Since the summer, Business Plan for Peace has engaged two students of peace and conflict studies to support the team in research and the UK-based Connecting Communities project, funded by the National Lottery.
But what does it mean to be a student of peace and conflict studies in today’s world? As they wind down their time with us, our interns Killa Zadva and Salomey Ali give us the lowdown.
Killa: “Peace and conflict studies is a social science field that identifies and analyzes violent and non violent behaviors. It examines the structural mechanisms attending conflicts with the aim of understanding those processes in the hopes of leading to a more desirable human condition.
Personally, what drove me to this study subject was the heartbreak I felt when watching the news and hearing the deterioration of current global conflicts. I would get angry seeing political initiatives being used for personal gain instead of global growth.
During my undergraduate studies in international affairs, I noticed that conflict negatively impacted social and economic growth- keeping regions in a state of limbo, unable to address the underlying issues plaguing societies.
I like to believe this study subject found me. I hadn’t heard of it until I began looking into why peace processes were failing, and why some countries experienced conflict when others didn’t.
Scilla’s Mighty Heart course reaffirmed my love for my study subject. She likes to remind us to connect with what breaks our heart and channel that anger into a force for positive change. Seeing the world in a broken system breaks my heart, and I’ve channeled my anger into a force for both personal motivation and change.”
Salomey: “Studying Peace and Conflict gives you an understanding of the dynamics at work in a community and how they may be connected to other global issues and fields. We are introduced to concepts and practices that provide us with the right language to articulate and live out what we intuitively feel. Peace and conflict studies is complementary to a wide range of fields, as the knowledge and skills learned are applicable in all aspects of life and business.
While looking for a Master’s programme for a friend’s sister, I came across the Peace and Conflict programme. I didn’t think much of it at the time because I was in my second year of an undergraduate programme in Law and International Relations. However, at the time, I was very interested in how social cohesion and distributive justice were built, particularly in societies and countries transitioning from a period of violence. A cohesive society promotes economic equality and inclusion, democracy, and social solidarity, in addition to the availability of basic services and facilities.
I was not surprised by this interest because I am from Ghana, a West African nation. Despite Ghana being amongst the top 5 peaceful countries in Africa, the West African region has a lingering history of political, tribal, humanitarian and food insecurity. This insecurity reflects the gendered inequalities and disparities rooted in the region’s patriarchal system.
Compared to other political science courses, I would say that the peace and conflict studies program puts people and relationships first. Whether it involves mediation and negotiation to resolve problems and maintain relationships or focusing on how people can work together to transform larger systems of oppression- such as racism, violence and exclusion.”
Killa: “In today’s world, the topic is more important than ever, especially with how much the world has changed in the past decades. A key takeaway I’ve gained from my courses is the importance of inclusion. Peace processes cannot work if you place the needs of others on the backburner. I’m not a religious person but I will give Jesus credit for his famous quote which phrases it perfectly, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
With my degree I hope to contribute to society in a positive manner. Being from Mauritania and having grown up in the Middle East and North Africa, many of my interests lie in the region. I hope to use the knowledge I’ve gained at Business Plan for Peace to help with sustainable and profitable regional growth. Economic empowerment can transform a society into a positive force. My aspiration is to help build positive environments for local communities to thrive in.”
Salomey: “From my studies and time working with the Business Plan for Peace, I have come to learn that peace is a process and not a product. The peace process is not linear and takes place in different formats and across different periods of time. With this in mind, I aim to devote myself to developing the legal organizations fighting for the existence of peace and security in civil war zones, and the rights of every human, especially those in minority.
To be honest, this course isn’t always as rosy as it sounds; it can be emotionally draining at times. But I’ve discovered two things that Scilla says keep me going in these troubling times.
One, ‘Identify your skills and what breaks your heart and marry the two’. By this, she simply means apply what you enjoy doing to issues that are important to you’.
Two, ‘Take risks, act from pure love and offer yourself whole-heartedly to the service of humanity’. As someone who enjoys being of service to others and has always valued human rights (particularly those of minority groups), these two statements fuel my motivation and remind me of why and how I ended up in this field. Oh, intentional breaks also help.”