Peace circles in Rwanda
December 4, 2012
Nine women leaders from various communities in Rwanda came together last month at the Peace Center in Kigali for a ‘Peace Circle’ training programme. This programme is organized by the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), Interpeace’s local partner in Rwanda, as part of the Bibamahoro project, which trains Rwandan woman leaders.
Training peace agents
The programme enabled the group of dedicated women to explore new approaches to peacebuilding in their country. The women were not only given tools to become more effective peace agents in their communities, but they also gained valuable knowledge about themselves.
Peace Circles were started by the NGO Initiatives of Change (IofC) in 1991 by a network of women based Switzerland and have grown in popularity, now taking place all over the world. The women participating in a Peace Circle begin by identifying the key issues and points of tension in their communities that risk sparking conflict. They then go about addressing the issues through common action by building relationships and deepening their understanding of their own skills and abilities to build peace.
The importance of internal peace
The main goal of Peace Circles is to create a culture of peace in communities and homes, as the participants are given the tools to transmit their new knowledge to other members of their communities.
“Sometimes you do not even realize that you do not have internal peace. This training helped me know myself better and I think from this step I might be of greater help to the women I work with who have endured sexual violence,” noted one of the participating women.
This first IRDP Peace Circle training was delivered by well-known Rwandan personality, Mathilde Kayitesi. She is the coordinator of a women’s organization for peace education and conflict resolution as well as a member of Rwanda’s unity and reconciliation commission.
Sowing the seeds of peace
The Bibamahoro project, which translates as ‘sow the seeds of peace’, was created in 2008 by IRDP. The project targets grassroots women leaders and supports them in leveraging their position in their communities to facilitate conflict prevention. The objective is to create a ‘pool of peace agents’: well-trained women who can have an impact on the peaceful development of their communities and who are able to train other women to do the same. So far, 15 women went through the project and have subsequently become active agents for change in their communities. Currently, another five women are participating in the on-going project.