Client comments...

I am amazed at all that I learned about myself (and others) through the many exercises.  The exercises weren’t just information or tools to learn for the future but experiences I will treasure for what they gave to me and created in me.  In these two weeks, I witnessed the creation of a cohesive, confident team of activists committed to non-violence no matter what!  

I have no doubt that I leave here a changed person and that this training will be a part of me and be used for the rest of my life.

         ~ Christie Grapentine, participant in two-week intensive training in conflict transformation Asheville, North Carolina ~

The Health Equity session was extremely powerful and left a lot of people talking (in the hallways, in their cars, in the staff room, in the kitchen, in the offices)!!! That’s a HUGE outcome that can be measured by the engagement of staff today… and is amazing since the conversations were long overdue!!  Thank you!

         ~ Diversity and Equity Officer of an Ontario Community Health Centre ~



Partera News

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Women Rising Up:  Meet Yumleima, Warrior of Hope
Her name is Yumleima.  She has the exquisite cheekbones and eyes typical of the North East. There is a baby at her breast, happily, noisily, suckling.  She is an unlikely warrior of hope. 
On the Washington Post’s short list of the world’s most under-reported war zones, India’s North East has been torn by violence for decades, with more than 600,000 killed. The NE is unusual, both ethnically and religiously distinct from the largely Caucasian Indian subcontinent; the people consider themselves Mongolian and Christian. It has most of the qualities of protracted conflict impervious to intervention and change – from geography and terrain, identity and politically-manufactured inequities to cultural norms that marginalise women. Hopeless. Right? Well, no.
My mind assembles a collage of images: as village housing smoulders around them, women gather children and salvage pots and implements from the ruin, stirring the meagre remnants of their pantries into soups and dahls, preparing the glue that will reassemble shattered lives until the next time. And then I see these women leaving their pots and kitchens to the family to sort out, 85 of them, rolling up their sleeves, hiking up their kurta, elbows out, taking all manner of transport from Nagaland and Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura, to Guwahati in Assam, to get themselves trained, equipped to step out of their place, to take their place; to rise up.
Go here to read more. Go here to donate.


Partera Bits and Pieces

Postcard from Kenya #3:  Nevertheless:  Communities Build Peace

Over the last two weeks here in Kenya, we have been meeting with people who have been at the receiving end of both the violence of poverty and systemic oppression, from hunger to assassination.  The work of Turning the Tide, our partner here, is to train them in the skills of non-violence - that is, how to keep everyday issues of conflict igniting into overt violence.  It is also about civic engagement, training them in the skills of organising their communities in order to call their politicians to account - to fulfill their mandate as government to provide clean water, housing, health care and education.  And beyond that, to care for them as their people rather than robbing them of their public goods.  My head and heart of filled to overflowing with horror stories of suffering and violence.  And my heart is filled with the joy of watching and being a part of trainings where people in counties across the Western and Northern Rift Valley are experiencing the empowering sense of success!  Go here to read more!

Postcard from Kenya #2:  Tribal Divides and Post-election Violence

On our way through a town whose name I forget, a line of fancy cars approaches us on the right (British roadway-style here) with lights flashing and horns honking.  The lead car was military or security of some sort and all of the male occupants were uniformed.  The man sitting in the passenger seat had the window rolled down, shouting loudly and flailing at anyone who dared to come near with a kind of truncheon-whip combination, at times flagellating the vehicle as if it were an intransigent elephant in need of encouragement.  Pedestrians and animals scattered accordingly.  Sporting Ugandan licence plates, the occupants of the fourth car of five was likely President Museveni, one of our Kenyan colleagues opined, returning from the inauguration ceremonies the day before in Nairobi.  Click here to read more...

Postcard from Kenya #1:  Travelling the Rift Valley

Besides the relatively innocuous inconvenience of no internet, it’s been a week of pretty gruelling travel – changing lodging every day for several days, each one of them a rich cross-cultural experience – and punch-in-the-gut stories in urban slum and rural communities within a container of heightened tension and low intensity violen

Lancelot Muteyo has been a spirited companion and colleague along the way – received here as almost a kind of conquering hero as if he alone had brought down the 37-year reign of Robert Mugabe!  He is an exquisitely interesting travelling and training companion; I get to see Africa through his eyes.  Equally a foreigner here as I but an African ‘brother’, I find him a sharp-edged commentator on the state of things here in Kenya.  He paints a picture of Zimbabwe that is so at odds with the one in my own brain. I have learned a great deal from him through hours and hours of conversation.  Click here to read more...

June Newsletter:  Women Rising OR The Butterfly Project!

A recent Op-Ed in the Toronto Star posed this question: ‘Why are women not included in Peacebuilding efforts?’  Exactly our question.  The headline is followed by a sub that says ‘Including women in peace agreements is not only the right thing, it’s the smart thing as it leads to longer-lasting peace’.  In those places in the world where women have been involved, studies show that processes involving women are more equitable, inclusive and sustainable.  So how do we muliply that effect? 

