly accepted the idea of including the Kangaroo Mother Care topic in their health talks. They have toilets, showers and places to sleep under a roof; however, with more than 200 expectant mothers, there are just not enough rooms. There are huge tents and some extra rooms without beds, but usually, the ones who have no complications stay in these spaces. It is such an impressive scene that these expectant mothers dance and run with their very pregnant bellies. It is really, impressively beautiful and I believe, quite unique.

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Top left: morning run of the expectant mothers from the maternity waiting home Top right: learning how to sew Bottom center: cooking session

Thanks to many ongoing UNC projects, many Malawians know “UNC”. When I introduce myself, saying, “I am a UNC student”, many respond with a confused look. Many think it is a project’s name, some think it is part of the United Nations!

Starting from Cambridge in Massachusetts at IHI, my Applied Field Experience has been an Amazing Field Experience, full of laughter. I admire the hospital staff and Team MaiKhanda who dedicate themselves towards making their tomorrow better. As I have seen in different countries, music and dance are an important part of their life here. Seeing the smiling faces in those moments, feeling the united atmosphere surrounded by rhythms, I strongly believe that music can be a contributing factor to bring a peace among those, for any generation, who are sharing the rhythm with singing, dancing and smiling. I hope that babies coming into this world will be able to participate in these fun moments of life as they grow…

I did not mention much about Malawi itself, if you are interested in learning more, check out Malawi on the internet, please!

[i] E. Zimba, M. Kinne, F. Kachale et al. Newborn survival in Malawi : a decade of change and future implications, Health Policy and Planning 2012, 27:iii88-iii103; doi: 10.1093/heapol/czs043

Silviya Nitsova – AFE Blog – Council of Europe, Kiev, Ukraine

I arrived in Ukraine on May 6. For the next three months, part of my afternoon coffee break routine included checking the Ukrainskaya Pravda website. Every day I would read what seemed to be the same headline, with only the numbers changing: За сутки в зоне АТО 2 бойца погибли, еще 3 ранены. 2 soldiers killed and 3 more injured for the last 24 hours in the ATO (anti-terrorist operation) zone. These headlines, the numerous military recruitment advertisements along the escalators of Kyiv’s deep metro stations and the groups of young men in military uniforms waiting for their train on the platforms would be my reminders, that in an otherwise vibrant and colorful Kyiv, armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine is still ongoing. Since its beginning in April 2014, the conflict has resulted in 9,470 killed, of which 2,000 were civilians, 21,880 were wounded [1], nearly 1.8 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs) [2], hundreds of thousands are asylum-seekers, and material losses are estimated at USD 15 billion [3].

I chose to complete my Applied Field Experience (AFE) in Ukraine for two reasons. First, to gain practical experience and learn first-hand about international efforts to support Ukraine in its democratic agenda. My two-month internship with the Council of Europe Office in Kyiv allowed me to do that. Second, to try to better understand the conditions that facilitated the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine – a conflict which only two and a half years ago seemed unthinkable – by doing fieldwork in the regions. In this blog post, I will sketch out the background of the conflict and share some impressions from my experience in two cities – Kyiv and Slovyansk.

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Graffiti art, Grushevskogo street, central Kyiv

November 2013 saw the rise of a wave of protests and civil unrest in Ukraine. People took to the streets to show their discontent with the decision of President Yanukovych’s government to suspend preparations for signing an association agreement, essentially a trade deal, with the European Union to seek closer economic relations with Russia. Starting as peaceful demonstrations, the protests, which would become known as Euromaidan, grew in numbers and broadened their demands to include the President’s resignation after the government ordered the use of force against a peaceful assembly of student protesters. Maidan activists also called for an end to corruption, deoligarchization, deep and comprehensive reforms across the board. The demonstrations climaxed in a revolution in February 2014. Between February 18 and 20, more than 100 people were killed in clashes in Kyiv’s main square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Due to international pressure, an agreement to put an end to the bloodshed and several months of political crisis was reached between President Yanukovych and the opposition on February 21. On February 22, President Yanukovych surprised the world when he and his closest associates fled, first, to Eastern Ukraine and soon after, to Russia. An interim government led by the opposition was established.

In the aftermath of the Maidan Revolution, a wave of anti-Maidan or pro-Russian demonstrations spread across the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine.

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Part of the population in these regions did not approve of the Maidan in Kyiv and took to the streets in protest. The demonstrations in Crimea were followed by Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. In April 2014, pro-Russian demonstrations in the two easternmost regions of Ukraine – Donetsk and Luhansk (together known as Donbas) – escalated into an armed conflict between the separatist forces of self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and the armed forces of the Ukrainian government. Pro-Russian demonstrations elsewhere, despite involving occupation of regional state administration buildings and violent clashes with pro-Maidan protesters, did not escalate into an armed conflict. In the second half of May-June 2014, it became evident that Russia got more actively involved in the conflict by supporting separatists with equipment, arms and manpower. International efforts to manage the conflict have been only partially successful – the fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and Russia-backed separatists continues to this day, though with lower levels of intensity in comparison to 2014.

This chain of events has led to crises at multiple levels and triggered processes, such as nation-building, state-building, democratization, reinvigorated geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West, which seems to reinforce and run counter to each other at the same time.

