Caption: Photo-collage workshop (An example of bottom-up engagement to inform adults) – 8th April 2021, Red Nose Foundation, Jakarta, Indonesia
While it was heartening and inspiring to listen to the major successes of the Mobile Arts for Peace projects in their initial stages, I was also delighted by the participants willingness to talk about their disappointments. In these spaces we often only hear of success as this is an essential aspect of justifying resources and securing future funding. However, an exclusive focus on success limits opportunities to learn and improve our work and recognise common challenges across projects and themes and subsequently come up with strategies to address them. In the Mobile Arts for Peace projects, a pattern of challenges was evident because of the openness of presenters. In the cases mentioned by MAP partners and dialogue attendees, these disappointments stemmed from similar lack of external support and buy-in from those they were targeting while the corresponding successes resulted from engaged and committed stakeholders. In this case, and in others, we see that for change to happen, there needs to be both bottom-up and top-down engagement.
Creating spaces for constructive dialogue between young people and decision-makers, particularly politicians and government officials presents a host of challenges. Often, projects focus on empowering and building capacity and skills of the young people with whom they are working. Young people are supported to identify issues that are important to them and to articulate them in formats which can be disseminated and shared with stakeholders and those with the power to bring about change. The adults supporting them introduce them to data collection methods, analysis techniques and facilitate events where young people can share their findings. The final step is where the biggest challenge remains. Young people are empowered and develop capacity to speak to those in power – but are those in power capable of listening and hearing?
While copious resources are put into developing the capacity of young people, rarely do projects elaborate or build opportunities for reversals – building the capacity of the powerful to listen to young people. And yet this is an essential component of change. Entrenched social norms around childhood and youth often mean that children are expected to listen. Yet, if other social norms – such as child marriage and gender discrimination are to be challenged – people, and especially adults – need shift their perceptions of what young people are capable of and the role they play in our societies.
Robert Chambers argues that power does not have to be a zero-sum exchange and that to give up power does not necessitate that someone else loses it, rather he contends that these exchanges can be win-win (2016). To advocate for win-win scenarios requires a shift from focusing only on bottom-up approaches. Instead, transforming power requires that top-down approaches take place alongside bottom-up approaches: ‘the importance of bottom-up power with and power within strategies, vital and often primary though they are, should not distract from the potentials of top-down transformations using power over in ways which are win-win, with gains for the powerful as well as for those who are empowered.’ There are spaces in development where this has started to take place – such as working with men on issues of gender inequity, see the work of Equimundo, and working with business owners on issues of working conditions in the CLARISSA programme.
As mentioned by the MAP Nepal team, there was greater success when government officials who were involved in the MAP dialogues recognised the value of youth finding and presenting the issues which were most relevant to their well being as it meant that government officials then knew where to focus their energy and resources. Yet, even when adults are supportive of youth activities, in adult and youth exchanges there is the danger that ‘adults talk too much’ and/or present as experts. Taft’s (2015) work on the Peruvian children’s working movement explores how intergenerational collaboration when embedded in contexts of age-based inequality can reinforce disempowering dynamics. This case and others serve as an important caution to those supporting youth initiatives. Without adequate self-reflection and top-down capacity-building and commitment to address power imbalances, our efforts can unintentionally uphold youth marginalisation.
MAP’s openness to addressing these challenges and others suggests that the next stages of the project will be exciting places for learning and practicing how adults can learn to work with youth in bottom-up policy initiatives.
 For more on types of power, see VeneKlasen and Miller (2002)
Tirtha Prasad Gautam
Focal teacher, Janapriya Child Club
Janapriya Secondary School, Tansen Palpa Nepal
Member of Curriculum Development Committee, Tansen Municipality, Palpa
Edition: Camilo Soler Caicedo
Caption: Activities in Palpa and Kanchanpur District
Nepal is a beautiful mountainous country. The Himalayas are full of diversity as they are a combination of mountains and plains. Being a country with about 123 castes and 125 languages, it is also culturally rich. Nepal is the country of the world’s highest peak Mount Everest, the messenger of peace, Gautama Buddha, and Pashupatinath, the idol of Hindus. About 10 religious sects live in Nepal, the land of nature priests. Although not rich in terms of population and geography, it is a rich and prosperous country in terms of diversity, my dear motherland Nepal.
