My Hetauda Experience

Anjana Nagarkoti

Anjana Nagarkoti, a youth researcher, shares her experience on how art-based learning methods can be an effective way to create social awareness among young people who want to learn and contribute to bringing change in their community. Here, she shares her 4-day research experience where she observed the learning style of the young participants at Jana Jagriti Secondary School, Hetauda in Nepal.

Anjana Nagarkoti, 6th Cohort of young researchers (YAARs)

Mobile Arts for Peace (MAP) is a research project led by the University of Lincoln that focuses on empowering young people through art-based methods to have a deeper knowledge of the policies that affect them. Our team  was led by Karkhana Samuha with co-investigators from Kathmandu University and Midwest University, specifically exploring the possibilities of involving youth to improve the education system in Nepal. 

In the Youth Advisory Advocacy Research (YAAR) project, I worked with a talented and creative group of 30 members. I worked closely with a team of seven people for this project. For this research project, we led an art based community program to explore the use of  theater-based methods for effective learning at Jana Jagriti Secondary School in Hetauda and studied its effects and efficacy. 

I along with a team member, studied the nature of participation as well as the effectiveness of reception of the information by participants, while the other 4 members facilitated the program.  We had a total of 15 participants from  grade 6, 7 and 8. 

Initially, the participants were hesitant to interact with the team, however, the program had been designed taking this possibility into account. The facilitators started with several ice-breakers such as introducing themselves with adjectives and actions and playing games to lighten the atmosphere which made everyone enthusiastic and interested throughout the session.  

During the session, participants had to work in teams and they acted as clay and sculptures to present social issues. They shared different perspectives on the displayed pictures and were able to understand social issues and brainstorm the solutions. They talked about a variety of social issues including, drug addiction, caste discrimination, child marriage, conflict in neighbourhoods, violence against women, sexual harassment, and child labor. They shared their ideas using several art-based methods to do so more effectively and even encouraged each other to engage. Overall, they did a great job presenting social issues and their solutions. Some of the solutions presented by the studentswere: Drug addiction can be reduced by prioritizing the need for education among children, child marriage can be potentially solved by making parents aware about relevant laws and encouraging them to educate their children, etc. This experience has reinforced the idea that using images and art is a great way to understand and communicate social issues. 

We were informed that it was the first time these students were participating in a program conducted by an external organization. As a researcher, I observed that the participants were able to express their problems to their friends and actively participate in group activities. Through this, I learned that everyone has a different and unique perception to understand the same thing. I also understood that a blanket approach to learning is not effective if we want to ensure a higher success rate am. Thus, learning can happen in several ways including Art based methods  It was interesting to note that even though everyone was taught the same thing, each participant had different learnings and takeaways from the session. 

The participants expressed their thought that along with their studies, they also need some extra curricular activities so they can better focus on their studies. They were able to express what they wanted using an art-based method. Everyone expressed that they found it easier to understand and remember things through the use of art-based tools in learning showing its effectiveness.

This blog was originally produced on the  Samaanta Foundation website (June 26th 2023)

The role of arts-based experience and cultural vitality for social transformation: reflections on MAP work

Dr. Michelle Cannon (Guest blogger)

My attendance at the online MAP Social Impact event on 30 March 2023 was a random encounter – a chance invite from a colleague who suggested I’d be interested in the project. I’m a lecturer at the UCL Knowledge Lab, UCL Institute of Education (IOE) London, and lead an MA in Digital Media: Education. My research focusses on new literacies, creative media arts, social and collaborative learning, and film-making with children. Having read a number of these blog posts, I can see strong connections between MAP aims and practices and the work of colleagues within a research network called ReMap (formerly named DARE) based at the Knowledge Lab. ReMap, run by Professor John Potter, is a collaboration between cultural organisations, academics, educators, artists and researchers to develop critical and creative practice in digital media arts, games and play.

I came with basic knowledge of the MAP project and was soon swept up in its scope and ambition, as international project leaders summarised their culturally rich and inspiring work geared towards peace and empathy. The MAP presentations were a refreshing reminder of the empowerment and agency that arts activities afford, and the radical potential of cultural pursuits to invite wonder, curiosity and social change. It’s been especially pleasurable to learn about MAP approaches that integrate and mobilise local knowledge and cultural specificity, and that invest deeply in indigenous teacher education to ensure project legacy. It seems to me that these approaches are as much about encouraging participants’ critical engagement as they are about developing enduring and enjoyable creative practices.

‘The MAP network’ Credit: Vina Pusita

Thinking about the energy and vigour that the MAP community of researchers and participants generate in their collaborative research practice, I’m put in mind of Freire’s classic emancipatory perspective on pedagogy (Freire 1993), and notably the idea of bringing into being new ways of seeing through praxis. MAP’s peace-building projects in communities spanning Indonesia, Rwanda, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan rehearse in concrete ways an inclusive and praxis-oriented approach to positive social transformation. According to Freire, praxis unites thought and action with egalitarian and civic purpose – it is as much about keeping a dialogue open with local stakeholders as it is about iterative acts of resistance (Cannon 2018). MAP methodology seems to embrace the following Freirean epistemology, that:

Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.
(Freire, 1993. p.53).

By developing complex and situated drama, music, dance, visual arts and media-making experiences for young people, MAP’s cultural programmes keep public channels of communication open, and conduits for local action primed, providing the optimum conditions for transformative initiatives to flourish in context.

Dr. Michelle Cannon []

Cannon, M. (2018). Digital Media in Education: Teaching, Learning and Literacy Practices with Young Learners. Palgrave Macmillan.

Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin.

A video of the event can be viewed here:

Young women of Rwanda and Nepal, cycling in safe spaces, discussing, and challenging gender-based discriminatory proverbs


Principal Investigator – Picturing the past, present, and future in the imaginations, dreams and journeys taken by young women in Nepal and Rwanda

This blog provides a brief discussion on how young women in Rwanda and Nepal have taken part in cycling journeys to safe spaces (Gayle et al. 2013) for their reflection and conversations about the impact of gender-based discriminatory proverbs on women. How could their understanding of the past informed by their interpretations of these proverbs in the present share new ways of seeing the future roles for women in communities?

The approach taken by the study to create ‘safe spaces’ for this discussion in some ways is similar to that of Harvey et al. (2020). They worked in ‘safe parks’ to ‘provide young people with a stable, safe environment’ (pg.1) supporting them to find ways to have their voice not only heard, but also listened to in a highly hierarchical society.

This project recruited twenty five young women from Rwanda (16) and Nepal (9) from MAP associated schools to take bicycle journeys, enabling them to visit wider spaces of curiosity in their localities. In Rwanda, the young women came together with the project at the Nyandungu Urban Wetland Eco-Tourism Park in Kigali for their bicycling journeys and conversations. Whilst in Nepal, the young women came together at the Nocha Pokhari (Notcha Pond) in Janakpur.

