Building Bridges of Friendship for a Nonviolent Planet
This is a unique journey that we began in October, 2011 when the first issue of The Peace Gong was launched. It began with a humble effort to build bridges of friendship amongst children of the world and prepare them to work for a nonviolent planet.We presently have a print edition, a Braille edition, a web edition, a Talking Paper and Wallpaper. In the future we hope to reach out to children through other digital platforms like developing a Peace Gong mobile app. On June 6, 2015 we took an important step to bring together children with visually impairment by launching our Braille Edition. It becomes the first Braille children’s newspaper in South Asia. Both children with visual impairment and others who have learnt Braille are part of this unique initiative to promote an inclusive society. We hope to replicate this model elsewhere so that children from different background and abilities can come together and work for constructive work on the society. The Peace Gong is a Media and Information Literacy initiative of the Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore Foundation, New Delhi. We have been working with a number of partners like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN,United Nations Volunteers, Rehabilitation Council of India (a Government of India body). Students have written on wide ranging issues like food security,child health, disability, environment, violence against children, volunteerism,etc. We students have been conducting reality checks and interviewing different people to write our stories.We have also worked with the South Asian Initiate to End Violence against Children, an apex body of SAARC on violence against children in South Asia. Through this partnership we hope to reach out extensively to children of all countries of South Asia and raise our collective voice against violence on children. In the past two years, we have been able to bring together children from the length and breadth of India. We have Peace Gong teams in different cities of the following states: Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Assam & Uttar Pradesh. Each of the bureaus are trying to work together on common concerns. For instance the Bhopal Bureau is working with the Manipur Bureau to develop talking textbooks for visually challenged children of Manipur. More than 300 students are directly or indirectly are involved with the Peace Gong. One significant highlight of the composition of the Editorial team of the Peace Gong is that all the Editors so far have been girls. Also significantly, more than 90 percent of the team members are girls. Only students till the age of 18, i.e.,school children can be reporters of the Peace Gong. In the past one year, we conducted several media training programmes for children in Assam, Manipur, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh etc. The aim was to develop communication skills amongst children and the ability to use the tools of media to take up social causes. The Peace Gong is not just a platform for children to write on social concerns but is also a vehicle to promote child participation for community building. It is also a vehicle to promote child rights issues. Student reporters of many of our Bureaus in different are taking up causes of their community. These include working with children with disability, creating awareness on the concerns of child labour & child trafficking, environment etc. While my friends of the Manipur bureau took up the cause of child trafficking, the Aligarh team is trying to create awareness on the issue of water conservation, the Kargil Bureau in Jammu and Kashmir is working towards a special children’s policy. The Peace Gong has emerged as a platform to develop the communication skills of children, develop their abilities to initiate their own programmes and projects, develop leadership and team building abilities.The children through the Peace Gong can use different communication platforms to take up their own initiatives. It is not just the Peace Gong newspaper, wallpaper and Talking Paper, different bureaus have now initiated music bands and theatre groups. Three bureaus have initiated music bands- Bhopal, Imphal and Waynad. The children involved with the music bands mostly write their own songs and compose them. In fact development of social leadership skills through media and information literacy is one of our overarching goals. Through our programmes we also promote how mutual respect, tolerance and active listening should be integral part of communications training.
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