Palpa district is located in the middle of Nepal, extending 1000 km east-west and 200 km north-south. My school Sri Janapriya Secondary School is located in Tansen Municipality, the headquarters of this district. Janapriya Children’s Club is actively established for the development of the multifaceted talents of the students of this school. Janapriya Child Club, a project run by the Mobile Arts for Peace (MAP) project under the initiative of the Human Rights Film Center, has been running within this school and service area for the past two years. I would like to thank the MAP and the school administration for being associated with this project as I myself am the focal teacher of Child Club.
After the MAP project was implemented in the school, it was felt that there was a difference in the activities expressed by the students. Not only did students’ learning and achievement rates improve, but their ability to take social responsibility also changed positively. There was a radical change in student participation in all school activities. The children’s club started to organize the Friday program which is conducted every week. Children’s bulletins were published fortnightly. Cleaning of the school premises, construction of gardens, pasting of posters and pamphlets against superstitions and stereotypes started. Students began to present their expression through art. The environment of the school has become very beautiful by putting their words through paintings, short stories, plays, poems, songs, comics, movies etc. It has been realized that learning life and art are complementary to each other. Various practices have proven that no matter how complex a problem is expressed through the medium of art, it becomes easier and the initiative to solve it becomes easier. There was a lack of hygiene materials available in the school. One day, there was a discussion in the office about the picture of Kucho, which was given to the headmaster as a gift by the president of the children’s club. No, why this picture of Kucho came as a gift, and the class teachers said, there are not enough materials needed for cleaning in the classroom. It was concluded that their demands should be met soon. On the same day, after office hours, the headmaster asked the accountant to bring 12/12 bins for dust collection and collection baskets. The moment when the students greeted with loud applause when it was made available during tomorrow’s prayer time is still fresh in my mind. That’s why I like to say that art is an indispensable part of teaching and learning.
Meanwhile, the Government of Nepal issued a circular that all local levels should create a local curriculum of 100 full marks and implement it from the next academic session. Tansen municipality formed a 9-member curriculum development and writing committee including me. A time limit has been set for creating the curriculum to be implemented from the next academic session. We asked the team to work to create the curriculum and created a plan and schedule. According to the schedule, we Swaroop car owners conducted direct meeting, interaction and meetings. Meanwhile, the second wave of COVID-19 3 took place. All educational institutions were closed and stopped. Learning, teaching and all activities of daily life took a short break. All the activities in the school were stopped and we teachers were worried. The solution to the problem was not solved due to the mind being disturbed. Let’s remember some of the activities learned while cooperating with MAP Association. . A little hope rose in my heart and I prepared the lesson material accordingly and recorded it on my mobile phone and started connecting with the students. Students also joined enthusiastically. Our presence reached the homes of students through Messenger groups. At the same time, art was used excessively in teaching and learning. A new dimension has been added to the use of art and technology in learning. In fact, in terms of teaching and learning, it can be called work efficiency. But the construction campaign of the curriculum was still in progress. After life became somewhat normal, classes started to be conducted in direct contact.
Caption: Student Practising Mobile Video Film Making – Janapriya Secondary School
As the normal daily life resumed, the local curriculum building campaign came alive again and our committee was revived with effect from the next academic session. Work was being done to collect the expectations of Socar people. Further, the technical experts who embodied it had to be tasked. In two meetings, the means of meeting the expectations of stakeholders were discussed. But finding the right tool was confusing. During this time, we remembered about the Problem Tree. While thinking about that, we started to understand the whole of Nepal and the local environment.
The whole of Nepal is like a miniature Nepal under Tansen Mayor. The caste characteristics, religious, linguistic, etc., are remembered here.
It is felt that MAP has come to solve the problem. Six genres were transformed into fields to make it a reality.
- Introduction to Tansen Municipality
- Tourism and Tansen
- Careers Business and Technology
- Arts and Heritage
- Health Hygiene and Sports
- Moral values and useful life skills
After creating the subject area, if art can be the invaluable fund that connects the teaching and learning method and the evaluation method, for our reason, the theoretical and practical aspects were divided into 50 / 50 percent and the evaluation tool was decided. As a result, opportunities to develop students’ talents through project work were arranged. The curriculum which has been implemented in all schools of Tansen Municipality today.