In Rwanda, one of the proverbs discussed by the participants was: Ntaa nkokôkazi ibîka isaâke ihâri. (A hen cannot cluck when a cock is around). This in effect meaning that a women/wife/mother for example has no voice or power in the presence of a man/husband/father.

Five questions were put to the participants to support their reflections and discussions:

  1. Do you recognise this proverb?
  2. Have you ever heard anybody say this proverb? If Yes: Who was it?
  3. What do you think it means?
  4. Do you think this proverb was true or false in the past?
  5. What about now and the future: How do you see the meaning of this proverb?

Some of the young women recognised how this proverb framed women as secondary to men. For example, one respondent said:

“I think the past was scary for our grandmothers as they were not allowed to express their ideas.”

There was a similar response from another young woman, who said:

It is because in ancient time, women were not allowed to express what they think on the development of their families or other general concerns.”

However, there was a general refutation of this proverb by the young women, and sense in their belief that the past is not in the present, neither the future. For example:

No, it is wrong, people in the past should had understood that men are equal with women.”

“For me, this proverb is discouraging as I believe girls are also capable of every job and they can do any profession.”

“This proverb should be burned because it only supports inequality which might lead to underdevelopment and depression to women and girls.”

“It is not true: as in past time, people used to underestimate women capacity but today things change, boys and girls are equal.”

In Nepal, from our cycling activities to finding safe spaces for conversation, one of the proverbs put to the young women and discussed by them was: “Beta bhel loki lel, Beti bhel feki del” (Love your son, not daughter). Many of the young women knew of this proverb. They shared how they had observed this being played out in society, and they challenged this.  For example, one young woman said:

“This proverb is absolutely wrong. It is said that sons and daughters are God’s gift. But in behaviour people discriminate among son and daughter in our society. If we give continuation to these proverbs and mindset, I see our future is dark. If we change these proverbs it makes the country progress and our future bright.”

Some of the young women suggested that older generations of people were unable to  challenge this proverb, but the new generation would do.

“This is wrong. But the older generation they do not know about that. This will completely vanish in future because today’s kids are so intelligent.”

“I think it (the proverb) was false. But the older generation might not understand this because they did not have any education before and no exposure. The society was like that.”

“I think it will change in future because women are doing better.”

The cycling journeys taken by these young women to these safe spaces seemed to provide a collective sense of emancipation in their bonding, in their play, in their conversations. They have provided clear voice and opinion on how culturally embedded proverbs have been able to frame women in many cases lesser than men. However, these young powerful women have given clear voice and opinion for a change of view on this representation across their families and communities.


Gayle, B. M, .Cortez, D., & Preiss, R. W. (2013) “Safe Spaces, Difficult Dialogues, and Critical Thinking,” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 7: No. 2, Article 5. Available at:

Harvey, L., Cooke, P., & Bishop Simeon Trust South Africa (2021) Reimagining voice for transrational peace education through participatory arts with South African youth. Journal of Peace Education, 18 (1). pp. 1-26. ISSN 1740-0201

Re-spinning cultural art forms: reflections from the Culture as Change webinar

Dr Sarah Huxley

Central to the Mobile Arts for Peace (MAP) research project, is the exploration of how cultural art forms can catalyse, re-frame and generate alternative ways of knowing (Leavy, 2015). The project requires participants and co-creators of the research (from many different vantage points), to continually consider where and how local knowledge production is positioned. Integral to this positioning are the cultural art forms themselves, such as Deuda, an improvisatory call and response performance, from far western Nepal, or the theatrical productions of Kyrgyz fables by students from Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. Such art forms facilitate an exploratory and dialogic engagement with past traditions, narratives of history, and future hopes and desires. These often include the viewer/listener as much as the performers themselves (Gadamer, 2004).

Audiences become performers and performers can become audiences: through a fluid, more than verbal, dialogic living, and experiential art form. The art forms in MAPs projects consider both hyper localised contexts, but also often national heritage/histories. Social norms and narratives can be unpicked and re-spun with individuals from different backgrounds across societies, whether this is inter-generationally, or between genders, or socio-economic backgrounds. Specifically, also with ‘decision makers’ and those who have some power/influence in formalising social change practices/structures (identified within local and national contexts). Cultural art forms (such as song, dance, theatre, artefacts) therefore provide a conduit to bring diverse individuals together, and then re-cast the seemingly familiar/static social narrative into something else, more than, and of the very place and time the dialogic cultural art forms arises in. The German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) described this well, when he stated “I live my life in widening circles/ that reach out across the world. / I may not complete this last one/ but I give myself to it” (1997: x). MAP is very much an alive ripple of networks, ideas, art forms, all in movement with each other.

The webinar we held on June 15 on Culture as Change explored many of these ideas and more. What became apparent was the opportunities afforded by using local art forms, already part of cultural psyches and embodied narratives on identity, present ways to tackle challenging/difficult issues. This was articulated in the video shown on Deuda, where improvisational call and response chanting often focuses on using satire/jest to unpick social power imbalances within family, community, and society. The art form provides an invitation to engage with surprise, wit, and humour – perhaps all mechanisms not only for creating dialogue on sometimes challenging topics, but also to facilitate a change in the art form itself. This is certainly true of the One Girl One Drum project, opening up spaces for girls to drum in Rwanda, which previously was a male dominated cultural form. You can get a sense from the video below, of how the girls are adding and re-energising the art form, bringing their interpretation and perspectives, in dialogue with parents, local officials, NGOs and artists.

Whilst researching and exploring cultural art forms can present physical, intellectual, and embodied spaces for inclusion, we are also aware that they can re-produce exclusionary practices. But the point today, spoken by our Principal Investigator for One Drum one Girl, Kiki, during the webinar is that “the drumming means more than speech”.

If you watched or participated in the webinar, please add your reflections in the comments section below.

Watch the webinar recording here:

Watch the video clips from each of the three projects:


Gadamer, H. G. (2004). Truth and method. London: Continuum.

Leavy, P. (2015). Method meets art: Arts-based research practice (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.

Rilke, R.M. (1997) Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. Translated by Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy. Riverhead books. First published April 1, 1905.

Reflect on your experiences in the MAP project so far…

Reflect on your experiences in the MAP project so far…

What are the most significant changes you have seen in your self, your work or your wider environment and community?

Contribute to our virtual exhibition and showcase your story of change via an art form that communicates your thoughts and feelings. Ten entries per country will then be invited to join MAP Impact Week 17-20 July online to collectively identify our most significant change stories.

