Conflicted Communities: Stepping Stones towards peace and co-operation?

Created by Nell Osborne, Salamander Trust
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Conflicted Communities: Stepping Stones towards peace and co-operation?
In this newsletter we look at how Stepping Stones has been used to reduce conflict within communities. This includes conflict at all levels - from military conflicts such as war to the types of violence that occur within households. 

Conflict affects men, women and children differently. Research has shown that women are often disproportionately affected by military conflict. They may experience displacement, disrupted livelihoods and access to public services, additional workloads within and outside the home, and increased levels of domestic violence.

Men who engage in conflict risk harm and death for themselves and others yet conflict may appear to them as their only option. In Karamoja, for example, young men raid cattle to generate income to buy food to eat. Elsewhere, men who become soldiers may be forced to leave their families and can be exposed to injury and death, leading to psychological trauma and stress.

What is clear is that both men and women experience gender based violence during conflict (and post-conflict) situations. By working across gender and generation, Stepping Stones has a unique ability to engage all members of a community.

In this newsletter we look at how Stepping Stones has been used to help communities to work together 
to overcome different types of conflict. Fundamentally, peace and security in our lives are connected with keeping safe, with blessings and joy. Below, we look at how Stepping Stones has been used to work towards these goals and to support people to move from violence to peace, from insecurity to safety and from crisis to prosperity.

Nell Osborne,
Communications Consultant
International AIDS Conference 2014
Scroll down for news about how Stepping Stones will be involved in the upcoming International AIDS Conference (IAC) 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. Find out how you can keep up to date with conference events and get involved by telling us which issues you want to see talked about.
What are Cycles of Violence?
The full impact of conflict upon our communities, our health, our relationships, our livelihoods and our wellbeing is not well known. However, as many of you will know from experience (and with research just starting to confirm the same) conflict and violence are self-perpetuating. 
Understanding the Roots of Violence

*Those who experience violence as children are much more likely to be violent themselves later in life.

*Increased sexual violence is a feature of military conflict

*Evidence suggests that violence inside the home increases alongside violence outside the home. 
Conflict and HIV

The impact of military conflict upon HIV is complex and under-researched. However...

*Experiences of intimate partner violence have been proven to make women more vulnerable to acquiring HIV. What's more, an HIV diagnosis can often make women (further) vulnerable to GBV.

*There is often an increased pressure on women to engage in transactional sex due to the shortages of food that often accompany conflict, making them more vulnerable to HIV.

*Sexual violence employed as a weapon of war contributes to the spread of HIV among women. 
How do we escape the cycles of violence towards peace, hope, safety and prosperity?
Stepping Stones can help communities to understand what things they can do to prevent conflict. It enables people to realise alternative ways to live and thrive. The following quote from a young man from Lorengedwat Sub-County in Nakapiripirit District, Karamoja, Uganda illustrates how we can learn to avoid the types of behaviour that often lead us to conflict and violence:

“The most important aspect I learned [during Stepping Stones training] is that conflict begins with one’s self. I learnt that the way I think and what I tell others might spark off conflict, so I learned to behave and guide myself and also accept advice.”
Stepping Stones in Situations of Conflict
Karamoja: Violence and Conflict as part of everyday life
Karamoja is the poorest and least developed region of Uganda. The population regularly experiences chronic food insecurity. Growing social and economic inequalities and proliferation of small arms in the area mean that conflict and instability have become a part of everyday life for communities in Karamoja.

The raiding of livestock and destruction of property are common. Young men, who may have no access to other income generating activities, commit these acts. Stepping Stones in Karamoja was implemented alongside a livelihoods programme because it was evident that economic insecurity and inequality, as well as the decline of their pastoralist way of life, were key factors in motivating young men to engage in these activities. Alice Welbourn, who co-wrote the adapted Stepping Stones manual, believes that among these young men there is a: 
“...feeling [that] there’s no hope and no future for them in society... [They are] responding to a deep frustration at lack of opportunity”. 

