As members, Creatives Against Poverty support Citizens Against Weapons in their mission to create a just and peaceful society in one of the world's worst conflict-ridden countries - Pakistan. You can follow them directly on their Facebook here.
We do this by running regular life-skills sessions with our students who live in its largest and most dangerous slums, Orangi town. Our workshops provide a safe space for students to express their concerns, in an environment where they are encouraged to take their time to develop and implement solutions to the problems they see in their particular communities. Part of our time in the field is spent training teachers to drain resentment from the hearts of vulnerable young students who face regular brainwashing by extremist elements. After school, students often attend faith based classes and report discussions that can only be described as fanatical. Anger over small skirmishes with neighbouring ethnicities makes up a large part of these discussions.
We started writing our life skills curriculum seven years ago when students began to speak to their teachers about abuse, of pressure to join gangs, of escalating violence and of hurling stones, taking sides and using weapons to settle differences. We ask them to try words, using problem-solving models, applying a measure of calm, and using conflict resolution tools instead.
In our modules we teach students to think critically and rationally, to gauge their reactions for proportionality and take the time to respond, rather than react to outside stimulus, helping them to question gang propaganda, to identify the consequences of drug use, and shield themselves from emotional calls to arms. We listen, and then ask students how they would build a healthy, flourishing society.
We help the students identify one peace-building effort they would like to engage in and for eight weeks, they design and deliver a way to make their community a better place to live. The presentations they make are heart-warming, charting the children's rising confidence levels and their own personal growth, giving us hope that these children will enter be able to enter a world torn by chaos equipped with tools to call for peace, and apply problem-solving skills to the issues they encounter.
Our students tell us they would like to develop a body of children's literature, to run street theatre events and to hold drawing competitions against "weapons and violence." They have said to us that they would like to teach members of their communities to manage their emotions. In particular, their anger, which they feel is the worst weapon of all. We are committed to helping our students create an environment free from the helplessness and frustration that paralyses their growth. We create a space where they feel a modicum of control over their immediate future, and we show them how to hold that space. It is only then that we are able to speak to the students of future academic and professional aspirations. Students in several sessions have called for a ban on automatic weapons, but they also want an end to disproportional, violent outbursts, lynch mobs, and "pathrao" (hurling stones).
Charter of Citizens Against Weapons:
Right to life and liberty is a fundamental right of all citizens. As members of ‘Citizens Against Weapons’, a citizens’ group working for a peaceful and weapon-free Pakistan, it is our considered opinion that the only option for Pakistan to eliminate its devouring violence is to work proactively towards a weapon-free society. We believe that the following actions are essential prerequisites for building a tolerant and peaceful Pakistan. • Possession of arms must be declared as the exclusive domain of the State and no citizen, regardless of his/her rank or status, must be allowed to possess, carry or display any weapon of any kind - licensed or otherwise.
• In compliance with Article 256 of the Constitution, all private militias regardless of their patrons are totally disbanded by using the full might of the state.
• An immediate ban be placed on the import, sale, transportation, delivery and possession of all kinds of weapons - except those used by the law-enforcing agencies.
• Issuance of all types of gun licenses be banned and those issued thus far must be declared null and void.
• All citizens must be made to surrender their weapons through a planned buy-back scheme with serious consequences for those who fail to comply.
Resources for life skills trainers on CAP-DIL school project:
5th January CAP Headteacher Training in Orangi, Karachi, Pakistan
7th January CAP training trainers Karachi, Pakistan
10th - 18 January CAP Trainings, London, UK
17 January CAW workshop for CAP-DIL Orangi, Karachi, Pakistan
18th February CAW Peace Walk, Karachi, Pakistan
28 March CAP Training in Orangi, Pakistan