The Peace Ambassador #3

October 2013 Newsletter of our peace-building work in Bangladesh

The Hunger Project-Bangladesh in partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) launched the People Against Violence in Elections (PAVE) program in 2015, empowering a group of individuals from political parties and the civil society as Peace Ambassadors and members of Peace Pressure Groups (PPGs). It was launched with the support from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)Department for International Development (DFID) and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). The USAID and DFID support for the program continued under the Strengthening Political Landscape (SPL) project, being implemented in partnership with Democracy International (DI). The DFID support for PAVE also continued through IFES under SPP2 project. At present we have 58 PPGs, 1362 PPG members, 174 Peace Ambassadors and 58 PPG Coordinators across 31 districts of 7 divisions of Bangladesh.

Here are some recent stories of Peace Ambassadors and members of the Peace Pressure Groups in action in their communities. They are using their new skills to resolve conflicts, bringing together leaders across political and cultural divides, and holding public events where leaders and communities publicly demonstrate their commitment to social cohesion and peace — setting the foundation for a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive Bangladesh.

International Non-Violence Day observed across Bangladesh, 2 October 2018 (Featured photo above)

Peace Ambassadors celebrated the International Day of Non-Violence across Bangladesh. In 55 upazilas, they mobilized over 7,000 citizens to advance the goal of nonviolence pioneered by Mahatma Gandhi. Peace-building and social cohesion are the cornerstones of Peace Ambassadors’ activities and this issue is close to their heart. They seized the opportunity of this day to promote nonviolent action and make their voices heard.

Peace Ambassadors along with their PPG members celebrated the day for three reasons: one, raise awareness for peace as counter to violence; two, establish non-violence as a proven method for social change; and three, raise awareness that there are many conflicts to resolve.

Local MP led the human chain and signature campaign against violence in Mymensingh – 28 July 2018

Peace Ambassadors and PPG members in Nandail, Mymensingh organized a signature campaign and human chain titled “People against all forms of violence” to promote peace and social harmony. Attending the event as Chief Guest, local MP Anwarul Abedin Khan Tuhin said, “This event is very significant and necessary at a time when the 11th parliamentary election is very close. I believe it will truly help create a violence-free environment for everyone”. More than 5,000 citizens signed the petition and attended the human chain event.

Political Leaders signed Code of Conduct (CoC) in Kurigram, Habiganj and Kushtia – 17 September 2018

Peace Ambassadors brought political party leaders in Ulipur, Kurigram; Habiganj Sadar and Kushtia Sadar to sign Codes of Conduct (CoC) for peace and harmony in their communities. ‘Dignity, Security and Diversity’ are the core values of the Code of Conduct. These values form the basic requirements for establishing a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive society. In a tremendous show of unity and willingness to cooperate for the greater good, the Codes of Conduct were so far signed in 15 upazilas by the senior leaders of the main political parties, including the Awami League, BNP, Jatiya Party and Communist Party.

political party leaders in Ulipur, Kurigram; Habiganj Sadar and Kushtia Sadar to sign Codes of Conduct (CoC) for peace and harmony in their communities. ‘Dignity, Security and Diversity’ are the core values of the Code of Conduct. These values form the basic requirements for establishing a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive society. In a tremendous show of unity and willingness to cooperate for the greater good, the Codes of Conduct were so far signed in 15 upazilas by the senior leaders of the main political parties, including the Awami League, BNP, Jatiya Party and Communist Party.

Commitments of the Code of Conduct include:

  1. Avoid violence and uphold democratic values and civic rights;
  2. Respect for individual’s dignity and right of self-expression;
  3. Recognize diversity and pluralism;
  4. Resist ethnic or religious extremism and intolerance; and
  5. Promote conflict resolution through peaceful dialogue.;

The current toxic political environment and intense political rivalry create an ideal fertile ground for the growth of extremist and militant activities in Bangladesh. The signing of the Code of Conduct has been lauded by many observers as an unprecedented and unique milestone reflecting a way to overcome the current toxic political situation.

PPG members hold Democracy Olympiads to educate first-time voters – 8 October 2018

To build a democratic society, it is important to raise awareness and mobilize youth for democracy, development and good governance. With this realisation in mind, PeaceAmbassadors and PPG members have organized Democracy Olympiads in several educational institutions around the country.