'Stepping Stones for Peace and Prosperity'
"Stepping Stones for Peace and Prosperity" is an adapted Stepping Stones training manual. The pilot project, 'Engaging Male Youth in Karamoja', was funded by the World Bank LOGICA project, implemented by NESSA, and evaluated by Feinstein International Center of Tufts University. 
The adapted manual was developed by Baron Oron of NESSA, Germina Sebuwufu, and author of the original Stepping Stones manual, Alice Welbourn of Salamander Trust. The package is designed to support facilitators to run workshops within communities. The programme tries to improve communication and relationship skills between older and younger groups of men and of women to enable them to work together towards peace and prosperity.
"The most useful aspect of their teachings to me is my role as a father and a parent. [The Stepping Stones facilitators] demonstrated this as a tree that shows that me as a parent is a tree with roots to support the branches and then the branches are my children and family. So I have to be the main provider and also teach them how to grow well and how to behave in the community."

Results of the pilot
*Male and female informants in qualitative interviews overwhelmingly cited positive changes in their domestic relations and a reduction in domestic violence. These positive changes were also noted by community members who did not participate in Stepping Stones trainings themselves.

*Respondents spoke of improved trust and better relations with those from outside of their communities.

*After the Stepping Stones intervention only 23% of respondents in Stepping Stones locations agreed that it was “acceptable to beat a wife if she misbehaved.” This was down from 43% in the baseline study.

*A reduction in people who thought it was acceptable for fathers to beat their children.

*Stepping Stones was found to have a clear and positive impact on interpersonal relationships, including the relationships between the younger and the older generations of men.

“Because of the teaching of Stepping Stones, the issues to do with domestic violence have changed…we learnt that talking and agreeing is better than engaging in domestic violence.”

Into the Future
The "Stepping Stones for Peace and Prosperity" manual is nearing completion. It will be published by Strategies For Hope. For more information contact nell [at] steppingstonesfeedback [dot] org.

It is hoped that this training programme will soon be rolled out in further communities in Karamoja, Uganda. We believe that this programme could also benefit other countries in the Horn of Africa and beyond. It is our hope that others can make use of this programme to reduce conflict in their own communities.
Stepping Stones in Conflict Situations
Democratic Republic of Congo: Transforming harmful gender norms
Stepping Stones has been shown to produce more gender-equitable relationships between men and women, which leads to a reduction in violence. An evaluation of Stepping Stones in South Africa found that the it had reduced violence perpetration among young men living in rural communities (Jewkes et al., 2008).

As recently as 2008, sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was described as ‘the worst in the world.’ South Kivu in particular has been a centre of ongoing conflict following the war, which spanned from 1998 – 2003. Conflict and instability persist in the country. This was the context in which a new Stepping Stones programme was implemented in South Kivu to address harmful gender norms and gender based violence. 
Stepping Stones towards gender equity 

The pilot project was implemented by UNDP DRC in Walangu, South Kivu. The work was realised with the support of George Biock, Head of HIV, and Erick Ngoie, Program associate of the HIV programme, UNDP DRC. Participants included, among others, secondary school students, police, spiritual leaders and religious leaders, health workers, people living with HIV. An evaluation was carried out alongside the implementation to track the impact of the Stepping Stones programme.

An executive summary of the programme (translated into English) can be read by clicking here, whist the full evaluation (in french) can be accessed by clicking here.

Results of the Pilot

*The percentage of respondents who agreed that â€˜women should have the same rights as men’ increased from 25% at baseline to 41% at the project conclusion                

*There was increased knowledge about women’s rights and gender based violence

*Results also showed progress in terms of knowledge, attitudes and behavioural practices of the target groups in the context of HIV/AIDS
Into the Future
An independent evaluation strongly recommended that Stepping Stones continue to be used with further communities in South Kivu and beyond. UNDP DRC eventually hope to roll out Stepping Stones at national level.

Stepping Stones in Post-Conflict Situations
Angola: Helping to rebuild trust after the civil war

Two decades of civil war in Angola led to huge loss of life and resources. Many people were displaced as a result. In this context one of the biggest challenges for communities was to restore peace and safety after so much violence.

In Angola, in 2005, ACORD implemented Stepping Stones to help to rebuild the sense of community spirit and of co-operation that the war had damaged. Here we look at the impact of Stepping Stones in Matala, in the Huila Province where it was implemented with both inside the Angolan army barracks with soldiers and outside of them, in a nearby civilian community. 
Results of Stepping Stones in Angola
Soldiers responded very positively to Stepping Stones. Both soldiers and officers cited a decrease in excessive alcohol use as a result of Stepping Stones (the soldiers were previously known for being drunk in public, even as early as midday). 

“For me, the most important thing I gained from Stepping Stones was that it helped me control my alcohol problem. I used to get drunk all the time and when I was drunk, I would not be able to control my thoughts or actions...I realised that this behaviour was not only putting me at risk, but others also and have now stopped drinking the way I used to.”

The intervention also reduced unprotected sex and violence against women whilst it increased condom use and respectful behaviour towards women. In this way it was able to improve relations between soldiers from the army barracks and the civilians living nearby.
“Stepping Stones has strengthened the love in the household and in the community.”

Many of the soldiers were recruited young and had been separated from their families for years. All had witnessed death and dying during the war. As such they expressed the importance of being able to laugh and play and express their feelings in small groups. As a result of Stepping Stones the soldiers also felt engaged to help maintain peace and safety in the communities where they reside.
"Stepping Stones has given us a sense of purpose and something to work towards in order to improve life for everyone."
Click here to watch a film made by ACORD about the implementation of Stepping Stones with soldiers from the Angolan army and women from neighbouring communities as they discover how to negotiate safer sex and to challenge violence.

Read more about ACORD's work with Stepping Stones in Angola, Tanzania and Uganda by clicking here.
The International AIDS Conference (IAC) is happening from 20th - 25th July in Melbourne, Australia. The theme of this year's conference is Stepping Up the Pace so it seems like a perfect opportunity to showcase the amazing and diverse work that Stepping Stones is doing! 

The IAC has a strong focus of medicine and science but we believe that social equality, community engagement and, of course, upholding our human rights are just as important for HIV prevention, care and support.

Taking Stepping Stones to the Conference

We are delighted to announce that Stepping Stones has been chosen, from thousands of applicants, to showcase work and research at this year's conference, including:

*'Stepping Stones Around the World' exhibition showcasing some of YOUR winning artwork from the Stepping Stones Photo Competition that we held last year! Information about each organisation that appears in the photos are included as part of the display. Photos coming soon!

*A poster about the 'Stepping Stones with Children' Project has been selected for exhibition. The poster is entitled "Can orphans and their caregivers be supported to build shared resilience in the context of AIDS-related deaths?" and will present the latest research and findings from the ongoing adaptation.

*An hour long screening of the participatory films made by members of COWLHA and their partners in Malawi, as well as a short documentary about how COWLHA has used Stepping Stones to reduce gender based violence amongst people living with HIV. See the films yourself here.
We want to hear from you!
We want Stepping Stones Feedback to be a platform for YOUR voices during the IAC 2014. 
What issues do you want to hear about?
What questions need to be asked?
What are the key issues impacting your organisation?

I will be in Melbourne and feeding back from the conference on behalf of the International Community of Stepping Stones Members. I will share news and updates at the end of each day via email, Facebook and Twitter. So please get in touch to let me know what you want to hear about. You can see full details about what events are happening here (be sure to look at what is happening in The Global Village as well as the main conference).

If you have questions you want me to ask or particular sessions you want me to look out for then please get in touch! You can email me at: nell [at] steppingstonesfeedback [dot] org or post online on the Stepping Stones Facebook page.
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