Students Reflect on ZCZP Trip to Nepal
In 2006, a peace agreement was signed to end a decade of conflict between the Communist Party of Nepal and the monarchy, paving the way for a new constitution and the establishment of a democratic republic. Through the Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace (ZCZP) for-credit course and learning trip in Spring 2023, 17 GU-Q students met with stakeholders from both sides for a first-hand look at the complexity of reconciliation and the path to a brighter future.
“I realized that pursuing research is… an opportunity to facilitate projects that empower those who are suffering and give them the resources to tell their stories”
Shifa Nouman (SFS’23), who is pursuing an International History major, Government minor, and Certificate in American Studies, reflects on the importance of empowering people impacted by conflict to tell their own stories.
ZCZP takes you places you never dreamed of going. In the media, these conflict zones are reduced to stories of instability, suffering, and war. By visiting these places, you realize that these places aren’t defined by conflict, and that the people living there are more than one-dimensional caricatures of victimhood.
Being interested in studying South Asia, I knew that I had to take advantage of the opportunity to join this year’s ZCZP trip. And the promise of a hands-on learning experience was another motivating factor. In the classroom, we learned about the issues involved. And in Nepal, we had the chance to meet people who had lived through the conflict. This experience made me realize that narratives that differ from each other exist simultaneously, and instead of shying away from listening to different perspectives, I needed to embrace the complexity of the situation.
One of the most inspiring moments of the trip was when we met a panel of women who not only produced research and evidence-based policy recommendations, but also used their position to rehabilitate and give voice to women who suffered during the war, without imposing their own feminist agendas.
As an aspiring academic, this was an eye-opening experience for me. I realized that pursuing research is more than just publishing papers, increasing your citations, and critiquing the system; it’s also an opportunity to facilitate projects that empower those who are suffering and give them the resources to tell their stories.
It was also the most rewarding experience I’ve had at GU-Q. It was a test of how well I could work and live with other people without compromising my values and beliefs. It provided me with the opportunity to see and meet the people involved in conflicts and other pressing issues that we often study through published works by academics. I also got to know members of GU-Q I had never talked to before, and reconnected with people I lost touch with during the pandemic. In the end, I gained a new perspective on the world.
“I was able to invite everyone on the trip to my home for dinner and to introduce them to my family.”
Pragyan Acharya (SFS’24), an International Politics major, shares his reflections on the unique experience of being on the other side of ZCZP’s cultural exchange.
The Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace program has been an incredibly valuable experience for me as a student and as a citizen of Nepal. It has allowed me to explore my cultural heritage and to connect with my peers and colleagues in meaningful ways. It has also highlighted the importance of education and community in achieving social justice and empowering young people.
During the trip, I was able to invite everyone on the trip to my home for dinner and to introduce them to my family. This was a particularly meaningful experience for me, as I have had to study far away from home. Seeing two sides of my life come together was a powerful reminder of the importance of community and of the ways in which education can bridge cultural and geographic divides.
The service trip also connected with my interest in the connections between youth politics and social justice. The country has experienced a relatively peaceful transition to a multi-party democracy after a Maoist insurgency, and I have been studying how urban youth interact with the existing political system and seek changes within it.
In my studies, I aim to trace continuity and change between political engagement prior to, during, and post-conflict in Nepal. The course fits neatly into my academic program, and I will leverage the insights gained on this trip for my Honors thesis in the 2023-2024 academic year.
“This trip has helped me contextualize our class discussions, and it was fascinating to hear how ordinary Nepalis perceive the conflict.”
John Carlos Burog (SFS’25), who is pursuing a major in Culture and Politics, reflects on how experiential learning changed his perspectives on war and peace.
Studying a conflict from afar is one thing, but talking to people who have experienced the conflict firsthand is another. I was motivated to take part in ZCZP because I wanted to learn about different cultures’ perspectives on conflict resolution. As someone who has only been immersed in the Filipino Christian and the Qatari Muslim context, I was excited to learn about Nepal’s predominantly Hindu and Buddhist culture and how it affects their way of life.
During the trip, I gained a new perspective on war and its impact on society. I learned that war not only brings death and destruction, but also has a revolutionary side that can upend an overly-hierarchical, caste-based society, providing opportunities for empowerment for women and ethnic groups. I also learned that in order to have an effective peace process, all sectors of society must be included.
Transitional justice was a prominent issue in Nepal.The peace process was dominated by men, which resulted in the loss of gains in gender equality achieved during the Maoist “People’s War.” This insight made me reflect on the similarities of the Maoist insurgency in my country, the Philippines, and how the insights gained from this trip could help end the insurgency and bring lasting peace.
This trip has helped me contextualize our class discussions, and it was fascinating to hear how ordinary Nepalis perceive the conflict. I gained knowledge that was not in our readings and classes, and it reinforced the idea that sometimes, stories and accounts are just better told than written.