We have at least one answer to that question. it’s called ‘Women Rising !’ In March, one hundred and four women are gathering in North East India to learn about human rights and conflict transformation (CT) – and to go from there to demand their place at tables of all sorts:  from the kitchen table to tables of negotiation and decision-making.  

Click here to read more.

September Newsletter:  Love & Fear, Grace & Grief

Of all the coverage post Charlottesville, one CBC radio interview stays with me in particular.  Megan Williams of The Current interviewed a former member of the Canadian White Nationalist group known as Aryan Nation, Tony McAleer.  The host mentioned a photo, now seen around the world, of a young, white man who was part of the white nationalists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend, and played an audio clip of an interview with Peter Cvjetanovic.  She asked:  ‘What do you hear in his words? Tony McAleer replied:  ‘Fear. As human beings, we operate from one of two places. We operate from love or we operate from fear.  Click here to read more... 

Colour-coded:  Decolonising Hearts, Minds and Spirits

It was another one of those silly games, those apparently pointless games that lie at the heart of conflict transformation and experiential learning.  ‘Lifeboats’ is primarily designed to harvest information from the participants in ways that are fun, kinaesthetic and, often, sneaky.  In this case, why don’t we set up an exercise that is deliberately provocative, deliberately oriented towards a dominant white culture narrative and experience?  Click here to find out more about what happened at the Colour-coded workshop... 


North East India:  Women Rising!

Go here to donate to this exciting three-year project that is preparing women to take their place as agents of peace in communities torn by inter-communal violence. Give them a boost.  Go here to read more about 104 women on the road to Guwahati!

The Torturer and the Tortured

Frank Chikane was a member of the South African Council of Churches when the system known as apartheid separated out the races as white, privileged, worthy of ruling, and black, less than, caged into volatile townships, their very volatility demonstrating the wisdom of the arrangement.  An articulate and witty activist devoted to bringing down the racist régime of P.E. Botha, Rev’d Frank Chikane found himself one day imprisoned, beaten and tortured, the torturer a white member of Frank’s own church denomination. 
Following his release, Frank reflected on this horrifying juxtaposition of torturer and tortured, both finding their mandate to torture and to resist to the point of imprisonment and torture within the pages of the same sacred text. Click here to read more...

International Women's Day:  Born an Un-Person

My mother was born a non-person.  It was two years before little Barbara Alice Starr, unbeknownst to her, was allowed into that category of human person.  Although the majority of Canadian women had the federal vote by 1919 and a female MP (Agnes Macphail) had been elected to the House of Commons in 1922, the British North America Act (BNA) – our constitution – refused women’s entry into the Senate because they were not considered ‘qualified persons’ – specifically, over the age of 30, holding land valued at least $4,000 and resident in the province of their appointment.  The BNA did not contemplate that that description would ever include anything other than men and therefore felt no need to specify.  (I note that I turned to the Canadian Encyclopaedia for this information, one of the contributors of which is named Barbara Alice Starr McKenna, PhD(c).  Cool.  A Canadian history scholar, granddaughter of an illiterate Irish peasant-woman, she taught for many years at the University of Western Ontario.)  Read on...





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Flipping the Calendar: Anger, Fear Resistance

I wrote a paper once on anger.  I had already been working in zones of conflict for a number of years and I was well acquainted with the warrior within and her capacity to interrupt the work of the peacemaker. Actually, that's not quite accurate.  She would unfurl like a cobra, reminding me of my humanity, ready to rage, blessing one, cursing another. Rather like Psalm 137 - 'what a great day that will be when I get to bash your babies’ heads against the stones as you did ours!' rephrased by Bruce Cockburn as - 'If I had a rocket launcher...’ And not so much interrupting the peacemaker as animating the peacemaker.  Click here to read more...

Peacebuilding Women: A Festival of Women

Extraordinary, stunning, sobering, hopeful, disheartening, disturbing, encouraging, heart-rending - and set on the edge of the magnificent Lodhi Gardens, in Delhi: The Peace Builders International Film Festival, celebrating women's critical role in transforming situations of conflict, from the kitchen to the commons, the killing fields to the oil fields. Here are the ones I would put top of my list:
  • Sri Lankan women's formation of a Jamaat (council) sympathetic to women's issues (Invoking Justice);
  • nine ordinary women trying to make ends meet and lie with dignity in the oil- and violence-soaked Niger Delta (Daughters of the Niger Delta); 
  • a small group of girls living in one of the most remote forests left on earth who are transformed by the experience of attending a radical high school where they learn to protect the threatened rain forest and build a new life for themselves (Daughters of the Forest); Read on...

Peacebuilding Women: The Permission of our Hunger

Now a twelve-hour train ride north of Jalgaon, the internationals are divided into small groups going to different places, and my group is now in Madya Pradesh. We arrive mid-morning in Chilghat and are met by a boy and perhaps his grandfather.  They are just dismounting from their bicycles with their tabla and sticks in hand. In two vehicles, we slow down as the procession, led by the two percussionists, makes its way down a dirt road through, for me, unnameable tall grasses and grains, towards a colourful clutch of women and children.  We are greeted with the beautiful palm-to-palm gestures of Namaste. Some of the women carry plates heaped with small hillocks of cooked rice and turmeric which is pinched between fingers and applied to the centres of our foreheads. Read on... 

