Shreya Jani

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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?

India, the world's largest 'democracy' is a very diverse country. It has multitudes of faiths, ethnic diversity, language diversity and a massive territory. We have at least 17 out of our 28 states having some kind of armed conflict against the government, mostly driven by ethnicity and economics and often politicised on the basis of religion. More than 60% of the population here is youth. Kashmir, Manipur and Delhi are 3 states that we work in. Both Kashmir and Manipur are considered secessionist states where the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA-1958) is imposed. Delhi, the capital, is known as the land of opportunity, serves as a platform for youth from across the country to come study and make careers. However, the number of crimes reported and violence against women here are very high. So, it is in this context that we work through workshops, residential camps and curriculum development creating safe spaces for the youth to critically understand issues and figure out a way to work on them with compassion and self care.

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

For me, peace education is really about a process and processes don’t have a singular moment or program or events.

How and why did you start working in peace education?

I have been an activist working in the ecological movement since the age of 12; being a person the school system could not encourage because of my mild dyslexia and learning disabilities coming from being a lateral thinker. In the beginning, the vigor and critical thinking that I got from attending talks on the issues made me very angry and eager to do something. The world looked all wrong and someone needed to fix; that someone was going to be me. This drive of the youth gave one a great opportunity to read beyond the prescribed and to look at thinkers like Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Paulo Freire, Tagore, Gandhi, Samir Amin, Ivan Illich and Noam Chomsky. These authors impacted my global vision as a young person a lot. However the fire burns everything, if it rages too high. By the age of 21, I was reaching an emotional collapse so I started turning to spiritual masters like J. Krishnamurti, the Dalai Lama and looking at the spiritual practice of Gandhi again. This made me realize that change is both within and without and that I needed to live it on a daily basis and not intellectualise only. Thus circumstances in my own home and things around me made me do a second Bachelors, this time in Education, where my Professor Krishna Kumar, a leading educationalist in India introduced an elective on Peace Education for the first time. Since then I knew I had found one of the seminal anchors in my life. After finishing my degree, I joined a Krishnamurti School but peace education kept calling me and thus I wanted to do a Masters at UPEACE, Costa Rica. On returning I was not getting a job which was purely peace education so I decided to start my own organisation at the age of 27. My colleagues and I ran it till last year but political conditions globally, lack of funding without strings attached and lack of clarity of vision and action has made the sustenance of the organisation difficult so we have put in hibernation. We will reflect and come back when we are ready. Meanwhile, I am currently working on helping other people with a vision reach their goals in other countries and in the process learning about what can be done in India.