UNICEF launches peace-building education initiative preparing Myanmar children to say no to violence
YANGON, 11 October 2013 – In response to on-going waves of inter-communal violence across Myanmar, UNICEF this week launched ground-breaking peace and reconciliation initiatives for Myanmar’s children with a 5 day workshop on peace-building through education. The workshop – conducted with the Ministry of Education – recognises peace and reconciliation is the most important issue facing Myanmar today and will lead to the dissemination of literature nurturing children’s ability as peace agents.
In a significant demonstration of acceptance, harmony and solidarity, the workshop brought together 70 Myanmar participants from 11 ethnicities and 5 religions including representatives from government, civil society, the arts, and the media. “This workshop shows ‘Strength in Diversity’ in practice. So much talent, so much energy, so much generosity of thought and expression. Everyone here brings diverse experience with them and the outcomes for Myanmar’s children are significantly enriched as a result,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Yangon, Mr. Bertrand Bainvel.
The workshop is the first time in Myanmar’s history that such a diverse group of people have come together to produce literature focused on peace-building with and for children. “I warmly congratulate this group of Myanmar pioneers. We can all learn something from their courage of spirit and their commitment to Myanmar’s children, to Myanmar’s future. Building peace rather than perpetuating violence demonstrates real courage,” said Mr. Bainvel. “They are role models for the children and adolescents of Myanmar - the peacemakers of the present and the future. UNICEF is committed to ensuring all Myanmar’s children are empowered to be agents of peace and positive change,” continued Mr. Bainvel.
The first series of 16 books for children and their families will focus on children under 8 years old. Peace and reconciliation attitudes are formed in the first years of a child’s life. Children’s capacity to understand that difference is something to be celebrated not feared, is influenced by what children are exposed to when young. “A bright Myanmar future depends on the smallest of our kin being taught mutual respect, compassion, open-mindedness and kindness. That’s something every parent knows instinctively and it’s something UNICEF and the Ministry of Education are keen to help communities foster and reinforce,” said Mr. Bainvel.
The Myanmar Ministry of Education - with support from the Australian Government, the European Union, UNICEF, the UK Government, Denmark, and Norway - is in the process of implementing wide-ranging reforms across the basic education system in Myanmar, increasing access to quality education for all Myanmar’s children. The children’s books produced as a result of this week’s workshop – funded by the Netherlands - will further these reforms, better ensuring Myanmar’s children grow up with the values and skills required to successfully negotiate and thrive in a diverse, globalized world where difference is seen as a strength not a challenge.
“Last week we lamented and were deeply disturbed by the latest incident of inter-communal violence in Myanmar. This week, we celebrate the bridge-builders, the peacemakers, the children”, said Mr. Bainvel. Together we can prepare Myanmar’s children and adolescents to say no to violence. As this workshop shows, ending violence across Myanmar is only a matter of courage, determination and will,” Mr. Bainvel added.
For more information please contact:
Ye Lwin Oo, Communication Officer, Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, 09 511 3295 (m)