Stories That Inspire: Asian Peace Activists Share their Hopes, Reflections, and Insights on Peacebuilding

Sharon Cuddy and Michele Bornstein are Women, Peace and Security Consultants currently working with the United Nations Development Programme on the N-Peace programme. N-Peace (which stands for Engage for Peace, Equality, Access, Community and Empowerment) is a regional initiative that supports the advancement of women’s leadership for peace in six Asian countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“Stories impacted me a lot. They nurtured my imagination, my dreams, and my vision. So, I believe listening to stories and telling stories is a great tool for peacebuilding,” declared Rubina Feroze Bhatti, one of ten grassroots peacebuilders granted an N-Peace Award by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on October 23rd. The Award ceremony and surrounding events took place on the heels of the 15th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, which promotes women’s role in peacebuilding and conflict prevention.

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(Photo Credit: United Nations Development Programme) Used with permission, courtesy of N-Peace Network.

The N-Peace Awards, first launched in 2011, recognizes the courageous and tireless work of the women and men driving change and equality from the bottom up in Asia. This year, eight women and two men from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Nepal, Indonesia and the Philippines were recognized for this honor. Stories were exchanged, experiences were shared, and connections were forged across national boundaries as the peacebuilders gathered together in New York. To capture and document their transformative stories, UNDP utilized StoryCorps’s new mobile application, which serves as a tool to record, share, and preserve these personal narratives.

While the awardees came from vastly different walks of life, one common thread emerged in their stories: the centrality of their mothers in their lives and choices. When asked, “who is this strongest woman in your life?” and “who motivated your work?” each awardee proudly responded “my mother.” These mothers, many of whom were impoverished and illiterate, instilled the values that are embodied in each of these activists and their efforts to build more peaceful, stable, and inclusive societies.

“Don’t stay aside, join each other, and help each other to get to peace…”

Fifteen years after the creation of UNSCR 1325, women continue to fight for seats at the “peacebuilding table” and still only represent a miniscule percentage of the formal negotiators. Despite this shortcoming, the narratives of the awardees offer insights, best practices, and encouragement for girls and women globally. Likewise, the male awardees, who work for gender equality, are role models for boys and men. Hassina Neekzad recognizes the unique potential of women in the peacebuilding field and implores them, “Don’t stay aside, join each other, and help each other to get to peace and also help the men… we women should bring peace…”

Listen to their stories here:

You can find the complete archive of interviews with the N-Peace Award winners here.

(Feature Photo Credit: United Nations Development Programme) Used with permission, courtesy of N-Peace Network. 

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