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Organization: Saathi
The following information may be cited or quoted as long as the source is accurately mentioned and the words are not taken out of context.
Posted: April 29 2005,20:44 If you wrote this report, you will find a button here that you may click
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PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the first half of the Decade?

Saathi’s constituency is made up of people from several different religions and backgrounds.  With the communal violence that breaks out in India on occasion, most notably the violence in 2002 in Gujarat, we feel the tension in the social fabric even in Mumbai, Maharashtra.  Mumbai itself went through communal violence in the early 90’s, leaving a sense of vulnerability when news comes of areas facing trouble.  This sense of vulnerability can best be exemplified by the local official reactions to outbreaks elsewhere.  Police presence is increased, public warnings made, and editorials and remarks flood the media.

Saathi’s team is represented by no less than six major religions, many of which are in conflict with one another in some part of the nation, and multiple nationalities.  The individuals that participate in the organization’s programs reflect this diversity.  Through the years this team has been together, violence has erupted that can be related to each individual, team members and project participants, through their various identities whether it be religion, place of origination (home), gender, or other socio-economic identifiers.  An atmosphere of trust has been built and ingrained so strongly that not only is the conflict not reflected amongst our own ranks, there is instead a sense of strength and drawing together in support of one another.

In a country where religious differences can lead to thousands of deaths, we can see individuals in our own domain learning to address those differences peacefully and proactively.  From the Muslim and Hindu boys that live together and learn a tolerance for their different food choices to a respect and interest in the different philosophies each follows, a recognition of a person’s humanity before all other adjectives about that person is given priority.

Progress indicators have not been developed, per se.  Rather an astute sensitivity to the atmosphere of the organization and communities in which it works has been built.  If unrest is noticed, it is addressed immediately.  The outcome is then examined to ensure the symptoms of the problem themselves have been addressed and not just the immediate minutiae.  The ongoing peaceful atmosphere is exemplary of its own progress without the need of express indicators.

OBSTACLES: What are the most important obstacles that have prevented progress?

The impact of past experiences – the fear, anger, bitterness, and confusion – can make the goal of moving on and rebuilding a stronger community a massive challenge.  The knowledge that past violence has broken out as a flash point, not even a slow build, as is often the case in communal violence, leaves an anxious vulnerability due to the uncertainty of what could spark it again in the future.  It is the human condition to integrate what we have learned in the past with how we function in the future, and surviving a time of great danger and conflict leave indelible marks on the psyche.  Contributing to this is the fact that communal violence does continue to break out in various areas across the nation.  There is no point where a survivor can be shown that their fear is unwarranted and that the danger is firmly past.

Additionally, the chasm between the “have’s” and the “have-not’s” is not only significant but continues to widen.  This can lead to an ever-increasing desperation as well as separation of society.

ACTIONS: What actions have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the Decade?

To prevent social lines being drawn and tensions building within our own sphere of influence, we use strong communication channels, exploration of ideas, and work towards an understanding of each about each.  This is done through discussion groups, use of drama therapy for individuals to explore their feelings on the topic, and an openness for any and all to express their anxieties, concerns, and thoughts.  We have found this to not only create a culture of peace and nonviolence, it leads to each individual acting as an ambassador for peace and nonviolence through their own internalization of how differences can co-exist and even be symbiotic.  Following the 2002 violence, the participants of Saathi’s projects that went through the process of exploring their reactions felt the need to take this outside the organization via a play written by youths living on the street.  It was a striking example of how violence even in a distant place can breed angst and bitterness and how those feelings can be channeled into an understanding that will hopefully prevent its reoccurrence.

It is also through this exploration that we have been able to work outside our immediate communities, taking programs to the areas of conflict in hopes of healing some of the traumas experienced and beginning the process of repairing the social rifts.  This has been done through drama therapy, bridging education processes during time of rebuilding, and exploring individuals’ feelings and fears in the aftermath.  There are a great many prejudices that are put into dramatic relief during and after a time of conflict.  Addressing these from the points of view of those involved, outside factors that exaggerated the situation, and the sheer momentum that builds during the conflict can all be building blocks towards a new understanding of what occurred and how to prevent it in the future.  

A program has been developed that works towards bringing the tools of the financially secure into the reach of the disadvantaged and Below Poverty Line communities in an effort to bridge the economic gaps currently seen.  Matching the individuals with loans from more affluent individuals, they are taught basic financial tools, bank accounts are procured, and simple investments using the Initial Public Offering Sector are made.  To objective is to increase their knowledge of general economics, their financial abilities within a larger context, and create an income stream using the same source of benefits as is available to those with greater incomes and resources.  It is hoped that through bridging some of these economic gaps that we can move in a preventative direction to avoid conflict through desperation and bring about a stronger sense of peace and nonviolence.

ADVICE: What advice would you like to give to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the second half of the Decade?

A lot of emphasis is put on restoring livelihoods, domiciles, and basic existence after a time of conflict.  While these basic needs are indeed essential, equally important is addressing the psychological aspect of the survivor, as well as the perpetrator. Government and Agency reports alone on who is to blame and the series of events does not allow for the individuals themselves to work through what happened and can be counterproductive by providing justification for further retribution.  Without increasing the understanding and altering the perceptions of all involved, the same triggers can have the same outcomes in the future.  

For every conflict in the world, there is a community that has learned to cope with the same factors in a peaceful way.  Rather than focusing only on the areas of conflict that now need assuaged and rehabilitated, increase awareness of what it is that allowed the peaceful community to develop.  Learn how to replicate the positive in addition to stemming the flow of the negative.  

Studies such as this one are learning from the Grassroots movements, the organizations that are working daily with all the puzzle pieces that will eventually fit together to allow for peace and nonviolence.  Grassroots organizations are able to build a kind of trust with the communities that governmental agencies often can not.  Recognition of this strength and leveraging it through stronger support systems and lending credibility can have exponential impact to how far the reach can extend.

PARTNERSHIPS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?

Saathi is a member of several networks and partners with others as needed.  These partnership and networks are in relation to the organization’s emphasis on youth living on the street, protection of adolescent girls, and children’s rights and opportunities.

PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the second half of the Decade (2005-2010)?

The program working with individual loans, creating an income stream, and building financial awareness is being developed with a view to large scale replication.  By the year 2010, we hope to have touched millions of individuals by introducing investment tools that begin to remove the chasm, both through capital resources and general knowledge/awareness.  With that economic stability coming to the lowest income groups and with equal availability of financial tools, it is hoped a new understanding can come to all via a stronger sense of fairness and the ability to meet financial requirements.

Postal address of organization

Saathi
Agripada Municipal School, Room 14
Farooque Umarbhouy Lane
Opp. YMCA Swimming Pool
Mumbai Central (E)
Mumbai  400 011
INDIA

E-mail address of organization

info@saathi.org

Website address of organization

www.saathi.org

Highest priority action domain of a culture of peace

Human rights

Second priority action domain of a culture of peace

Sustainable development

Highest priority country of action (or international)

India

Second priority country of action (or international)

INTERNATIONAL
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Organization: Saathi

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