Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
I work across the discipline of creative arts and development practice in Papua New Guinea. Over the years I took breaks to attend programs to increase my proficiency but sometimes it was to find meaning again in the work I do. Being here in Bangkok as a peace fellow is one of the moments. My most recent work is in the area of gender-based violence, looking especially at the issues of violence towards women and children. But there are moments in this work I am at a loss on how to deal with tenuous situations. While I know how to work with local communities, mediating difficult and sometimes violent tensions within individuals and groups is not something I know how to do well.
The peace fellowship is not just an opportunity to learn about the theory that informs peace and conflict studies but it is also an opportunity to learn from other peace fellows who work in this area. I draw from their experience and from what I learn in class to think about how this collective knowledge might be useful back at home. But I also discovered something more.
At times in my work, I occasionally want to give up and seriously consider doing something else. In these reflective moments it’s usually the efforts of someone or groups of individuals working and living in these communities that draw me back into the work. This realization also became apparent on a recent field trip our group took to Mae Sot. I met individuals who do difficult work and under extremely trying circumstance and while they face difficulties and seemingly insurmountable hardships, they continue with their projects. Some of these individuals have been doing it for decades. Their efforts become even more impressive when seen against a backdrop of the political constraints they work under. I am in awe of their courage and resilience to continue with projects despite extreme circumstances.
Dr. Cynthia Maung’s work at Mae Tao Clinic is an example of this courage. She provides health care to her people both in Mae Sot and across the boarder. She brings to the fore the stories of those who live and work in unjust conditions. And while authorities would like to keep their stories muffled, Mae Tao clinic inadvertently makes visible the unreasonable and inequitable ways people are being treated. The visibility of these stories is being amplified as well through other organizations like the Legal Assistance Centre, MAP foundations and Youth Connect. Narratives from the margins are being told everyday through the work of these organizations so people like myself have access to them.
I will go home filled with knowledge and experience knowing that there are a collective of individuals out there doing life changing work, whose creative and innovative ways of representation can be something that could inform my work in gender based violence. But most importantly the peace fellowship has widened my thinking and knowledge. This space, within this country, and the 20 other peace fellows from 14 different countries around the world add to the diversity of knowledge and their different ways of thinking and experiencing knowledge and sharing their stories, is something I hold valuable. The peace fellowship in some respects has confirmed knowledge hence reassured my resolve but it has also challenges my thinking – and so it should. I will take this experience back home to Papua New Guinea.
Jackie Kauli, Papua New Guinea
Rotary Peace Fellow, January 2016 session.