For a peace process to be successful it needs to be inclusive. That means bringing into the conversation not only those groups who are negotiating the end to conflict, but a wide range of views, including those of marginalized groups whose voices are rarely heard.
With the support of the Joint Peace Fund, i-School Myanmar is working to include marginalized communities in the peace process. In July, it held a 4-day peace education training which brought together two of society’s most excluded groups – people living with disabilities and the LGBT community in Ahnyar/Kyaukpadaung township in Mandalay Region.
The aim was to help build an inclusive approach to the peace process by building the capacity of these two marginalized groups to participate effectively in the peace process. Around 30 participants made up of people with disabilities and the LGBT community, as well as members of youth and grassroots groups, joined the event.
One of the participants, Hay Ko from Chauk township, Magway region, said fighting against discrimination towards minority groups, like people living with disabilities and the LGBT community, would help build a more peaceful society. “We need to listen to the current challenges of what the LGBT and PWD communities are facing and advocate on their behalf. From there we need to join together to achieve peace in Myanmar.”
i-School Myanmar’s Project Manager, U Ye Win said building peace at the local level would help shape a peaceful society by fighting against discrimination based on gender, physical or mental disability, race, religion, and sexual orientation. The result, he said, would help build sustainable peace in Myanmar because the issue of minority rights is at the heart of the peace process:
“The rights of people living with disabilities – as well as other minority rights - and the peace process are highly connected. That’s why we’re encouraging people to be aware of their rights and how to protect and demand them.”
U Ye Win said the trainings were deliberately focusing on areas in Central Myanmar where most people are not directly affected by conflict.“I’m focusing on central Myanmar and its people in order to promote their awareness, to empathize with those experiencing conflict which taking place in many States, and to include them to support the current peace process.”
Win Thet Mar from Muditar Parahita organization from Kyautkpadaung township said the peace training had changed her attitude towards differences and diversity.
“Before this training I did not believe that I could change society. And I did not pay much attention to what was going on with other people. However, now I have learned that peace is a common objective that we share even though we have different religious backgrounds. I believe that understanding this plays an important role in us achieving peace.”