For more information see:

Facing Heaven – Dēudā Folklore, Art & Peace in Nepal

Inception Fieldtrip May 2023

Dr ST Dancey

(With contributions & Translation from Dila Dat Pant)


Funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) via a Mobile Arts for Peace (MAP) commissioned project began this April, exploring the role of Nepalese Dēudā culture on local conflict issues, peace building and policies for sustainable peace in society. Dr Simon Dancey of the University for the Creative Arts is the projects Principal Investigator alongside Co-Investigators Nar Bahadur Saud and Dila Dat Pant.

Dēudā or Dēudā Khel is a Nepali genre of song and dance, performed in the Sudurpashchim and Karnali provinces of Nepal, as well as in the Kumaon Division of Uttarakhand state of India. It is performed at various festivals, such as Gaura. The dance is performed by singing Dēudā songs in a circulus by holding each-other’s hands. It is considered as part of the cultural heritage of Karnali Province. The project has a number of specific objectives:

  • To explore the ways in which Dēudā culture can be used to promote local peace building in a dialogue between young people, educator and policymaker.
  • To assess limitations between local practices and peacebuilding approaches by using arts-based approaches to promote the wellbeing of young people, particularly those from remote and marginalized groups.
  • To investigate alternative communication structures and approaches to inform local, national, and international approaches to peacebuilding.

Dr Simon Dancey undertook an inception research visit to Nepal for the setup of the yearlong project this April. The next step of the project will gather primary data vis semi-structured interviews from social actors in Nepal, exploring the research objectives. This research project is an important effort to preserve and understand the Dēudā culture in Nepal, which is an integral part of the country’s cultural heritage. The collaboration between UCA and MAP, along with the support of local co-investigators and the government, demonstrates the importance of international cooperation in understanding intangible cultural heritage.


Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia and is bordered by China and India, with a population of 29M. It is in the Himalayas and contains eight of the world’s ten highest peaks, including Everest. The Nepalese Civil War was a protracted armed conflict that took place in the former Kingdom of Nepal from 1996 to 2006. It saw countrywide fighting between the Nepalese royal government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), with the latter making significant use of guerrilla warfare. The government system is now a federal parliamentary republic; the chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister.

Day 1- 3 Kathmandu

A snap of the Kathmandu Symposium on Deuda. On the left of mine are former Deputy Prime Minister Bhim Rawal and a sitting MP Dayal Bahadur Shahi (Dila Datt Pan)

Flying into Kathmandu, I was both excited and nervous about the upcoming research project. I had travelled extensively in the region (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka etc.) but never to Nepal. Friends had waxed lyrical, misty eyed about both its beaty and dangerous terrain. The trip would involve quite a lot of travel inside Nepal and up into the mountainous region in the West. A lovely welcome awaited me at the airport, led by my local Co-I Dila, who I later was to learn had organised a superlative inception programme.

Kathmandu was warm and dusty, and we kicked off the following day with national-level consultation program called Discourse on Dēudā Folklore.

The program brought together artists, scholars, practitioners, and media professionals to explore the topic of discussion, and two academic papers were presented to open avenues for further discussion (see appendix for details).

The passion of the participants was palpable, and speakers regularly broke out into song. It was an honour to be present and hopefully facilitate giving a wider voice and exposure to this area of Nepalese culture. The areas discussed ranged from historical context of the folklore to sociological investigations, semiotics and government policy. As the long meeting progressed, several themes emerged on song content and form. These included:


Dēudā is common folklore for all, irrespective of gender, despite existing gender imbalances. For example, women were traditionally sent to Menstrual sheds that are demolished but female segregation still happens. However, in, women in Dēudā play strong empowered role in challenging gender stereotypes and patriarchal power. This was demonstrated in song responses berating ‘lazy, drunk men’. A growth in Aids and HIV outbreaks in the Western region has also been linked to migrant Nepali male works visiting India and returning with infections and this theme also making its way into songs.


The very different local socio-cultural imaginary of the Western region versus hegemonic dominant national socio-cultural imaginary and the marginalisation of Western cultural forms


Dēudā songs are rich enough in reflecting the annals of a long history. The following piece speaks of how the conflict between the then powerful regime of Sinja State and Khar state took to a fierce battle and how the Sinja squad was fated to suffer destruction:

Tallo bato talchhedoko, majh bato Humliko/
Taulakhar ladain bhaigo, nash padyo Jumliko//

(The lower path is of Talchhedo whereas the middle path of Humli/
A fierce battle took place in Taulakher and Jumli fighters suffered a huge loss//)

Another stone inscription dating back to 1461 BS (900 years ago) offers a deuda song in it (Padam p Kalauni):

Chhakalyaka Bali Raja, sanjhaka Shahi bhaya/
Sinjako Shreepech boki, Chhinasim ai gaya//

(King Bali came in the morn, whereas the Shahi’s arrived in the eve/
Fetching along the Crown of Sinja state, they came to Chhinasim//)


A critique of both local and national politicians on their failure to deliver of corruption or cronyism. Some folksongs reflect of how the rulers used to exploit the public:

Birkulya Paltan Ayo, Manobhari Rakha/
Bhari boknya Gaulya ho, Palo Suni Rakha//

(The Birkulya batallion has arrived, spare potful of foodgrains for them/
O! the fellow village porters, take into account your turn to serve them//)

Love & Sex.

One of the most dominant themes across folklore ranging from young lovers to couples bringing shame on their village for inappropriate behaviour. Example below:

Boy: Tero Poi Naintaal baijhau, pardeshai marijhau/
Tera Poiko lagnya maya, maitira sarijau. //

(I wish your husband goes to Nainital(india) for work and he dies over there/
And your love to him thereafter gets transferred to me//)

Girl: Ichala ko dabya ghans, budhi gai charali/
Mera Poile ke birayo, teri Joi marali//

(The grass on the upper slope would be grazed by an old cow/
I wonder what wrong my husband has caused to you and curse you that your wife dies instead//)


The structure of the song has strong link to movement and rhythm of the dance. Many songs are long lived in the societies, and they speak of the fatalism, pain, helplessness, social structures, love and so on.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Bhim Rawal started with a few such classic songs:

Rajpur hai Jangipur, Kanya hai Kachali/
Kya chadhi gulabi ranga, kya maya basali//

(The first segment of journey is from Rajpur to Jangipur and the next from Kanya to Kachali/
You are blushed in rosy cheeks; I wonder if you get in love with me//)

Kasaiki Basmati Dhan, Kasaiki Kode Nai/
Kasaiki sunko har, kasaiki pote nai//

(Some feed in the Baasmati rice while others do not even have millet to eat/
some are so privileged to own the chains of gold while others do not even own the normal bead//)

It is also a tradition that such template-based songs are adapted to local circumstances also e.g., looking for work and consequence thereof.

Ka falu dukhako bhari khutta tutan lagya/
Pradeshi karam mero sath chhutan lagya//

(Where do I put my burdens on, my legs are nearly collapsing/
Fated to be a migrant worker abroad, I am to lose all my companions//)

Dēudā was felt to catch the context of changing society and was part of all festivals except death festival. My thanks for translation of songs and added comments and interpretation on this section from Dila Datt Pant.

