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Build Resilience & Social Change in Conflict Affected Areas

Youth advocate Limabenla Jamir describes how resilience develops from social support in conflict-affected communities and how it can help young people drive changes in their societies.

[0:00 - 00:55]: I grew up in a small town in the state of Nagaland up in the Northeastern hills of India. This Northeast India region is also called an anthropological paradise because this is a home to over 220 different ethnic tribes where over 40 million people reside. We speak over 400 different dialects but there is another one unique feature of this region and that is this region holds one of the longest unresolved armed conflict in the world.

[00:55 - 1:45]: December 27th 94 always flashes back into my memory. This day is what I call the inspiration for every single thing I do today. That December morning I was out with my family shopping. I was in the car waiting for my mom and my dad when I heard the first gunshot, this was followed by a series of gunshots. I don’t remember what I was thinking then, but I saw my dad running towards me, he took me out from the car through the car window, we rushed inside the shop and we hid there for a couple of hours.

[1:45 - 2:43]: We were forced to surrender and we came out of the shop, watching our car burn together with so many other cars. Hundreds of shops in flames, men women and even a little baby, burned alive. Men tortured; when abused people shot; shops looted; me and my family we were made to lie down on the road for hours. In fact the whole day my mom told me that I slept off for a few hours. I might have been tired, exhausted, unaware of what’s happening. But one thing I know for sure is that I wasn’t ready to think about this incident ever again.

[2:43 - 3:32]: I believe that this resilience comes from social support, a social value that has been passed on to me and our people from generation to generation. In my dialect we call this “subha liebe”, the social values and norms that have been passed on to us through word of mouth or true way of living. The social support is a selfless help to our family our family, our friends, our community, every single Naga belongs to a particular tribe, clan, village, and this together forms the Naga community. And these Naga villages, and this Naga community are so interconnected and interdependent. We support each other and I really believe that this social support has helped us build resilience to cope with our environment.

[4:36 - 5:57]: Even psychological studies and a number of other researchers have restated numerous times that we need social support, support from our near and dear ones, support from our friends to cope up with difficult situations. Back in university, I began to question about the politics of conflict. I began to question the role of our government. I began to question the role of us as individuals. I began to question what kind of impact this exposure to political conflict might have had on me, on people both young and old. So I continued to do my mastered and pursued a research where I studied on the exposure to political conflict. The fear and stress induced by it and how it impacts the psychological well-being of young people. The results had damaging effects. Young people in my region showed low life satisfaction and low self esteem and it had effects on our mental health.

[5:57 - 6:53]: Look at the plight of young people in conflict affected regions .This unintentional dreadful consequence of conflict is so harmful for our future. During the same time when I was conducting my research, I also had the opportunity to attend some conferences organized by the UN, The World Economic Forum, and other multilateral organizations and international nonprofits. Each of these events was unique, but there was one underlying common effect and that was a call out to young people to voice out your opinion to join in decision-making processes and to make a difference in our communities. So with so much of hopes and dreams and aspirations, I return home.

[6:53 - 7:36]: We started a few community hubs, training platforms for young people in the Northeast. I remember a youth conference in Glen. During a feedback session a young delegate was sharing his experience, he said someone dear to me was killed during the Kargil war and every time I think about this war I think about this, about Pakistan, I am filled with anger and frustration. But attending this conference I had to study about the social and political issues in Pakistan and what I realized was the challenges we face in Nagaland and the challenges they face in Pakistan are the same. We have similar conflict. Young people in Pakistan aspire for dreams like I do a safe future. The anger and frustrations, I hold them no more. His story moved me. We seek for such impact young people have not completely immersed into the structures of the society and they are more willing to challenge it.

[7:36 - 9:01]: Hilarious except for the fact that we are living in a constipated culture and to drive my point you need to know we have a serious blockage. But the remedy for this issue does not require medications or padded rooms although you are going to find plenty of people who want you to believe otherwise.

[9:02 - 9:51]: What we lack right now is not motivated young people. But an environment that invites young people to be part of decision making processes, to join governance, to rebuild conflict affected societies, when you invite me to the table, when you invite young people to be part of this policy making process in rebuilding our communities, you are not only allowing us to express our opinions and our struggles, but you are providing us with skills for the future. You are strengthening our self-esteem, our life satisfaction, but most importantly, you are allowing us to shape our future.

[9:51 - 10:57]: It’s heart-wrenching to travel to different parts of the world attending conferences talking about international declarations and conventions on youth empowerment, youth participation and decision making, only to come back home and see policies implemented at snail’s pace. I was with a friend in Kojima when she said change is so local yet we idolize change so much. We keep change at a pedestal and we can’t reach it. The resilience that my parents, that our forefathers have taught us have brought me this far, have brought our community this far, but we need to take the next step together. It’s time to cooperate not only between religions, countries, or states or tribes, but between age groups.

[11:00 - 11:34]: I’m confident in the power of sharing untold stories, untold experiences that we have hidden inside us for too long. No matter who you are, what your background us, how your paths have been, we can use our experience to make a difference, speak out. Thank you.

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