Guest post by Forgotten Diaries, also the winner of the World Summit Youth Award:
It is a little known fact that dozens of wars are currently being waged around the world. Outside of the Middle East, most of these conflicts are shunned by, and receive almost no attention from the media. An even less known fact is that of the vastly untapped potential of young people in these zones and the significant role they can play in peace building.
These two little known facts form the heart of the motivation driving the team of seven hard working young people behind ‘Forgotten Diaries’. Forgotten Diaries (FD) is a project which aims to raise awareness of the dire situation facing over 100 million children and youth living in conflict ridden environments. Their unique and innovative approach involves the use of a dedicated web platform which connects up to five young bloggers from each of 10 ‘forgotten’ conflict zones around the world, allowing them to share their stories and present a human face to each crisis. Kashmir and Pakistan are two of the forgotten conflict zones being covered by the project and youth bloggers from these zones regularly provide updates through FD’s online platform.
FD project manager Anush Hayrapetyan said “We often underestimate how powerful the internet is and the potential it has to really bring attention to significant problems all over the world which are being missed by the mainstream media”.
However, even more innovative and exciting has been their ability to empower young people to take an active role in community and peace building, highlighting the enormous potential young people play in shaping the otherwise dire futures of many of these areas. Following online training on project development and online media, Forgotten Diaries issued grants to five of its participants to begin community projects.
The results have been highly successful. 26 year old Ogaga Maxwell, a Forgotten Diaries participant from the Niger Delta began a unique program called ‘Sports Skills for Peace’ which uses sport as a basis to bring together school children and train them about peace building, conflict resolution and management. Amare Abebaw, a participant from Ethiopia believes that the roots to peace building between communities lie in basic conflict resolution skills. Amare’s project ‘the Teenage Peace Brigades’ aims to informally teach school students about the importance of tolerance and various conflict resolution skills.
Nine new youth led projects were supported just last month including one in Pakistan which will include a one day workshop on peace, non-violence and tolerance for youth at risk of being recruited into terrorist groups in Peshawar in Northern Pakistan. Another project close to India is a series of youth theatre productions in Nepal used to educate children about peace and non-violence, something almost alien after years of experiencing Maoist activity.
FD’s development manager Shasheen Jayaweera says “Forgotten Diaries also empowers young people in conflict zones by helping them build the skills they need to develop community peace building projects which help thousands of people”.
Conflict resolution is complex, challenging, and costly, and even the world’s top diplomats and politicians struggle endlessly in pursuit of peace. However, many of the world’s conflicts share some key elements including a lack of tolerance, understanding, empathy and humanity by many of their perpetrators. Forgotten Diaries, with the support of the ArtAction foundation has aimed to tackle these fundamental characteristics by attempting to engrain such values in tomorrow’s generations.
Forgotten Diaries founder, Selene Biffi says “young people are often portrayed as the problem, but we see them as the solution to building peace from the grass-roots up, and have proven this through Forgotten Diaries – all that is needed is for us to empower youth, and to help them achieve their dreams”.
FD was started in 2008 and is run by a dedicated team of young volunteers from around the world. FD has already received tens of thousands of visits and won praise from organizations including the Pulitzer Centre, Oxfam and Microsoft.
How you can get involved: There are a number of ways to get involved. FD aims to raise awareness of forgotten conflict zones and you can help by spreading the word about FD, sharing the link to FD’s documentary or joining their facebook group. FD also aims to create a conversation between youth in forgotten conflict zones andÂ youth around the world to help more people understand conflict zones and get involved — you can contribute to FD’s blogs by posting a comment too — visit www.forgottendiaires.org. FD will soon also be recruiting more bloggers from India — join our mailing list online to keep up to date! You can email us at [email protected].
Forgotten Diaries is a project of Youth Action for Change