Our organization, Master Peace International, came about as the confluence of three different groups: the Lehigh University Global Citizenship student group, Lehigh University professors, Drs Roberta Anna and Warren Heydenberk, with expertise in conflict resolution education and research, and several partners who are from the “Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan.” The former two groups were astounded when first collecting information from the latter on how to help the population of Southern Sudan achieve peace. One of the first suggestions put on the table by our Sudanese partners, in addition to health programming and access to educational technology, was a program to enhance women’s education, empowerment and equality in Sudan (WE3). In Southern Sudan women are designated a strict role in the household. Men often keep several wives and trade women for cattle and other material goods, so the idea from our Sudanese partners that the education of women may be the key to the peace process was something that we could all agree on, and we consequently officially adopted women’s education and empowerment as a major part of our mission:
Our mission is to provide research based conflict transformation and peace building strategies in embattled communities through inclusive education initiatives for women and children and through the provision of programs that improve community health and increase prosperity.
The Master Peace International team believes that gender inequality is significantly related to violence in this culture. Gender equality is therefore essential in achieving peace. The way that we plan to reach our goal is by empowering women through education and economic freedom. We have already made great strides in the region in our ability to attract girls to one of the schools where we are piloting our conflict resolution program. Pongborong Primary School, consisting of grades one through seven, nearly eight hundred students and populated by previous Kakuma Camp Refugees (the “Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan”) has nearly fifty percent female enrollment. Mere female attendance in the school has the effect of breaking previous female social roles. The boys and girls alike can experience equal educational opportunities. We also plan to have the girls participate in the other programs that we will be piloting in the school. For instance, the girls will be able to receive Emergency Medical Technician training, which could have a great impact on the health of the community as women function as caregivers.
As well, the girls from the Pongborong School will have opportunities to work with the Master Peace International team project within the new peace building center which we have been invited to create at the new Southern Sudan University (Dr. Garang Institute) located in Bor. The Peacebuilding Center will provide opportunities for the girls and women in the community to become trained mediators- empowered to address the endemic violence in their communities. They will also have opportunities for ongoing education in emergency medical treatment and agricultural commerce, thus giving the women of these communities a voice in their communities and new direction in their lives.
As the founder of this Lehigh University Global Citizens partnership with Master Peace International, I have contributed to the project by creating a partnership between Master Peace International and several student groups-including Lehigh architects and engineers-who will be designing the buildings for these projects. I have also designed the agricultural demo farm/community garden project for both Master Peace International projects in Sudan. I look forward to working with the Heydenberks and the Lost Boys and Girls to create inclusive inter-tribal dialogues, helping these embattled communities create a new path to peaceful future and empowering women along the way.