Evie Grouta

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What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?

Looking through the lenses of division the most prominent to me are: the physical and mental division of the island of Cyprus, gender inequality, the persistence of focusing on experts and non-experts, on various topics, and the inter-generational gap. I look at my work in peace education as challenging the perception of 'Us and Them'. I think that inviting people to explore the complex and interconnected nature of our realities on a personal, local, regional and global level is an important component in tackling stereotypes about the 'Other', creating doubts about our belief system, questioning the status quo and, eventually, taking one brick down from the pre-constructed walls. When I am posing the question to myself 'Why do you do this?' I always receive the response: 'This is the best answer to all challenges around you and the best platform to work on social change'. That's quite a motivation!

What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?

All the moments that I am pushed to reconsider my own beliefs, while trying to encourage others to do the same are the most noteworthy to me. Moreover, I am touched by moments of realization that building peace in a buffer zone, a militarized zone, a place filled with memories and physical remains of a recent conflict, is opening the doors to new conceptions of the use of space and thus new understandings of reality and its potential transformation. It is interesting to realize the different shades of interpretation of a space while facilitating interactions, engaging in dialogue on social issues, developing friendships and even dancing Bollywood dances with a bunch of peacebuilders from all corners of the world during IIPE.

How and why did you start working in peace education?

My graduation coincided with the peak of the recent financial crisis in Cyprus and the rise of the statistics on youth unemployment. Being determined to find a job in the field of Education and to contribute to something meaningful, I embarked on a journey of exploration. For a few years I was a freelance dance teacher, museum educator, private tutor and eventually I ended up being involved in the project 'Imagine' as a peace education trainer. Needless to say, when Peace Education entered my life, it ended up being the best reason to wake up in the morning and the best lens to examine the world and myself.