Day 4- 5 – Achham & Seti

The following day we took an internal flight to Dhangadi, and home state of Dila. We were travelling with team member Govinda, whose mountain village we would be visiting, a ten-hour drive from Dhangadi airport. The flight allowed a view of the Himalayas, and the panorama was sublime, for a moment it felt like being close to the face of God and Facing Heaven. Back to earth in Dhangadi the temperature was decidedly hotter hovering around 30°C. An encounter with a bevy of Tharu indigenous women, dressed in their traditional attires, at the airport was a solace to forget the heat. With Dila’s support, I took chance to capture a moment with them.

Tharu Indigenous women, encountered in Dhangadhi Airport (Dila Datt Pant)

We climbed into our waiting 4×4 and began the long, winding journey into the mountains with a camera person and local woman journalist.

As I’d been warned, the roads were narrow, serpentine and regularly revealing sheer drops tumbling down into verdant valleys very, very far below. Small shrines and flowers bedecked areas where travellers had not been so lucky and plunged to certain death. My colleagues seemed bemused at my perma-stressed face and white-knuckle gripping of the door handle, untroubled by what I thought was imminent death.

As Conrad showed us all, it’s often the journey that reveals the most, not just the destination. The mountains culture offered some startling juxtapositions, with an increasing arable farming presence, balanced with almost universal mobile phone use.

We stopped at small roadside building for food, the staple of dhal, rice, saag and roti tasting delicious in the mountain air.

We stopped next at a breath-taking mountain Hindu shrine, the view stretching down into the Seti River valley and terraced areas of golden wheat everywhere. Mostly though, there were no men to be seen in the field, the women scything, collecting and husking the wheat. The men we learnt later talking to local women were mostly playing cards and drinking.

Wheat field on the bank of Seti River in Doti

Wheat gathering near Seti River

We eventually began our descent and arrived at Achham, our place for the night, as darkness fell, the sky obsidian, flecked by stars and house lights so high it was impossible to tell which was which.

The next day began with a climb back into the mountains, heading for Govinda’s village. This time it was just single dirt track, dried mud and rock. I tried not to look down. Hours later we reached a dead end and clambered along a small pathway into the village. The welcome I was not expecting and took my breath away. The entire village, bedecked in traditional costumes turned out to welcome us. Flower wreaths speeches and welcome food took up the next few hours. It was very humbling and the people so warm and welcoming.

We them moved to the nearby festival area, one of the very few substantive flat open areas that was growing wheat. The rest of the afternoon was simply breath-taking, my expectations of meeting a few performers were entirely wrong. Dila and Govinda had surprised me with a full scale live Dēudā competition with many other queued up cultural performances that were constituents of Deuda culture. This rural municipality named Mellekh, where the show was held, welcomed over 1,500 participants from surrounding villages and the local government had supported the coordination of the visit. Incredible. The performance was beautiful and complex, giving life to the symposium discussions back in Kathmandu. Musicians, dancers and call and response from the circles of performers, in varying local dress was incredible and illuminating. We had manged a few semi-informal interviews exploring themes and structures, but I was mostly awarded the role of guest of honour, giving speeches and handing out prizes.

Putala Dance: a constituent dance of Deuda folklore performed a school premises in Mellekh.

Hori: a folk dance which is performed in the similar movement of Deuda.

It was an exceptional day that ended with being pulled into a Dēudā circle to dance and laugh in the 39°C late afternoon sun and dust, perched on top of a mountain in distant Nepal.

Day 6 – 7 – Dhangadi

It had taken most of the previous day to drive back to Dhangadi. The trip to Achham already feeling dreamlike. Dhangadi itself was part of the plains and it felt strange to be ‘down’. The day began with a beautiful visit to Dila’s family home and family, surrounded by banana plantations and the border with India within a stone’s throw. I was honoured at the warm hospitality and very enthused to meet his father at 96 so passionately sharing some Deuda songs for us.

The afternoon was spent meeting local politicians to discuss the project and finance and TV and radio interviews, talking through what we’d been doing and what our next steps would be.

Giving Interview at Dinesh FM in Dhangadhi (Dila Datt Pan)

Day 8 – Kathmandu & London

The final day in Kathmandu involved squeezing in some last-minute sight-seeing and a last-minute wrap up meeting with Dila and Govinda and a lovely gift mug. Pashupatinath Temple was stunning and watching the cremations taking place outside on the tributary of the Ganges left me moved, orange robbed figures wreathed in smoke. It struck me that it’s much better to have death visible like this, than our Western approach of compartmentalising it.

Perhaps, the following excerpt from my friend Dila’s poem best suited to narrate the scene on the Aaryaghat; the bank of Bagmati river in Pashupati.

A poem by Dila, who is a co-researcher of my team

And that, alongside many other thoughts and inspirations accompanied on my flight back to London. I’d learnt so much already and couldn’t wait to continue the research and I was already planning my return to the incredible Nepal, that I now realize the Lonely Planet had not simply ranked Nepal as trekker’s paradise!

For further details regarding the project, please refer to the Twitter account of UCAR Office at

Dr Simon Dancy (PI –  & Nar Bdr. Saud (Co- I – can be contacted for additional information.

All Pictures copywrite ST Dancey 2023 unless otherwise credited

Building our project team as an International Steering Group: Picturing the past, present, and future in the imaginations, dreams and journeys taken by young women in Nepal and Rwanda

MARLON LEE MONCRIEFFE, Principal Investigator, UK.

NUB RAJ BHANDARI, Co-Investigator, Nepal.

CHASTE UWIHOEYE, Co-Investigator, Rwanda.


Our MAP team first started working together in Nepal through the 2018-19 Changing The Story funded project “Examining Interpretations of Civil National Values made by Young People in Post-Conflict Settings (Kenya and Nepal)”. As well as this we have worked together on the Consolidation, learning and evaluation in Kenya and Rwanda: A critical review of Changing the Story projects in Eastern Africa (Decolonising Curriculum Knowledge). The successes of these projects has enabled a bonding in our understanding and learning from each other about the international professional and social contexts from which we derive and valuable contributions that we each bring to the project as a whole. This article provides an overview of the developments in progress of our project team, which has transformed into becoming an international steering group.

Building on Phase 1 MAP projects

Picturing the past, present, and future in the imaginations, dreams and journeys taken by young women in Nepal and Rwanda extends the MAP vision from the Phase 1 contexts of Nepal and Rwanda. Both have sought to provide training for youth, educators, and cultural artists; to support the design and delivery of Participatory Arts as a part of the national curriculum. Our project seeks to build upon existing work in Nepal and Rwanda with a particular focus on the use and application of Mithila Art and Imigogo Art. Our aim is to show how these art methods can be applied as intergenerational dialogic tools of communication for informing social and educational policies in Nepal and Rwanda, and in challenging gender discrimination across both societies more widely. Of all the MAP medium grants projects, our project is unique through the cross-cultural exploration between two countries, providing comparative research findings. We are using and applying the same theoretical framework  across the two projects.

