Photo-voice exhibition in Batken

On May 28-29, 2011, mobile exhibitions of photographs of the participants of the project "Voices of Women and Youth in Strengthening Peace and Good Neighborhood" were held in Orto-Boz village of Ak-Tatyr aiyl district, Ak-Sai village of Ak-Sai aiyl district of Batken district of Batken oblast and Khoja-Aylo village of Chorkuh jaomat of Isfara district of Sughd oblast of Tajikistan. The project is funded by the Local Government Initiative (Soros Foundation) through the Center for Social Inclusion. During the exhibitions, participants of the photo research presented photos and stories they had taken and prepared, and joint discussions were held between representatives of Kyrgyz and Tajik border communities.

More than a hundred photographs were presented at the exhibitions, selected from about 2,000 images taken by the photo-researchers participating in the project. The photographs depict the everyday life that surrounds the communities: the border, broken water pipes and water troughs with patched holes, dried up pastures and lifeless fields, young people loitering idly, off-road streets - everything that in one way or another is related to conflict. Looking at the pictures, one comes to realize that the cause of conflict is not people, but insufficient water, land and other resources, unemployment and uncoordinated infrastructure and uncertain boundaries.

Once understood, accepted and conceptualized, people become more tolerant of each other. "Our enemies are not our neighbors, but garbage dumps, lack of water and land, drought and mudslides. Let's not see each other as enemies, but fight common problems together," - words of Kuluipa Akmatova, project coordinator during the welcoming speech at the exhibitions and handing over gift cameras to each of the participating communities.

The exhibitions were visited by representatives of the local formal authorities, village leaders and activists, participants of the photo study, members of the Neighborhood Strengthening Group, as well as everyone who wanted to "see their communities through the eyes of youth and women". It should be noted that the choice of women and youth to participate in the project is not accidental, because they - women and youth - are the most socially vulnerable, their voice is not heard in the community. By demonstrating their voice and thus expressing their opinion, they are able to make a personal contribution to the establishment of peace and harmony in their communities.

In these border communities, inter-ethnic conflicts are becoming more difficult to resolve and manage every day. But, as the residents of these communities themselves note, such good initiatives to preserve peace and inter-ethnic harmony create new foundations for the development of good neighborly relations, which certainly inspires hope for a peaceful future.