The kick-start to the IHL Action Campaign has just begun, and it is guaranteed that this year will the best thus far. Two new topics, gender and refugees, were introduced, which have brought up many interesting discussions.
This year’s IHL Action Campaign started with the introduction of old team members and leaders to the new ones. Even though part of the training was the same as last year’s training, the process was still surprising, intriguing, and fun, especially when we were taken on a journey through disasters and other conflicts to get a feel for what these situations are like for refugees. The training activity that brought up the most discussions and reactions was when each member and leader had to disagree or agree with different statements about gender.
Once the training was done, the Southeastern Region team was split into smaller teams of five. Then, once these teams were formed, we got together and started working. Just making choices as a team has been hard; for example, deciding that we wanted to choose refugees over gender as our subtopic was difficult. But, once we decided on the subtopic and the format of our IHL Action Campaign, ideas started flowing and we decided to design a board game. Brainstorming ideas about the board game wasn’t the hard part, but rather coming up with all of the details to make the game work. We have decided to make the game as interactive and fun as possible while including an understanding of who refugees are and what they go through in times of war. We have also discussed the roles that each member will be assigned, as well as our goals for the campaign. Our goal is to spread awareness to as many students in the Philadelphia community as we can about IHL because, just as we did not know that war has limits before becoming involved in the IHL Action Campaign, there are many other individuals who are not aware that even war has limits.
The IHL Action Campaign relies on peer education to shed light on various topics that we don’t always think about. This is the first year for some of the team leaders participating in the program, and it has opened their eyes to topics that they never heard mentioned before becoming involved. The IHL Action Campaign reminds us that those who are not participating or can no longer participate in armed conflict are protected by IHL. We wanted to focus on refugees as a particular group of people protected by IHL in war and conflict. A lot of times we fail to distinguish between refugee, immigrant and asylum-seeker, but it’s important to inform people of the difference, especially since immigrants have been a big topic in society recently. No matter if a person is an immigrant, asylum-seeker or refugee, though, IHL protects human dignity in times of armed conflict and aims to prevent some of the suffering that wars create. It is important that we create a society that is knowledgeable about IHL rules and values in order to limit the impact that war has on the world.
*The purpose of the IHL Action Campaign is for young people to teach their peers about the importance of IHL, as well as issues related to gender, refugees, and humanitarianism.