Project overviews and meetings

Our project strategy was completed in January 2023. This was shared at our first meeting as a team on February 1st 2023. In essence, the project strategy is a working document that provides milestones, to measure progress, and includes the overview of fieldwork strategies and logistics for each country. The project overview is a working document that is continuously updated during the processes of our agenda led meetings. All fortnightly meetings prior to the fieldwork in May and June occur online. However, a valuable face-to-face meeting with the P-I and Rwanda Co-I happened in Rwanda in February 2023, with the Nepal team brought online. This meeting included our introduction to the valuable Steering Group members. Also joining us was a partner the Rwandan Cycling Federation (FERWACY) who will support cycling journeys for women during our planned Rwanda fieldwork in May 2023.

From R to L: Emmanuel Kigundu, Dr Marlon Moncrieffe, Dr Chase Uwihoreye, and Mrs Liliane Kayirebwa (FERWACY). Rwanda, February 2023.

International Steering Group

The establishment of our International Steering Group has given young people from Nepal and Rwanda the opportunity to engage in cross-cultural dialogue. This has included in shaping the design of the project overview and in knowledge transfer of cultural proverbs from each national context, allowing for all to see the synergies of intergenerational experiences across both contexts. Our first meeting took place on 29th March 2023. 

The recruitment of Nepalese members to our Steering Group was completed in March 2023. A 23 year old, third year student studying a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) at Tribhuvan University, having a deep love with Mithila art and culture and interests in researching on the beauty and richness of Mithila art, Ms. Liza Kumari Jha was recruited as a young researcher. Similarly, Prity Karna learnt to paint Mithila art at a very young age and has a dream to be a renowned Mithila artist. Prity is confident to bring contemporary perspectives in Mithila Arts with an ambition to challenge the prevailing norms against women and girls through arts.

Project developments in Nepal

In the last week of April 2023, a steering group member and young Mithila artist, Ms. Prity Karna, and Nub Raj Bhandari (Co I – Nepal) participated in an interactive orientation event with young women. It was an informal meeting with the young women (who will later participate in the fieldwork) and our project’s Mithila artist lead in creating a synergy; contributing to the intergenerational aspects of the project between, youth researchers, and Mithila artists and researchers.

Project developments in Rwanda

Two Youth Action Board members and six teachers attended informal workshops testing approaches with arts methods tools for the baseline assessment and monitoring of the project. The activities included working together using a variety of ‘Tracking Tools’. For example the creation of ‘Vision Murals’. This is used by the participants to think on the vision  they wish to achieve in relation to an issue they want to address. The problems in the community as “the change they want to see”. Next, the participants were gathered in a circle of connected flipcharts and encouraged via engagement tasks to draw the change they envisaged through their choice of artistic approaches.

They participated in sharing their drawings, collages, and different murals towards the change they want to see in their communities. Some of the drawings included trees to represent family reunion. Whilst other drawings included arms that represent peace, unity and prosperity, and stars that represent the light of life. Poems were also written to represent the voice of the voiceless and isolated younger people in the community.


Picturing the past, present, and future in the imaginations, dreams and journeys taken by young women in Nepal and Rwanda: An introduction

MARLON LEE MONCRIEFFE, Principal Investigator.


There is a synergy in the mission of both Janaki Women Awareness Society (Nepal) and Uyisenga Ni Imanzi (Rwanda) in that they exist as Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for empowering the health, wellbeing and lives of women. Both organisations will work together on a unique international project that will apply the MAP philosophy of arts-based communication structures facilitated between young people and policy makers, with a view to contributing to social, citizenship and education policy discourses.

Theoretical Framework

The intellectual foundation that gives the theoretical framework to our study is exploring, examining, discussing and reflecting on how gender based cultural proverbs have been passed across from generation to generation in both countries, and generally in their articulating a negative portrayal of women’s representation in society at all stages of their lives (Bishwakarma, 2020; Niyonshima, 2020). For example, in examination of Rwanda, Niyonshima (2020, p.12) provides lists of proverbs where women are considered as inferior, worthless and weak people in society:

  • Ntaa nkokôkazi ibîka isaâke ihâri. (A hen cannot cluck when a cock is around)
  • Uruvûze umugorê ruvuga umuhoro. (A word of a woman is followed by a machete)
  • Umukoôbwa w’îgicûucu yiirahiira imfîizi ya sê. (A foolish girl compares herself to her father)
  • Umugorê w’înkoramwuuga, abishiima yîikoze muu nda. (A professional witch ends up in killing her own children)
  • In examination of Nepal, Bishwakarma (2020) produced a survey that established a clear and substantial gap between women and humans in that society that have perpetuated the culturally accepted norm of discrimination against women. For example:
  • Chhorapaye khasi, Chhoripaye farsi (A party of mutton goes on a sons’ birth, but a pumpkin on that of daughters)
  • “Chhorapaye sansar ujayalo, Chhoribhaye bhanchha Ujyalo (Son brightens the entire world, while a daughter can only brighten the kitchen)
  • “Swasnimanchheko buddi pachhadi hunchha” (Women are always short-sighted).
  • Similarly, Jha (2008) has brought some Maithili proverbs that present women and girls/daughter negatively. For example:
  • “Beta bhel loki lel, Beti bhel feki del” (Love your son, not daughter)
  • “Ek beti mithai, dosar beti lai, tisar bhel tan tinu balaya” (Birth of a first daughter is good, second daughter does not bring happiness, third daughter is like poison)
  • “Jehane maugi aap chhinariya, tehane lagaabaya kul bebahariya” (Innovative activities of women are always criticized)

The presentation of these proverbs from Nepal and Rwanda should not be generalised to the life experiences of all women of Nepal and Rwanda over the ages. Indeed, the resilience, self-empowerment and rise of Rwandan women to positions of power in society is documented by Hunt (2017) particularly after the genocide of 1994. Whilst for Nepal, an example of women becoming leaders in society breaking from social constraints to their gender is documented by Adhikari (2023). What this project seeks to consider and develop learning from are the more relative intergenerational experiences of women whose lives may have been framed for living according to gender discriminatory cultural proverbs.  What is clear is that cultural proverbs of both societies articulate that girls/women do not matter a lot in comparison to boys/men. An internalization of this can lead to the playing out of stereotypes that can impede emancipation. Girls and Women in Nepal and Rwanda may not partake in a journey to development with those discrepancies.

