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"How my life changed in five days"

"How my life changed in five days"

Published: May 14, 2013

Joseph Ndava, community leader in Hopley Farm, Zimbabwe

Photo: AFSC

At 54, Joseph Ndava didn't think he had much more to learn. A five-day workshop changed his mind.

Joseph currently lives in Hopley Farm, a settlement in Zimbabwe home to displaced people of many different political and social backgrounds, including survivors and perpetrators of violent conflict and people living with AIDS.

AFSC recently introduced its livelihoods program here, beginning to work with residents to build a peaceful, sustainable community. Joseph, a community leader, was initially opposed to AFSC’s presence in Hopley, but after understanding that the objective of the project is to build healthy and productive relationships in the Hopley community, he is now leading community conversations about managing conflicts.

Joseph recently took part in a conflict transformation training that deeply changed both his views about the women in his community and his understanding of the roots of conflict.

Meet Joseph

My name is Joseph Ndava. I am a 54-year-old man. I am married and have three children and one grandchild. I live at No. 628 Zone 1 in Hopley Farm. I am a community leader for the area.

Before I went for conflict transformation training at Zimbabwe Women’s Bureau (ZWB), funded by AFSC, things were not well in my community with people being disorganized, not cooperating, and the community generally politicizing every development initiative in the area.

I remember that during the first orientation meeting for this program, there were a lot of misunderstandings among the participants on the use of terms such as “leader” and “conflict transformation.” Some participants were up in arms with ZWB and Silveira House, accusing them of being agencies of politics and it was generally very difficult to talk about conflict without making political references. The community was so polarized that some people were not willing to attend to calls by the community leader.

Personally I was also a very difficult person, and I never thought that I could be challenged by women.

I voluntarily went for the training with the first group to see if the ZWB staff who called us had anything significant to offer, because privately I doubted the women’s capacity to transform my mindset as well as that of the community.

With this attitude of doubt I attended the five-day training, on this subject of conflict transformation skeptical that I was ever going to learn anything new.

“Change begins with me”

The trainers clarified that conflict is neutral and a part of everyday living and can bring either positive or negative results depending on how it is handled. They also clearly differentiated conflict from violence. 

On the first day, I got the shock of my life to hear the women teaching the word “conflict,” for all along I used to use the word “conflict” as meaning war or violent confrontation with an enemy.

This marked the beginning of my deliverance and the common adage that says “change begins with me” struck my mind and I began to develop a work plan for my community.

Though I was not expecting a woman to teach professionally and achieve a positive change in me, let me clearly confess that I received the help of my life through this conflict transformation training.

Bringing it back to the community

An anecdote called “Over my dead body” is used in the training to present the case of an extended family fighting to inherit the estate of their brother and sister-in-law despite them being survived by three daughters. (The Shona culture of Zimbabwe does not accept the inheritance of an estate by daughters.)

I got help on how to manage and handle all conflicts in my community, and knowledge which I am using in different platforms as a community leader.

I was taught how to facilitate group work, and the case study titled “Over my dead body” enabled me to grasp the concept of conflict mapping.

After the workshop, the Hopley community has greatly improved in terms of community cohesion. This has also been enhanced by group meetings which promote dialogue and communication and these are led by group facilitators.

Ready for skills training

We are expecting more training on conflict management in our community as well as more projects and practical skills for the people of Hopley.

We do hope that we are going on a long journey with these wonderful and great projects which touch every bit of human life.

On behalf of the Hopley community we want to thank American Friends Service Committee and its partners for the continued support that they are giving.