Nova Scotia

Coady Institute offers new course in conflict, peace and development

The Coady International Institute at Saint Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., is offering a new online course to teach women leaders about dealing with conflict, peace building and community development. Seventeen women, mostly from Africa, took a pilot of the course last year.

Professor says students 'see the importance of learning about conflict, conflict transformation'

Saint Francis Xavier University professor Robin Neustaeter, second from left, with a few participants from the Women’s Leadership in Community Development course. (Saint Francis Xavier University)

The Coady International Institute at Saint Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., is offering a new online course to teach women leaders about dealing with conflict, peace building and community development.

The institute piloted the course last year with 17 participants, most of whom were from countries in Africa. But the seven-week course, which begins in January, is open to all women and builds on the pilot program.

Most of the women who took the course last year work in community development.

"All of the participants are in contexts that are different than Canada and some other contexts in which the participants were in while participating in the course were zones of violent conflict," said Robin Neustaeter, the professor who established and teaches the course.

"So, most people were talking about conflict within their community itself, and so looking at conflict… in regards to gender, conflict in regards to poverty, conflict in regards to communication."

Neustaeter says the pilot program exceeded her expectations. (Saint Francis Xavier University)

She said the participants were fully engaged and thought about conflict by integrating the personal experiences of their families, workplaces and communities.

Because every context is different and every situation is unique, the course is not about giving solutions.

Instead, Neustaeter said, she's trying to encourage people to think about and use tools, analysis and reflection to think about what they can take from this course and adapt it.

"Something that stood out for me is a lot of the women at the beginning of the course didn't necessarily even see themselves as peace builders," she said.

"They're interested in peace building. They wanted to know more… they see the importance of learning about conflict, conflict transformation. And by the end of the course, all the women identified themselves as peace builders. And I think ... that was the most rewarding thing."

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About the Author

Sherri Borden Colley has been a reporter for more than 20 years. Many of the stories she writes are about social justice, race and culture, human rights and the courts. To get in touch with Sherri email sherri.borden.colley@cbc.ca