Reflection and Reconceptualization

Picturing the past, present, and future in the imaginations, dreams and journeys taken by young women in Nepal and Rwanda seeks to disrupt the power of culturally embedded proverbs which perpetuate gender inequality. The purpose of our project seeks to actualise and exemplify women related to each other and of different generations. Firtsly, by their coming together and partaking in walking and bicycle journeys for finding safe spaces. In these, they can share with each other their experiences and reflections in affirming conceptualisations of their future narratives. The key objective of our project is: To support women in communicating the social challenges they have faced and their aspirations for the future.

Arts Based Methods

Further emancipation by the translation of the narratives given through women’s imaginations and aspirations will come through Imigogo (framed) art and photography (Rwanda) and Mithila art (Nepal).

Mithila art is a cultural form of art which depicts the ancient culture of Mithila kingdom (Central Southern region of Nepal and parts of India). This is an art form unique to women in their communication generation after generation.

Source ‘Smart History’: Young women cycling

There is a legend that Imigogo was invented as an interior decoration by Prince Kakira of Gisaka Kingdom in Nyarubuye in the 1800s. However, Imigogo art, is a traditionally female art form used by women in Rwanda.


Source ‘My Africals’

Figure 1 (below) provides a model of the thought processes given to our project and the stages of development from theoretical foundations to journeys for reflections, to translations of imaginations through arts-based methods, and to public and community engagement with the project’s outcomes.

Public and Community Engagement

Our project will deliver public and community engagement events in Kigali, Rwanda and in Janakpur, Nepal. These events will be pre and post fieldwork discussions (seminar and exhibitions) which will enable the sharing of our objectives and our outcomes. Local, regional and national policymakers we be invited to these events for sharing their contributions to the discussion of gender inequality in society, and in collaborating for impact on the reconceptualization of current and future social and educational policies.


  • Adhikari, A. (2023). Substantive Representation of Women Parliamentarians and Gender Equality in Nepal. In Substantive Representation of Women in Asian Parliaments (pp. 206-225). Routledge.
  • Bishwakarma, G. (2020). The Role of Nepalese Proverbs in Perpetuating Gendered Cultural Values. Advances in Applied Sociology, 10, 103-114.
  • Hunt. S. (2017) Rwandan Women Rising. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Jha, K. (2008). Maithili lokokti sanchay (Maithili proverbs- a collection). Sahitya Akeademi New Delhi
  • Niyonshima, P. (2020). A Sociolinguistic Study of Women Representation in Rwandan Proverbs. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, 10, 24.

Allow me to return home: get more love, care, and support when I’m bleeding

Juhi Adhikari

Youth Advisory Board member, Mobile Arts for Peace (MAP) Participatory arts-based international research project in the UK, Rwanda, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, and Nepal.

Credit: Problem Image, Shony Bhatta (anonymised), 14-year-old, Female, Nepal

“Please allow me to return home; I’m scared to go to sleep with the cattle nearby. It’s just that I’m going through a normal procedure called menstruation, said 14-year-old Shony Bhatta to her father. “Don’t treat me as unclean, I don’t deserve this.”

In Nepal, the menstruation taboo is a social stigma that considers women and girls unclean or impure during their periods. This is especially true in the far-western and Himalayan regions, and this taboo is called Chhaupadi. Chhaupadi means that women and girls must sleep in isolated huts or sheds outside their homes during menstruation. They are also forbidden from touching other people, animals, plants, water sources, or religious icons. This practice exposes them to health and safety risks, such as infections, snake bites, cold weather, sexual assault, or even death. There are many efforts to end Chhaupadi and promote menstrual health and hygiene in Nepal. The government banned Chhaupadi in 2005 and made it a criminal offense in 2017. Many NGOs and activists are also working to raise awareness, educate communities, distribute sanitary pads, and challenge cultural norms. However, there are still many challenges and barriers to overcome this deeply rooted tradition.

Mobile Arts for Peace (MAP) is a participatory arts-based research project which facilitates young people in Nepal, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, and Rwanda to explore the social issues that they believe create localized conflict in their communities and advocate for policy changes to solve the problems. In Nepal, as part of our research project, a group of teenage girls went to several schools and facilitated sessions with other teenage girls to share their perspectives and understand the social issues they are facing in a welcoming space. Many teenage girls raised the issue of ‘untouchability’ as a big concern, and stress for them, and they want to solve this social problem.

In the first drawing, I, Juhi Adhikari, a member of the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) from Nepal, show a reflection from one of the youth discussion sessions on how menstruation is still stigmatized in the Western region of the country. Some people in this region are seen to be very strict regarding their culture of “Chaupadi”. Due to the cultural stigma attached to being “impure” during menstruation and soon after childbirth, females are required to live away from home in a cramped, dangerous shed. As a young child who doesn’t even know how to take care of her personal hygiene and has blood stains all over her skirt and rashes over her thighs, Shony Bhatta is seen in this photo sobbing and pleading with her father to let her return home.

She considers it unreasonable that she had to stay out of school during menstruation, sleeps in a shed, and suffer a lot, simply because she was a girl and bleeding. Her mother, Sharmila Bhatta also feels helpless as she recalls how challenging it was for her to conceive Shony in a cowshed, and how she was forced to stay there with her newborn child for 11 days. She recalls the misery of being deprived of nourishing food and warm clothing to cover her daughter. She feels that Shony had no option but to submit as she looks at her daughter with a broken heart.

Her father, Dholu Bhatta, holds the belief that a girl or woman’s body is possessed by an evil spirit during menstruation and that this is why they should be kept away from the house and shouldn’t be fed nutritious food: doing so, according to their society, would strengthen the evil within them. The crops Shony touches would all die if she were allowed to walk around at this time, and she would poison every man she came into contact with. Even though he knows in his heart that this is wrong, he can’t go against the long-standing custom and asks his daughter to follow it instead. Shony is now forced to live alone.

She is now kept in isolation and is deprived of good quality food, sanitary conditions, independence, humanity, and dignity. While every female bleeds during her period, it is hardly ever positively recognized in the far western part of Nepal, despite being a natural process.

Credit: Solution Image, Shony Bhatta (anonymised), 14-year-old female, Nepal

“I used to assume that Chaupadi was an obligation, but after the awareness education campaign addressing menstruation, bodily autonomy, sex education, cleanliness, and sanitation in the programs and awareness campaign in the village for the youths, I learned that it wasn’t” stated Shony Bhatta.

As part of the discussion, we did not only talk about the social problems, we also explored the possible solutions from the teenage girl’s perspective. This second picture depicts the female voice and how they visualize solutions to make the world a better place to live for girls.

While a woman is menstruating, she may still live happily with her family in their home, as shown by the dark red blood drop in the background and the house inside it. This demonstrates that girls may live at home, receive extra care from their families, and consume nutritious food. The fact that the father and mother are wearing the same shade of clothing highlights their solidarity in supporting their daughter even while she is menstruating, and the shift in social attitudes that are taking place.

