Today’s blog is written by PeacePlayers International Programs Intern, Becca Weinstein. Becca, 23, is a recent graduate of Georgetown University. Prior to PPI, Becca was a Fellow for the Andi Leadership Institute for Young Women (ALI). In addition to her work supporting PPI’s Sports and Peace Innovation Network, Becca is also working to develop a peace education curriculum for Palestinian and Israeli preschoolers.
During my three-week Fellowship with ALI I lived with seven other women from the Middle East and Afghanistan to explore the intersection of conflict, culture, and education. Our goal was to work together and gain conflict resolution and leadership skills to become the next generation of young, female peacebuilders. We took peacebuilding courses, developed our own community-based projects, and really got to know each other. Throughout the three weeks, I got a chance to seriously explore my interests in youth approaches to peacebuilding.
Our Ted Talk for TedxAustinWomen is a culmination of my first hand experiences as an ALI Fellow. In many conflict-riddled places, groups are culturally ingrained to be pitted against one another. Yet in reality, people who think they are complete opposites and should be rivals, have so much in common. That is why it was so special when I formed such a close bond with Afnan. Afnan is a 22-year-old Muslim woman from Damascus, Syria. Theoretically, there are plenty of differences that could keep us from being friends (she is Muslim and I am Jewish for one), but we are very close! Throughout our three weeks together we got to know each other for who we were as individuals and learn about the other person’s culture from her, and not from stereotypes.
What PeacePlayers is achieving through basketball is exactly what we spoke about all over the world. Just as Afnan and I came to see each other as real people, and not as labels like “Jew” or Muslim,” PeacePlayers children are becoming teammates and looking past labels like “Protestant” or “Catholic”, “Greek-Cypriot” or “Turkish-Cypriot”. No matter where we are in the world, going beyond stereotypes and breaking down barriers is an important step towards peace. In my new role at PPI, I feel I am utilizing the skills learned during my ALI experience, interacting with others working in similar fields, and continuing to promote peace and understanding around the world.