I think my passion for art would have been comparatively less if I had not been associated with MAP. I have been working as a teacher for the past 29 years. In terms of educational qualification, I have done master’s degree in educational planning and management. However, MAP has realized the role of curriculum development during teaching and learning and educational management. I am pleased with the work of MAP. MAP has taken an incomparable role in the moral and social responsibility of the local curriculum. Its contribution should be properly evaluated and requested for cooperation with contact persons of Nepal Bishnu Khatri, Rajib Timalsina, Pandav Khatri and Mayor Ashok Kumar Shahi. MAP played an important role and the mayor decided to take this project to the executive meeting. In addition, the Municipality has given permission to be the MAP publisher and take the local syllabus for 1500 copies by raising the cost of printing the booklet. As a result, this course has been implemented within the Tansen city area today. I would like to thank all the thinkers who have directly and indirectly helped in making this course. Finally, I will leave by just thanking Ananda Breed, the big sister of us all.
Caption: Kyrgyzstan’s Team Presentation, part of the Agents of Change Webinar
If you wish to envision the future of world peace, young people from the MAP project shall be your reflective lens. From Nepal to Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia to Rwanda, the young peacebuilders from these regions, equipped with the tools of arts-based research, documented critical issues that they believed impacted their society. Traditionally while these approaches are utilized for peacebuilding endeavors in reconciliation processes, today, there is a need for incorporating the same into preventive efforts and driving more targeted interventions.
In the context of the Agents of Change event on the 24th May 2022 Each project developed by the teams communicated challenges that often went unnoticed in transitional societies and used the skills learned through the Small Grants Project to bridge meaningful participation and partnership for their communities. While navigating through the stigmas and prejudices that marginalized people in their communities face, the teams brought a multitude of creative outcomes. Documented through films, posters, photographs, stories, and comic strips, the young people ensured adequate safeguards by working with skilled professionals such as lawyers, trainers, community leaders, and psychologists to drive their interventions. For example, in a project involving violence against the children of migrants, the members were working with high-risk and vulnerable children prone to anxiety and trauma. Using mitigation measures like involving a psychologist and legal professionals, the team parallelly encouraged legal advice and therapy for those who sought the same. Aside from the mitigation measures, the teams took cognizance of the broader historical context of the region. For example, the project in Nepal identified the ethnic and socio-cultural conflicts that impacted their societies. Integrating a bottom-up approach toward policy intervention, the team used multiple channels for continued advocacy on the issues.
Based on the foundation of the “Theory of Change” analysis, each of the projects reflected a sincere effort to dig deeper into the immediate problems that their communities faced and the existing gaps within the institutional structures – both formal and informal. Through inter-generational dialogues with key decision-makers, they furthered the historical roots of their culture and carried it with a fresh perspective towards the future with the use of social media as a critical channel for communicating their assessments. The event also fostered intercultural learning amongst the team members of different countries and as a member of the audience, one could also identify the common concerns for the protection of the vulnerable and the prevention of the atrocities against those marginalized despite the geographical barriers.
A key highlight for me was the keen awareness and recognition of the diverse socio-cultural factors by young people and their usage in the planning, designing, and implementation of the project based on the arts-based tools. For example, the team in Rwanda took cognizance of the long history of war and conflict that has fractured the society. Involving elements of transitional justice as a part of solutions and recommendations while simultaneously working with the members of the civil society to transform the situation for children was critical. As the teams realize the projects alongside the communities they serve, it is a hope that the documentation of these lived experiences that is often unnoticed realizes into concrete policy efforts by local, state, and national governance.
Ayesha is an incoming LLM student at Georgetown University for the academic year 2022-23 on the prestigious Georgetown Merit Scholarship. In the recent past, Ayesha co-lead the Youth Wellbeing team under the UNESCO Youth as Researcher program for the Asia-Pacific Region . Here, she represented both in the Knowledge-sharing Meeting and High-Level Political Conference advocating for the access to mental healthcare within the region for university students with various stakeholders. Her priority interest areas are in security issues, human rights laws and peacebuilding that impact lives of young people through the intersection of mental health, gender and technology.
You can also access the whole Webinar recording here