Dholu Bhatta moves forward while holding hands with his wife and his daughter. This illustrates how men and women may work together to transform society in ways that are advantageous to both genders. Shony and every other girl/woman like her in their society experienced embarrassment whilst menstruating and previously believed they’ll be treated cruelly and sent to a cowshed both during and after childbirth, while they were both experiencing these natural bodily processes.

Thus, it is very important to leave no one behind and ensure girls also have opportunities for thriving in their careers without any hindrances. The untouchability practice during the menstruation cycle is not only discriminatory but also a very stressful and mentally disturbing phase for many girls in Nepal. Without embracing natural bodily processes gracefully, our girls will not have a better place to live.




Adapting the Methods of the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ Project for the Psychosocial Assistance of Children and Youth in Ukraine

By Olga Ovcharuk 

Professor of the Department of Cultural Studies and Intercultural Communications

National Academy of Managerial Staff of Culture and Arts (Ukraine, Kyiv)

Photo Credit: Tina Hartung, Unsplash

Russia’s full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine, began on February 24 2022, marked the beginning of the largest humanitarian catastrophe in Europe since the Second World War. Thousands of innocent people have been killed, huge civilian casualties, millions of refugees, and large-scale destruction of the country’s infrastructure: including schools, universities, museums, libraries, and cultural heritage sites destroyed. This is resulting in the deep psychological trauma for the entire Ukrainian society, especially for its most vulnerable, namely youth and children. That is why the search for opportunities to provide them with psychological support, overcome psychological trauma and stress are extremely important tasks facing Ukraine’s state institutions, non-governmental organisations, educational and scientific institutions, across Ukrainian society today.

In this regard, the National Program of ‘Mental Health and Psychosocial Support’ is of great importance. This program was initiated in 2022 by the Office of the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, and supported by government agencies – the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, and the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine. Equally important for Ukrainian society is the international experience gained in cooperation with educational institutions, civil society representatives, artists, and cultural figures. The «Mobile Arts for Peace» art project attracts attention perhaps most of all as a source of relevant international experience that demonstrates the possibilities of using art to address pressing humanitarian, social, and ethnic problems, including the use of art to provide psychosocial support to children and youth.

Despite the fact that the problems of human psychological health are actively attracting attention and being discussed in many areas of life today, the use of art to address them has not received sufficient coverage. However, art itself is a powerful force capable of transforming a person, his or her worldview, inner world, and causes spiritual transformations of both individuals and the entire community. The influence of art today makes it possible to solve many social problems. This understanding of art is key to the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ art project and opens up opportunities to use its ideas to overcome various types of conflicts and provide psychosocial support to children and youth in many modern societies. These ideas are extremely relevant for modern Ukrainian society.

Involvement in the atmosphere of artistic creativity is an effective way to establish interaction, cooperation, and partnerships between all participants in creative communication. The synthesis of the arts – music, dance, drama as a key method of the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ project allows us to use the potential of each art to overcome psychological trauma, stress, nervous tension, etc. Involving children in working with shape, color, space, movement, and sound opens up wide opportunities for their creative expression and creates a wide scope for self-realization. In addition, the combination of different types of art is the basis for using the achievements of other scientific fields and creative practices. Thus, in the context of an interdisciplinary approach, it is especially important to turn to art therapy. Its achievements have recently been actively used to restore psychological health, to develop a healthy worldview and lifestyle.

The synthesis of the arts – music, dance, drama combined with an interdisciplinary approach can become a conceptual basis for the development of effective cultural and artistic practices as a way of psychological support for children and youth in Ukraine.

In this context, one of the key methods of the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ project is noteworthy. Its essence lies in the combination of different types of art and national cultural traditions of the countries where the project is being implemented. This ensures its success in achieving its goal of building peace and establishing dialogue. At the same time, the involvement of national traditions allows us to solve problems related to the psychological health of children and youth. National cultural traditions not only preserve and transmit from generation to generation the history, values, and worldview of the people, they are a source of formation of the national character and mental experience of the people.

It is important to note that in Ukraine, national cultural traditions are an important component of the national education of children and youth. That is why the national cultural space is the most natural environment for maintaining psychological health through various types of creative activity, such as folk choral singing, playing various folk instruments, folk dances, theater performances, etc.

An essential method of the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ project is to use art as a way of creative development of the individual based on his or her individual capabilities, abilities, and inclinations. It is in the atmosphere of artistic creativity that full-fledged conditions are created for the comprehensive self-expression of each person, the disclosure of their creative potential, and the manifestation of creative activity. However, only through an individual approach, the search for the most appropriate type of artistic activity that meets the intellectual, physical, and emotional needs of each person, can a way be found to overcome the consequences of psychological trauma, get rid of negative emotional experience and stress. Involvement of the non-verbal language of art allows to reveal the deep aspects of each person’s spiritual experiences and, at the same time, to find the most effective mechanism of psychological assistance in accordance with individual needs.

It should be noted that many practical steps have already been taken in Ukraine today to provide psychological assistance to children, youth, veterans of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and society as a whole, but it is children and youth who, as an important human capital, need to co-develop the latest humanitarian strategies to overcome the negative psychological experience of war. With this in mind, the valuable practical experience and relevant artistic methods of the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ project can be used in contemporary cultural and artistic practices to provide psychological support to Ukrainian children and youth.


MAP Indonesia: Informing Youth Policy through Arts Based Methods

By Harla Octarra from Atma Jaya, Indonesia

This short video shows the journey of how MAP young researchers collaborated with various stakeholders to gradually inform youth policy through research, creating art-forms and an audience with local government. Told from the perspectives of Ibnu, Indri, Haikel, and presented by Harla (as MAP Co-Investigator in Indonesia), the video opens with Harla giving a short introduction to key MAP activities in 2020 and 2021. The opening emphasises how MAP created a space for dialogue and collaboration between young people and cultural artists, which continued to create spaces for dialogue with the community and local government.

The three young people take turns to explain their research process. Engagement between the young people, cultural artists, youth facilitators and the local leader took place during the research processes sheds light on how participatory art-based research can be done. Two-types of briefs, namely policy papers and behind-the-scenes video, are briefly explained as effective mediums in capturing how film and comic books brought readers and viewers closer to the issues. Pointing to the fact that after reading the comic book and seeing the film they felt they could then deeply dialogue about the issues of brawls and sexual violence that the two art-forms raised.

The next steps for informing policy started with an audience with local government and the Art Council who hoped for possible artistic collaborations in the future. The video closes with Harla’s remarks on the potential activities and engagement in 2023 and 2024, which MAP young researchers have and will take part in. These include participation in government-led discussions on child participation policy, becoming facilitators of the National Children’s Consultation Forum, and using arts-based approaches in future research and advocacy.