Peace Ambassadors of Jhenaidah, Avoynagar and Monirampur of Jessore and Mohadevpur of Naogaon districts have organized democracy olympiads in their respective communities. About 1,500 students attended these events which featured a quiz competition and interactive discussions with governance experts. Attending one of these event, Mr. Arifur Rahman, a college principal from Naogaon said, “True democracy is not only a political process but also a way of social, religious, moral and economic life. Through this innovative event, the young people are learning about democratic ideas and values.”

PPG members, local teachers, political leaders, elected representatives, media and parents attended these events.

The Hunger Project volunteers receive PAVE training to bring peace activism to the village level.
5 September 2018

Peace Ambassadors and PPG members have been clamoring for a long time to bring the PAVE program down to the village level in order to create an infrastructure for peace and harmony from the ground up. Several peace ambassadors have successfully organized “Social Harmony” workshops in different communities at the grassroots. Based on their experiences, The Hunger Project and IFES have jointly expanded the existing PAVE program to village level. A total of 260 villages and 123 educational institutions from seven upazilas of Rajshahi, Naogaon, Sunamganj, Meherur and Kishoreganj districts have been selected for this intervention. As part of this expansion, the Peace Ambassadors will form Peace Facilitator Groups in 38 unions. They will work with Village Development Team (VDT) members and students in each union, already mobilized by The Hunger Project, through Social Harmony workshops and knowledge events to promote peace and social cohesion.

The VDT is a group of village-based volunteers who lead the implementation of The Hunger Project’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Union strategy in their communities. On September 25-27 2018, a three-day Training of Trainers on PAVE Harmony was held for the key volunteers of these 38 unions, led by The Hunger Project and IFES staff. The training focused on SDGs, social harmony, social mobilization and youth engagement. The training ended with an extensive work-plan for the next 12 months.

PAVE program expanded to Barisal Division.
9 October 2018

The PAVE program expanded to five upazilas of Barisal division from September 2018.

The upazilas included are: Babuganj and Agailjhara upazilas of Barisal district, and Jhalokati Sadar, Nalchity and Kathalia upazilas of Jhalokati district. Two orientation programs were already organized in Kathalia and Nalchity on September 28 and 29, 2018. Peace Ambassador Saiful Islam Badsha from Rajshahi facilitated these two orientations.

“In Search of Peace”: a new documentary on Peace Ambassador Saiful Islam Badsha –September 15, 2018

Saiful Islam Badshah

The Hunger Project Bangladesh released a new documentary highlighting a very successful  Peace Ambassador, Mr. Saiful Islam Badshah, from Rajshahi. Mr. Badshah has long been a political activist and teacher, but he was not comfortable with partisan fights among people and was looking for a way out of this politics of annihilation. He realized that the PAVE program gave him the hope to overcome this situation. Mr. Badshah gave up his political career and became a Peace Ambassador to promote peace and harmony in his community and throughout the country.

It may be noted that the first CoC was signed in his upazila in June 30, 2016. Please click the link to view the story of Peace Ambassador Saiful Islam Badshah: 

We mourn: PPG member Sardar Bahadur Ali is no more… June 2018

Sardar Bahadur Ali, PPG member, Monirampur, Jessore passed away on June 7, 2018 at the age 76. Sardar Bahadur was one of the most active PPG members in his community. He has been a political leader and local government chairman for 25 years. During his tenure as chairman, he had accomplished 100% sanitation, eliminated illiteracy, and eliminated child marriages in his union. For this outstanding work, he received the Prime Minister’s award for Best Performing Chairman. He has been a teacher for 40 years and founded a number of schools, libraries and community organizations.

Mr. Bahadur joined the PAVE program as a PPG member in 2015. He was instrumental in ensuring peace during in his community during the 2016 Union Parishad election. At that time, a group of his supporters tore down the election poster of the opposition candidate. When Mr. Bahador heard about this incident in the middle of the night, he stepped out of his house while it was raining and rushed to the spot. He apologized to his rival for the excesses of his supporters and hung posters of his opponent on top of his posters. Everybody in the community was surprised by this courageous action of Mr. Bahadur to defuse a potentially violent reaction. As he claimed later, for this extraordinary action, his vote share increased. His story has been one of the important cases discussed in all PAVE trainings.

Sardar Bahadur Ali will always live in our hearts and memories!

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