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“Together we will make our Caucasus better”

Zabi Gaitukieva, 14, from Ingushetia republic, together with 130 children and adolescents from four republics of the North Caucasus – Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia – participated in a 10-day event called Summer Camp ‘Plus’, organized by UNICEF in close cooperation with the Ministries of Education, Science and Youth Policy of all four republics and hosted by the Ministry of Education, Science and Youth Policy of Dagestan. The event took place at ‘Golden Sands’, a well-equipped children’s resort centre located in Derbent, Dagestan, on the Caspian Sea. The objective was to improve intercultural communication between children of the North Caucasus countries and train them to the basics of peace education and tolerance-building. Zabi was interviewed during the closure ceremony.

“I had never been out of Ingushetia before. When I learned about the opportunity to go to Derbent and meet with children from other republics I was a little bit nervous, because even in my homeland I found it difficult to communicate with peers. I thought it would be impossible to find a common language with children from Chechnya, Ossetia and Dagestan, as my head was full with stereotypes about these nationalities. My parents too were worried but, finally, we decided that I should use the opportunity. Later, children from the other republics admitted that they and their parents had the same feelings.

Upon arrival to the camp I noticed that the children from each republic tried to stay together, separated from the others. But this isolation ended after the first session, which was facilitated by experienced trainers who divided us into five different groups, each including over 20 children from all four republics. It allowed us to learn more about each other, about our cultures, customs and traditions, to recognize that we are one single family and to understand that we should do everything possible to end the discrepancies, prejudice and racism that exist in our societies. And the most important thing I learned during the event is that we, children, could do it. Each of us can make a difference in the world. We have already started doing so. We, children from four North Caucasus republics, compiled a declaration in which we announced that 25 July (the Summer Camp closure day) would be a Day of Children’s Peace-Building. In the Declaration we also urged Russian Federation’s decision makers to include a peace education component into the school curriculum. I hope that adults will respect our opinion and hear our voices.

The programme of Summer Camp ‘Plus’ aimed at uniting children from different republics, making us friends by analyzing our differences, revealing our commonalities and talking about the necessity to respect each nationality and each participant’s ethnic origin, religion and culture. We were taught about altruism, tolerance and listening to each other. We also learned that one cannot always be right, that each person should be respected and that we must hear each other’s voices.

We were together during sessions, meals and walks to the seaside. Together we danced, sang and participated in daily amateur performances. It united us very strongly and we would often forget that we were of different nationalities. I would never have thought before coming to this camp that I would ever like Ossetians (Ingushetia is in conflict with North Ossetia since 1992 due to territorial discrepancies). But now I see that I was mistaken. Zarina, from North Ossetia, whom I met here, is my best friend now and nothing could ruin our friendship.

I am so happy that I participated in Summer Camp ‘Plus’ and very grateful to UNICEF for giving me this opportunity. I believe that, as well as other children from the North Caucasus, I will become a peace builder in the nearest future. We will attract more and more children into our rows and, together, we will make our Caucasus better.”

© UNICEF North Caucasus/2006

Zabi Gaitukieva, 15, from Ingushetia, a participant in UNICEF’s Summer Camp ‘Plus’, is convinced that children can bring peace back to the Caucasus.