The full video can be accessed here:


Reflections: Musical Dialogue during the International Institute on Peace Education (IIPE) conference 2022

By Juhi Adhikari (19) Undergraduate Student at Tribhuvan University & MAP Nepal Youth Researcher

Caption: MAP Nepal young researchers using participatory approaches (2022)

Last year I was selected to join the International Institute on Peace Education (IIPE 2022) in Mexico. I was the youngest participant among 50, all working on peace education, either as an educator or researcher/practitioner. I chose the theme “Girls expressing themselves through Musical Dialogue” from my experience with MAP Nepal research. In order to provide a secure space, especially for young girls who are unable to discuss their life experiences, I used the Musical Dialogue activity from the Mobile Arts for Peace (MAP) Manual for my workshop at the International Institute of Peace Education (IIPE Mexico 2022). As a young woman researcher, I’ve always believed that most girls experience unforgettable life events at least once at a young age, which have an impact on us both physically and mentally. As a girl, we may have experienced harassment at least once anywhere: at home by family members, in a public vehicle, or even at school by our teachers. Women experience numerous family issues in addition to harassment, because they are often responsible for managing the household.

However, many girls are unable to convey inner feelings to anyone. It might be because of fear that we are constantly being assessed by society that we are unable to freely communicate what we have been through. There is a prevalent belief that even if you are harassed by men, it is your fault. This belief may stem from the type of clothing that you are wearing, but boys/men are never to blame. Always, it’s “you.”

As a result, I could see that the Musical Dialogue module from the MAP manual would be a tremendous benefit for me and others. That’s why I chose this activity to showcase with the IIPE 2022 participants how this one MAP methodology can provide safe space for dialogue amongst girls who have had bitter experiences. Undoubtedly this method aids in assisting the girls’ sentiments. Through this exercise, I have seen girls foster a sense of trust among their peers and freely share their experiences. Since verbal communication is not the only means by which we may share and convey our emotions. We can express empathy for others through nonverbal means such as art and dialogue. The ability to “walk in someone else’s shoes” fosters a much deeper emotional connection. Empathy is extremely powerful since it calls for a deeper understanding of the other person’s thoughts and feelings. I chose this module for my workshop in Mexico for that reason.

My workshop experience: How did I start?

I explained at the beginning of the workshop that the participants should imagine themselves as young ladies between the ages of 10 and 15 and convey their true feelings as they go along. After that, I turned on some upbeat music and gave participants cues to move around the space, such as “Move as fast as you can,” “Move as slow as you can,” “Move as far as you can,” “Go to your favorite corner of the room,” and “Move around the room, and notice the colors or shapes in the room.”

I then instructed them to link elbows with the person closest to them as soon as the music turned off. For a few rounds, I gave the participants a discussion question after the music stopped and they then formed pairs joined at the elbow. The pairs alternately gave their views on each question they were asked. Examples of those initial discussion questions were:

  • Describe yourself in one action or emotion?
  • Your preferred cuisine?
  • Something about you that I’m unaware of?
  • What did you do as soon as you woke up?
  • Have you got a dog?

These types of questions helped to forge bonds and with these kinds of opening conversations, the participants felt at ease and free.

After these simple questions were explored, I could see and feel that the atmosphere in the room had already changed: individuals had begun to trust their peers and calmly listen. As a result, I raised the bar and asked the following key questions about these activities:

  • Who or what inspires you, and why?
  • What aspects of your life do you feel grateful for, and why?
  • Why are you so satisfied with yourself?
  • What has been your most memorable and joyful experience?
  • What has been your life’s most tragic moment?
  • Your long-kept secret that you’ve been reluctant to share?

After the discussion ended, I could see that participants were hugging and crying as a result: delighted to share things that they would have never shared if the questions hadn’t been posed in this way. They were sobbing joyfully and had the impression that they were heard and understood.

I was quite thrilled and moved to witness how this straightforward activity led to the development of connection, respect, empathy, and trust among the participants. I then invited each participant to take a seat in a designated location before moving on to these reflection questions:

  • I asked them how they felt after participating in this activity.
  • What do they think about using this activity to have young girls talk about their problems?
  • What difficulties did they encounter during these activities?

I observed that revealing a secret in a safe space was both emotional and liberating. I could feel how happy they were. When we are unable to communicate, we can feel ourselves being confined within our bodies. I recall that I had this kind of harassment frequently as a teenager, and that I covered it up. I felt lonely, stressed, and incredibly anxious. However, whilst saying it the first time made me feel terrible and depressed. Thankfully, those emotions faded, and a much deeper satisfaction developed in their place.

A few participants even answered when I inquired about any changes that I could possibly make to the task by saying, “We never know how to answer that question.” It seemed to me that for our group it was a powerful experience, and as it was, perfect. In an ideal world, with more time, I guess it would be a good idea to go slowly from happiness to trauma and end up with something happy too.”

When asked for feedback and if getting along with others in groups was simple or difficult, a few participants added, “It was simple, but we must take into account that we already liked everyone who was in their group.”

Here is the poetic Facebook post from one of the participants, after he attended the workshop.

PLAYING OUT OF SILENCE (an abridged version)

By Carlos

Is this my body? I ask in silence.

I don’t always own your heartbeat.

They touch it, smile, turn it on and leave me.

Alone, on an island of numb fear.

Ideas that pop, you feel them gather…


Is this my body?

From your flesh, I hide in silence.

In the hidden confusion the rage

In the mist, I hide my desires.

Are these my wishes?


-Girl- I tell another girl a secret

My body… they touch, smile, turn on and leave me.

A tear streaming down her face, too…

We play five together, dance, look at each other.

And playin’ and dancin’ this body too mine.


Further links:

MAP Nepal

International Institute on Peace Education

Small Grants Final Evaluation report

Small Grants Final Evaluation report

This report focuses on the Small Grants awarded across the four countries, and acts as a follow-up to the Phase One Report produced in the winter of 2021. It seeks to demonstrate, through a narrative case-study approach, how the Small Grants work delivered has promoted arts-based peacebuilding and supported community cohesion. The research reported took place between February and October 2022 and focuses on the research aim below and three key research questions: 

Aim: To evaluate the efficacy of the MAP Small Grants projects and understand their impact in communities. Specifically: 

  1. What outputs were delivered through the Small Grants projects? 
  2. What outcomes for beneficiaries/stakeholders were delivered through the Small Grants projects? 
  3. What impacts delivered for communities and societies across the four countries were delivered through the Small Grants projects? 

A key finding: “Power of arts-based methods: Ultimately, the strength of the projects rested in their use of arts-based methods, which across the funded projects repeatedly demonstrated their power and value in helping to develop community understanding of problems, build empathy and cohesion and drive wider impact through policy” (p.80).

Small Grants Final Report [January 2023]