Peace clubs in Zambia and beyond


Individual articles from the Summer 2020 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog twice per week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.

Zambia has always taken great pride in being a peaceful country, not having faced either external or civil war. In recent decades, the relative peace of Zambia has drawn thousands of refugees from many African countries. Given this relative peace, I have often been asked: “Why is there a need for peace clubs in a country like Zambia?”

While to some the need for peacebuilding in a context like Zambia has not always been evident, others have recognized that the absence of war does not mean that there is no violence in the country. For example, gender-based violence in Zambia is widespread and pervasive. According to a study done by USAID in 2010, almost half (47%) of Zambian women over the age of 15 have experienced physical violence. One in five women has experienced sexual violence in her lifetime (Wyble, 2004). Gender-based violence in Zambia includes everything from spousal abuse to sexual violence to psychological abuse to child neglect and more. Recognizing that violence can take many forms, MCC chose to support the pioneering of the peace club model in three schools in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, in 2006.

Through participation in peace clubs, many young people have become peacebuilders in their schools and communities. They have learned how to be critical and creative thinkers.

Peace clubs operate as an extracurricular activity. Like any other school club, students are free to join the after-school peace club, with the support of a teacher, to learn about how the principles of peace can help to address the problems they see in their lives and in societies. Since the first pilot project in 2006, MCC has supported the development of the peace clubs model in a variety of ways. MCC staff assisted in drafting a peace clubs curriculum that introduces participants to different aspects of conflict analysis and resolution, examining understandings of conflict and violence, exploring gender-based violence, trauma, and the rights of persons with disabilities and charting the journey to reconciliation. The goal of peace clubs is not to teach young people the exact names of the different problem-solving techniques, or to have them able to recite the curriculum word-for-word. Instead, peace clubs are about helping a young generation develop new ways of thinking about peace, conflict and violence and equipping them with skills to peacefully address and prevent conflict in their schools, homes and communities.

Through participation in peace clubs, many young people have become peacebuilders in their schools and communities. They have learned how to be critical and creative thinkers. Peace clubs have equipped them to face unexpected situations. Furthermore, peace clubs have contributed to a change in attitude and behavior on the part of parents, teachers and students, allowing them to use peaceful means to resolve conflicts. Young members of peace clubs have influenced adult community members to change their culture of violence into one of peace. Peace clubs have contributed to a reduction in corporal punishment and increased the use of non-violent disciplinary methods in schools, homes and communities.

The introduction of peace clubs into Zambian prisons has proved successful, leading the Zambia Correctional Service to seek to establish a Restorative Justice and Peace Building Unit and to expand peace clubs to all 65 prisons in the country.

From its humble start in three schools in Lusaka, peace clubs in Zambia have expanded to 32 Lusaka schools as well as to 12 Brethren in Christ schools in Zambia’s southern province. The idea of what a peace club can be has even expanded beyond school settings, with peace clubs established in churches, prisons and refugee camps. The introduction of peace clubs into Zambian prisons has proved successful, leading the Zambia Correctional Service to seek to establish a Restorative Justice and Peace Building Unit and expand peace clubs to all 65 prisons in the country. Meanwhile, the peace clubs model has expanded beyond Zambia. Mennonite Brethren and Brethren in Christ churches in Malawi look to introduce peace clubs in their contexts to address and prevent gender-based violence. Churches, schools and prisons in fourteen African countries have adapted the peace clubs model, while groups in Latin America and Canada also look to introduce the peace clubs model in contextually appropriate ways.

Over the course of only 13 years, the peace clubs model has grown from three after-school activities to a fully developed curriculum implemented in churches, schools, prisons and refugee camps on three continents. Looking ahead, peace clubs certainly face challenges, including how to diversify funding support for long-term sustainability and how to better measure the impact of peace clubs. One can envision this model being expanded all over the world and adapted to many other contexts and refined to successfully introduce alternatives to violence for a more just and peaceful tomorrow.

Issa Ebombolo is MCC Zambia peace coordinator.

Wyble, Brent. “Making Schools Safe for Girls: Combating Gender-Based Violence in Benin.” Academy for Education Development, 2004. Available at

Peace Clubs Curriculum material can be found here:

Empowering children in their own protection

[Individual articles from the Summer 2016 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

While adults are ultimately responsible to keep children safe, young people can also play an active role in contributing to their own protection. As part of its commitment to ensure safe and healthy childhoods and transitions to adulthood, Justice Development and Peace/Caritas (JDPC) is in the forefront of the campaign against all forms of child abuse in Nigeria. In 2014 JDPC, an MCC partner organization, developed a five-year child protection policy to guide its personnel and volunteers in the conduct of their activities and has established a network for child protection in Plateau State in partnership with other civil society organizations.

The Emergency Preparedness and Response Team (EPRT), a program of JDPC, focuses on establishing peace clubs in schools across Plateau State, along with other peacebuilding initiatives focused on dialogue, civic and political education, conflict mediation and conflict prevention through early warning and early response systems. EPRT has observed that the skills students learn in peace clubs are empowering students in ways that are reducing their vulnerability to abuse, even though peace clubs did not start with child protection as their primary purpose.

The primary vision for peace clubs was building a peaceful society through youth leadership training, with school-based peace clubs teaching young people strategies to face a wide array of difficulties or challenges. These strategies include: asking for help when encountering seemingly unsolvable problems; asserting one’s agency; determination and continuing to work for resolutions when conflicts get difficult; listening effectively; being creative; taking care of oneself; standing for justice; and being effective and efficient peacebuilders. Secondary school students are also taught how to
creatively resist teachers and other adults who may want to cause harm or abuse them sexually or physically.

EPRT has adapted peace club manuals developed by the Peace Clubs organization, led by Issa Sadie Ebombolo, and MCC Zambia for use in Nigeria, including a module that educates children on gender-based violence and introduces them to practical strategies for addressing it. Strategies of resistance promoted in the peace club curriculum include
using persuasive words, body language or behaviors that will disarm the aggressor and create the opportunity to draw the attention of parents, guardians and school or other authorities.

While children should be empowered to protect themselves, adults also have a responsibility to provide safe spaces for children, especially those who have been abused or traumatized. Through its high-profile presence across Plateau State, EPRT provides a system through which children and others can report incidences of sexual abuse, rape or other forms of abuse for onward submission to relevant authorities, thus supporting children in their efforts to protect themselves.

A major achievement of the peace clubs is that members are able to spread their skills by educating their peers in school and others in their homes and communities. Their activities are helping reduce incidences of child abuse which was rampant and growing at an alarming rate in Plateau State. EPRT hopes that the peace club model in Plateau State will help the child protection movement spread to other parts of Nigeria and beyond.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that “If we are to have real peace, we must begin with the children.” The children of the world must be empowered in their own protection, so that society may be free of traumatized children who carry unaddressed burdens from abuse by parents, relations and others. Working diligently at child protection is an essential component in creating a future in which war songs and drums of war are silenced and
energies are re-directed from the wasting of selves through killings and destruction to growth and development.

Boniface Kazah Anthony is program manager for the Emergency Preparedness and Response Team (EPRT) department in the Social Justice and Human Development for Peace Initiative (JDPC Jos) in Jos, Nigeria.

Learn more:

Peace club manuals and curricula from Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique and Burundi available at: