Founder, Dar es Salaam Institute of Peace Education (DIPE)
(Welcome letter:Issue #58 – September 2008)
Dear friends of the Global Campaign for Peace Education,
The Dar es Salaam Institute on Peace Education 2008 (DIPE 2008), held on the International Day of Peace (September 21st) at the Elizabeth Youth Center and attended by 40 formal, informal and non – formal educators, social and community workers, and peace activists, was organized by the Dar es Salaam Institute of Peace Education (DIPE), which was also formally inaugurated on the same day and at the same venue.
It was a deeply personal, emotional and historic moment for me, the participants of DIPE 2008, and our community. I had been dreaming of this day for years, ever since I was an impressionable young fourteen year old writing poems about world peace after having been inspired by watching the movie “Gandhi”. It is true that sometimes those days of innocence and naiveté seemed so far away, after more than twenty years of real involvement in social and community work, formal and informal educating, and activism for peace and justice. My dream of actively creating a better world was often threatening to become just that, a dream. I was in danger of beginning to accept the hard and cold reality of war and violence around me.
All of that changed in April, 2006, which is perhaps the true birthday of DIPE. In April, 2006 I was introduced, for the first time in my life, to Peace Education. I was attending the United Nations Teachers Conference on Human Rights (UNTCHR), and heard Peace Education defined, defended and promoted. It was like a rebirth for my soul. Further research on the internet led me to the International Institute on Peace Education (IIPE) and the Peace Education Center, with whom I began corresponding over the internet. In January, 2008 I founded the Dar es Salaam Institute of Peace Education to “…spearhead dialogue on current and relevant local and global issues; to provide a forum for peace educators to meet, exchange ideas and plan and execute viable practices; to be a center of research, training and advocacy for peace education; to bring together peace educators and stakeholders such as religious institutions, members of the armed forces and the police, and non – governmental organizations; to make it easier to organize and provide support, resources and training for peace educators and stakeholders; and to create a forum for the community to address current and relevant local and global issues while recognizing that prioritization of issues differs from community to community.”
Our first action at DIPE was to write up and implement The Hyena Square Project. Hyena Square is one of the most economically disadvantaged and notoriously violent neighborhoods of Dar es Salaam. With the help of local partners and sponsors, DIPE opened a safe house for transactional sex workers and injecting drug users seeking a break from running the streets, youth unemployment, poverty, drug dealing, gang violence, addiction and substance abuse, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The safe house, known as The Elizabeth Youth Center, provides inpatient and outpatient counseling, life skills and self improvement training and limited shelter and food to transactional sex workers and injecting drug users. I have been working as a peer educator and youth counselor in Hyena Square and at the Elizabeth Youth Center since 2006.
In August of this year I had the good fortune to attend IIPE 2008 in Haifa, Israel. My experiences and training in Israel got me all fired up to organize the Dar es Salaam Institute on Peace Education 2008 (DIPE 2008). Upon returning to Dar es Salaam, my whole attention, energy and focus was on organizing DIPE 2008. With the generous support of many colleagues (Tony, Tiffany, Aylin, Richard, Connie and Erin) we were able to host DIPE 2008 at the Elizabeth Youth Center on the International Day of Peace. Forty peace educators and stakeholders attended the one day training and community building session, in the spirit and practice of critical pedagogy creating a community of learners exchanging ideas and best practices in a participatory manner. The theme of DIPE 2008 was “Peace Education in Tanzania”. Seven presenters hosted discussions on critical pedagogy, transactional sex work, addiction and substance abuse, race relations in Tanzania and conducted breathing and other exercise to enhance one’s sense of inner peace.
It is significant that these events are happening here. Dar es Salaam, which is the Arabic word for the “Haven of Peace”, is the commercial capital of the United Republic of Tanzania and was founded in 1870 by Sultan Majid of Zanzibar. The United Republic of Tanzania is in East Africa, between Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean, birthplace of the multicultural Swahili civilization, was once the epicenter of world trade as dhows manipulated the seasonal monsoon winds to navigate goods, services, people and culture between Africa, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian subcontinent and the Far East.