Aλana zine: Young people working together to support peacebuilding in Cyprus
Aλana zine was created by four young Cypriots who are taking part in the Young Leaders in Action initiative and were looking for new ways for dialogue and inclusion on the island. After participating in the initial series of workshops offered by the programme, the group came up with the idea of a “zine”, social media/scrapbook project targeting young people across the island and abroad which they hope will “offer a fresh and informal space for young people to express their ideas and suggestions on bringing diverse communities closer together”.
The objective of the Young Leaders in Action initiative is to provide young Cypriots with the necessary instruments to support these young men and women to develop their own intercommunal projects and offer small grants to begin the implementation of their ideas.
Elena Heraclidou, one of the group members who just recently completed her master’s degree in Law, recalls the beginning of the sessions: “coming together with people from different backgrounds is always very insightful and fun. Through the programme I understood that even though each participant has their own distinctive personality, we all share many similarities that connect us.”
Through several workshops since early January, young Cypriots had the opportunity to understand issues related to the inclusion of women and youth on the island and develop their own suggestions to act upon what they consider to be relevant topics to increase their participation.
The group came up with Aλana (pronounced alana), which is a word which was used to talk about an area, a street or field in the neighbourhood where children would play. On their page they describe it as “a place where everyone can express themselves freely, create their own games and rules, without the limits and restrictions that we often set as adults, with more imagination and openness. Playing in the ‘alana’ can also refer to a peaceful act that happens regardless of what takes place beyond its boundaries.”
Christina Skarpari, who works in the NGO Xarkis and is an associate lecturer in design for social innovation and sustainable futures says: “I learned that there are a lot of young people who face similar struggles and needs when it comes to the Cyprus conflict and I also understood that it takes time to bring people together to develop trust, become comfortable with each other and collaborate for the purposes of reconciliation and peace.”
The Young Leaders in Action is being organized by UNFICYP, in partnership with the British Council and the British High Commissioner in Cyprus and will run until next month. The programme seeks to strengthen women and young people’s contribution to discussions on peace and security, with a focus on peacebuilding, social action, leadership, negotiation, and mediation processes.