From Little Things, Big Things Grow

Bawk Nu Aung's portrait photo in the IDP camp
Written by Dustin Barter and Nhkum Naw Mai, Oxfam in Myanmar

“At first, I just learnt about peace from NSEN (NDI). I didn’t have that much confidence to speak out. People said I couldn’t speak about peace because I didn’t know. Now, I talk about peace and other issues with them. They learn and we can all speak freely. Everyone learns to analyse issues. Before, we didn’t speak out, but now we speak out and give our opinions on peace, women’s rights and democracy,” explains Bawk Nu Aung, a graduate from Oxfam partner Naushawng Development Institute’s (NDI) peace and civic education.

As the peace process remains fragile and faltering, armed conflict in Kachin escalates and more people are being displaced or re-displaced, Bawk Nu Aung continues defying the odds. Following NDI’s two-week course in 2015, we regularly meet Bawk Nu Aung, seeing her go from strength to strength. This latest instalment demonstrates the transition from knowledge to confidence to influence, reinforced by an Oxfam-organised exposure trip to learn about the Philippines’ peace process. Bawk Nu Aung elaborates:

“I have been facilitating peace and civic education in different places. I explain about the NCA (nationwide ceasefire agreement) process and updates on the current situation. I also explain about the peace process in the Philippines, including the role of women and youth participation in the peace process. I led a two-day training here and was a facilitator for two-day trainings in Sitapru and another camp.

People really wanted to know about peace – they were very curious. The training was mainly women and young people. At first, I felt nervous, but I prepared a lot, reading a lot about women and youth participating in peace processes… NSEN (NDI) really helped a lot – the peace and civic training was very good preparation. Everyone was very active in the workshops…

After the training, the youth changed. Most weren’t interested in peace initially and didn’t understand. After the training, everyone became more interested in peace. At first, people said we don’t have peace and participation wasn’t good. Then everyone became interested and active.”

Bawk Nu Aung is just one of NDI’s many graduates, as Oxfam’s Durable Peace Programme consortium supports communities to better understand the peace process and take action to support peace. While armed conflict may be escalating, the demand for peace is growing. After six years of renewed conflict, it’s time that all actors respect those demands and make peace forthcoming.

The 3.5 year Durable Peace Programme is funded through a seven million Euro EU grant and implemented by a consortium of KBC, KMSS, Nyein, Metta, Trocaire, SwissAid and Oxfam. NDI (formerly NSEN) is part of the consortium.