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Founders of Kyiv monument at Maidan Nezalezhnosti. The female figure is dressed in vyshyvanka, a traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt. Many people can be seen wearing vyshyvankas in Kyiv today as an expression of their Ukrainian national identity. In the background: Alley of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes, named after the people who were killed during the Euromaidan

The Council of Europe, a leading regional organization in the field of human rights, democracy and rule of law, has been part of the increased international efforts to help Ukraine cope with the challenging situation. As an intern at the Council of Europe field office in Kyiv, I worked on two projects: Strengthening Freedom of Media and Establishing a Public Broadcasting System in Ukraine and Reform of the Electoral Practice in Ukraine. Apart from enhancing the role of media and improving the integrity, transparency and quality of the electoral process in Ukraine, the Council of Europe Office in Kyiv provides assistance to the Ukrainian government in other important areas, such as decentralization, judicial reform, penitentiary reform, human rights protection of IDPs and others. During my internship, I had the opportunity to attend trainings and conferences organized by the Council of Europe Office and partnering governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations. My internship allowed me to immerse in the local context and actively engage with current debates.

My AFE also gave me the opportunity to live in a city full of life, colors and energy. Kyiv has a fascinating urban landscape, beautiful parks and scenic river sites. It offers many entertainment opportunities and some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. Kyiv is a city with a long history and a big cultural center, something its citizens are rightfully proud of. The city has left me with the impression of “a driver of change” with all the engaged and creative people I had the chance to interact with during my stay here.

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Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra

 

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Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra

 

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Sunset in Kyiv

 

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Mural on a wall of a Soviet-style block of flats. The mural is part of an urban art project called “Art United Us.” The project aims to raise public awareness and attention to the problem of war, aggression and violence.

As I traveled east, the atmosphere changed and war became a lot more tangible. The easternmost point of my journey to the regions was Slovyansk, a small industrial town in northern Donetsk region situated about 640 km south-east from Kyiv. This place that no one had ever heard of, or cared about, became world famous on April 12, 2014, when a group of locals and Russian citizens took control of the town and it became a separatist stronghold for the next three months. Slovyansk was where the first military actions marking the beginning of the war in Donbas took place. The town remained under separatist control until July 5, 2014. It has been in the ATO zone, the territory where the war in Donbas is taking place, under Ukrainian control ever since.

Life 70 km away from the line of contact is hard. Slovyansk did not experience the destructive shelling of other Ukrainian towns, such as Debaltseve and Ilovaisk. Most of the damaged buildings in town have been restored. Yet, destructions remain in the outskirts and areas just outside of town. The local economy has been severely affected and unable to reach its pre-war levels for the last two years. With a bad business climate and about 30,000 internally displaced people from the war-affected areas, about 40% of the population in Slovyansk is currently unemployed.

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Destruction in the region of Slovyansk and neighboring village of Semenovka

 

8 Destructions Slovyansk Semenovka 1

Destruction in the region of Slovyansk and neighboring village of Semenovka

 

9 CeramicFactory_Slovyansk

A ceramic granite factory in the outskirts of Slovyansk. One of the few factories to invest in restoration and to resume work after the end of the war in Slovyansk. Currently, it provides 250 jobs to people from the region, including IDPs.

Apart from the material side of the tragedy, there is a psychological one. Many Slovyansk citizens held and still hold pro-Russian views. A sizeable part of the town’s population supported the separatists and the so called Русская весна or Russian Spring. After Slovyansk’s returning under Ukrainian control, these people could no longer freely express their true preferences because of the threat of being charged of supporting separatism. The situation was similar with Slovyansk citizens who held pro-Ukrainian views and who had to hide their preferences during the months under separatist control and, arguably, even before that. Because of the war, people have been forced to pick sides, to identify themselves with either one or the other (Ukraine or Russia). My impression is that this has been a painful process not only for people in Donbas, but for many in other parts of Ukraine.

In Slovyansk, I had the pleasure to meet with a small but very active group of local Rotarians. Rotary Club Slovyansk had been among the first non-governmental organizations to get actively engaged with humanitarian work immediately after the war in Slavyansk ended. Rotarians started off by removing the garbage and road blocks from the streets to make the town functional again. They cooperated with other Rotary Clubs across Ukraine to collect 500,000 Ukrainian hryvnas (about USD 20,800 in current exchange rate) for humanitarian purposes and helped deliver about 200 tons of in-kind aid to people in need. Focusing on everyday problems, whose solution is in the interest of all, has been Slovyansk Rotarians’ strategy to foster peace in their community. I have been humbled by the dedication of these men and their readiness to literally roll up their sleeves and do the work. The town is lucky to have them.

10 Slovyansk city library

Slovyansk city library. Rotary Club Slavyansk recently donated books there.

 

11 Slovyansk at dusk

Slovyansk at dusk

The three months in Ukraine have given me a lot of food for thought, unforgettable experiences, new friendships and, last but not least, an opportunity to connect with local Rotarians. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Rostyslav Lukach from Rotary Club Kyiv-Center, Sergey Pustovit and Artur Nasibian from Rotary Club Slovyansk for their receiving me so warmly and for making my experience in Ukraine so much richer. I wish them all the best of luck and already look forward to our next meeting.

12 New District 2232 Belarus _ Ukraine

Marking the start of a new Rotary District 2232 Belarus & Ukraine in Kyiv

 

References

  1. Humanitarian Bulletin: Ukraine Issue 11, 1-30 June 2016, available at http://reliefweb.int/report/ukraine/humanitarian-bulletin-ukraine-issue-11-1-30-june-2016
  2. OCHA, UNHCR. UKRAINE: Humanitarian Snapshot (as of 21 July 2016), available at http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/humanitarian_snapshot_20160721.pdf
  3. Zubko assesses cost of Donbas restoration at $15 billion, 25 June 2016, Kyiv Post, available at http://www.kyivpost.com/article/content/ukraine-politics/deputy-pm-assesses-cost-of-donbas-restoration-at-15-bln-417200.html
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