Peacebuilding Women:  Satyagraha Show & Tell

I am one of forty-seven women from 24 countries who are meeting with more than 100 Indian women activists here at the Gandhi Research Foundation. The facility, made of Jodhpur stone to last for centuries, houses a unique, interactive museum and an unmatched library of Gandhian writings and photography.  It can accommodate hundreds of students and visitors. The skills of homespun are taught and in-house shops sell the resulting khaddy garments.   Read on...

Women swimming, marching, playing for peace

I was also on a beach that day.  But it was not Nice, that beach of stones on the French Mediterranean.  I was on Wasaga, in the province of Ontario, Canada, a seemingly endless beach of white sand that arches like a crescent moon on the southern edge of Georgian Bay.  The water slopes gently and warmly, a boon to parents with little ones.  Some of those parents holding their babies’ toes into the placid surf wore black leggings and long skirts; some wore caps that blended into their swimwear at their shoulders.  Some played with their teenage children, throwing balls and Frisbees and tossing hula hoops. Some prepared fragrant picnics in the doorway of little cabanas perfect for changing out of wet clothing. Seamlessly making their way.  No police pointing guns down at them demanding that they disrobe in the name of ‘morals’ and ‘secularity’.  Click here to read more...

Three Muslim Women Heroes

Welcome to our first Newsletter!  By way of this regular post, we’d like to keep you up to date on what we at Partera are doing, upcoming events and opportunities, stories of our work in places like South Sudan and Uganda, Colombia, India and the Philippines, ways in which you can participate or lend your support...

It’s hard to decide what to share with you in this first newsletter...

But what we have decided to do is to introduce you to three women; we’ll call them Asma, Yamina and Fatima. 

Asma participated in a training in Sudan and became committed to becoming a peacemaker in her country, saying, “I want to be a peacemaker.  It is difficult.  We need to accept others and not care about skin colour and tribe. To be human, our humanity, that is the dream of everybody whobelieves in the human.”

In 2011, she played lead role in organising and training vast numbers of young people in a student movement called Girifna (Arabic for  “We’re fed up?”) The producers of Al-Jazeera’s English Activate heard about her and created a half-hour documentary called How to Mobilise a Million.  Go here to read more about these awesome women.

P a r t e r a   B l o g   A r c h i v e s

Power and the Feminine! 

Click here to

Postcard from Uganda #1: Proud to be a Girl!

Click here to read the whole story!  

Postcard from Uganda #2: Playing for our Lives

Click here to read more about 'Playing for our Lives'.

Postcard from Uganda #3: Silly Games?

Click here to read more about child soldiers...

North East India:  Saying YES to Peace

When I returned from North East India in December, I wrote a blog that I entitled ‘Extreme Everything’... This time as I return, I realise how close we travel to the edge of despair.  Click here to read more...

Turning Enemies into Neighbours and Friends - including:  Bikers for Peace  As part of its year-end reporting, the Washington Post listed seven conflict zones in the world that had gone, in its view, under-reported.  We had heard lots about Syria, Gaza, Ukraine and ISIS - and rightly so!  Click on the title above to read more.  

The Sudans, North and South 
Having spent a month a year for 8 years in Sudan and then South Sudan, the world's newest country, we have witnessed the transformation of a small group of 200 trained trainers into tens of thousands of activists working for non-violent change. Still, Darfur remains wracked with violence and South Sudan has made its own descent in to civil war, 10,000 people killed and more than 1.5 million displaced amidst battles between government and rebel forces. 


Refugees and Reluctant Hosts: Turning Enemies into Neighbours on the South Sudan-Uganda border. 
With the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan... CEPAD Uganda has been engaging host communities and the newly-arrived refugees in dialogue and mediation designed to reduce violence and de-escalate the tensions. Click here to learn more...

Keeping Girls in School Every week empty chairs in classrooms bear witness to the fact that girls do not want to have to deal with the embarrassment of stigmatised bloody clothing and stained wooden benches. Click here to read more!

India's Restive Northeast: Touring and Teaching for Peace  This year we will return to NE INdia to do two things: work with and train 50 Bikers for Peace in non-violence (a story in itself:  read about it here!) and to teach two courses (Human Rights and Conflict Transformation) in a new M.A. Programme in Peace Studies with young men and women from across the Northeast.   Click here to read more...


What You Honour Tonight

In November of 2010, Lee McKenna was awarded the YMCA Peace Medallion in recognition of her peacemaking work in war zones.  Her acceptance speech provides a snapshot of her work.  The script can be read here.

Lee McKenna YMCA Peace Medallion

Confronting Global Crises:  A Non-violent Perspective:  'Taking our fear for a walk'

In November, 2011, Toronto was the site of a conference entitled 'Confronting Global Crises'.  Lee McKenna presented the closing keynote address on the topic of the importance of critical consciousness - for both accurate analysis and fear-dismantling - in the confronting of multiple and overlapping global crises.  The script can be read here