On 10th November, 2022 on the occasion of World Science Day for Peace and Development, peer mediation camapign was launched at Peace Centre (North East Institute of Social Sciences & Research) Chümoukedima, Nagaland.
Addressing the students and faculty, Dr. Fr. C.P. Anto Paul, Principal, NEISSR emphasized on the need of peer mediation among the youths especially college students as it will help to address individual, classroom, as well as institutional issues. In Peer Mediation, the volunteers are trained to become peer mediators who resolve these issues/ conflict at individual, group, institution or community level especially issues related to mental health and substance abuse. He also stated that as Peer Mediation Forum is formed for the youths in schools, colleges, universities and localities, the trained peer mediators can play a crucial role in curbing the inflow and abuse of substance.
As the concept of peer mediation was quite unfamiliar for the students, he further elucidated that the members of the forum are known as Peer Mediators, who as a trained volunteers to help others with problems through structured communication process in which the individuals or group with a problem, work together assisted by a neutral third party (peer mediator), to solve the problem, while being capacitated on various Peace Building and Conflict transformation skills such as compassionate communication, empathy, mediation, problem solving skills, etc. Peer Mediation Forum shall also help the members to improve their self-esteem, listening and critical thinking skills, and reasonably good emotional intelligence. He also put forward the steps of peer mediation, which can be broadly put as discussion, clarification, rectification, resolution, transformation and evaluation. Elaborating on the process, he put light on the steps of peer mediation.
Step 1 - Discussion: The mediator gathers information from both end by asking each disputant to explain what happen, listen to each party as they describe the problem, summarize both parties and write down, rephrase it and ask them if they want to add anything or if they agree-upon “agenda” that includes all the elements of a dispute. Here, SWOT analysis tool is used to further understand the nature & dynamism of conflict. The mediator ensures that both parties get an equal opportunity to share their stories and talk about their concerns and ensure that both express their experiences without any distractions and interruptions.
Step 2 - Clarification: After the disputants share their sides of the story to each other. The mediator brings out the facts and feelings of what both the party share. The main goal of the mediation is to focus on the “surface” all of the underlying facts and feelings pertaining to the problem and find the common interests of the disputants by clarifying doubts or asking many questions with the goal of helping to refocus the problem by viewing it differently. While mediating, the mediator is expected to involve clarification by offering back to the speaker the essential meaning, as understood by the listener, of what they have just said. Thereby checking that the listener's understanding and clarifying it, ensuring it is correct and resolving any areas of confusion or misunderstanding.
Step 3 - Rectification: Here, the mediator opens space for both the conflicting parties to genuinely rectify their actions, thoughts and words that might have directly and indirectly fueled the conflicting situation.
Step 4 - Resolution: Here the SMART principle is used and the mediator asks the disputants to brainstorm on how they might solve the problem. The mediator writes down all the solutions, check off only those options that both the parties can agree to and mark the ones that are mutually agreed upon. The mediator should rectify if any issues or any disagreement takes place and opt for the best solution which is being placed forward by the disputants which is acceptable for both the conflicting parties. Sometimes, individual sessions with each disputant and the mediator are necessary. The mediator cautiously evaluates the options that are being placed by the disputants and ask each disputant to share on what can be done to resolve the problem. After the settlement of the issue, the mediator writes an agreement using the solutions to which both parties agree, and everyone signs it to resolve the issue through peaceful settlement and shakes hands.
Step 5 - Transformation: After the issues are being settled through conflict resolution and signing of an agreement which is being duly signed by the both the conflicting parties, transformation of the relationship of both the conflicting parties is being expected. Here, transformation takes place within and between the conflicting parties, from negative feelings, actions, thoughts to positive feelings, actions, thoughts and positive change in their relationship is also witnessed.
Step 6 - Evaluation: After a period of time the former disputants will report back to the mediator on whether the contract is being upheld by both parties and also to evaluate the overall process of Peer Mediation. The Peer Mediator along with the former disputants evaluate the process of peer mediation from the start, from the point of view of the mediator as well as the conflicting parties, what could have been done better, etc.
He also briefly highlighted the importance of introducing peer mediation in schools, colleges and universities among the youths as it helps to builds self-respect and encourages students to understand that their peers may have a perspective that is different from their own; with peer mediation program, conflict resolution skills are taught to the students, and selected students are provided additional training to become peer mediators; students will develop mediation skills and are expected to solve problems or disputes on their own using these strategies; each participant has the choice to control the situation and resolve it in a productive way, helping students to come to a win-win situation. Peer mediation with the help of mediators will also help youths within the same age group to overcome struggles related to addiction and complexity of some mental health issues which is rampant in Nagaland. He further added that in view of making Nagaland a drug-free state by the year of 2030, introduction of peer mediation in schools, colleges and universities is need of the hour.
Dr. Toli H. Kiba, Asst. Professor, NEISSR also highlighted the significant role science plays in our society and how we as citizens should broaden our perspective on making our society more sustainable. She further urged the students to take pledge to reaffirm our commitment towards striving for a sustainable just society.