Two of Olivia Dreier and Paula Green's former peacebuilding students have made it to the top of Mt. Everest! Along the way, they bridged international divides and set a world record as the first twins to make the climb. We asked them to tell us more about their adventurous efforts for peace.
Growing up in some of the most remote, marginalized, and troubled regions of India made us aware of the immense human suffering caused by armed conflicts. Our parents both came from middle and lower middle-income groups, so we witnessed the hardships that many people face back in our home villages firsthand. When our father, a military man, was deployed on dangerous assignments, he would witness innocent people and societies caught up in the "cross-fire’ of conflict. Through his stories and insights, we came to view poor governance as one of the root causes of human suffering. He also taught us that we share a “collective destiny” with others, and raised us to empathize with those who are struggling to attain their basic human rights.
Inspired by our father's efforts to build peace, we decided to enroll in the Conflict Transformation Across Cultures (CONTACT) program at the School for International Training In Brattleboro, VT. Our father had attended a few years earlier, and he greatly enjoyed his experience. We earned our peacebuilding certificates in 2012 at the young age of twenty!
As passionate mountaineers, we have channeled our love of adventure into our peace advocacy work. We took our first humble steps towards regional peace together with Samina Baig — the first female Pakistani to scale Mt. Everest. With “First Indo-Pak Gender Equality Mt Everest Expedition 2013” as our motto, we hoisted our national flags on Everest to mark our unflinching resolve to work for peace between our two nations and the broader region, and earned a great distinction as the first set of female twins to climb Mt. Everest.
In talking with Samina, we all agreed that gender inequality was a common enemy shared by both Indian and Pakistani women. We said to one another, "Our women face similar gender challenges; let’s fight them together. If our women progress, our societies will, and peace is more possible!” We have used our successes on the mountain as a plaform to campaign against female feticide, and to inspire young women to venture outside of traditional female roles into areas hitherto dominated by men.
Since ascending Mt. Everest, we have given motivational talks to various schools on issues of gender, women empowerment, peace, and the “power of belief,” and supported youth musical talent through the Peace Music Club in northeastern India. The outpouring of support and applause we've received from students – especially girls and young women – energizes us to carry our peacebuilding work forward.
We are planning a blogging site, "Adventure for Peace," which we will use to generate discussions, forums, and views on adventure that can be used for strengthening universal brotherhood, compassion and peace in our societies and nations. In a year’s time, we intend to start an offline project: an adventure training/camps where outdoor adventure will be integrated into interactive workshops on peace & conflict resolution, communication, leadership, non-violence, and whatever else may contribute to sustainable peace and progress. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook at Mountaineers for Peace.