Delia Mamon, our President, 'Advocate of sustainable development' in Le Temps — English

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Delia Mamon, our President, 'Advocate of sustainable development' in Le Temps

July 22 2019

This summer, the Swiss newspaper “Le Temps” portrayed the story of five people engaged in sustainable development. Among them is Delia Mamon, president and founder of the NGO Graines de Paix. Here is the account of an exceptional woman who advocates for peace and humanity to regain their place within education.

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July 22, 2019

The 2030 Development Agenda of the United Nations includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which “Le Temps” illustrates this week through five personalities:

Delia Mamon, 65, founded the NGO Graines de Paix in 2005 to rethink education systems because they do not sufficiently integrate the values ​​of humanity and peace. A mission all the more urgent as societal violence multiplies.

In March 2003, in Verbier, nearly 250 people gathered on the village square. Delia Mamon remembers it as if it were today: “The American invasion of Iraq made me strongly react. The reasons that led to the war were a blatant falsification of reality." What particularly angered her is the fact that public opinion ”seemed to swallow everything". Delia Mamon refuses passivity. "To be a citizen, she suggests, is to assume a social responsibility".

In 2005, she created the non-governmental organization Graines de Paix in Geneva, awarded in 2019 by the Smart Peace Prize of the Leaders for Peace Foundation, created by former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. Objective: to rethink education to pacify social relations and the planet and to develop the students’ faculty of discernment.

“I learned discernment with my father, an inventor of technological solutions for large companies,” said Delia Mamon, who had the taste for teaching at a very young age. She enjoyed teaching to read to her brother. With her NGO, of which she is president, she believes that at a time when all forms of violence are increasing, especially at school, it is time to “educate minds in the culture of peace.” She does not go so far as to say that Dick Cheney, US Vice President at the time of the invasion of Iraq, may have been brutalized in school, but she considers that the quality of the educational path of each is a major contribution to a less violent society. Graines de Paix focuses on two Sustainable Development Goals in the United Nations 2030 Agenda: Quality Education (SDG 4) and Peacebuilding (SDG 16).

“Peace begins with learning to speak and listen.”

A woman of conviction, a former economist at the OECD, before being responsible for strategic marketing for several companies, including Honeywell Europe, which earned her the President’s Award in 1984, Delia Mamon is as clear in her ideas as she is independent. At the age of 15, she went on holiday alone. Today as well, she travels without fear.

Although she serves as president on a volunteer basis, Delia Mamon is fully committed to her mission. She worked many years in marketing, yet never felt she stumbled on a glass ceiling. However it is her personal experience in the American and French education systems, her discovery of other systems in Africa and the Middle East that have shaped her reflections on education. Born in the United States of a Russian-speaking father from Samarkand, in present-day Uzbekistan, and a mother from Kiev, she has furthered her experience in several countries, including France, Belgium and Italy.

In the United States, with which she is no longer attached, she enjoyed school in a public school in New Jersey, especially with a black teacher: “There was no physical violence . The director of the establishment loved his work. We were in the 1960s. We were encouraged to do oral presentations (show and tell). In comparison, the French system, lacking humanity, did not allow me to flourish, it almost destroyed me. Today, I have a very clear vision of what needs to be done or not to be done. The priority now is to insert more human values, to develop societal cohesion and intercultural understanding, to develop social skills and critical thinking in school curricula.” “Peace begins by learning to speak and listen”, she says.

The emotional intelligence of children

Her desire to develop a pedagogical methodology has one goal: to increase the breadth of education as a means to prevent violence and radicalization. Delia Mamon’s commitment to education and peace reflects the oriental influence of her father, and family from Samarkand imbued with the values ​​of openness evoked by the Silk Road, the love for others and Persian hospitality.

Specifically, with its educational specialists and a scientific committee including Professor Philip Jaffé, a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Graines de Paix is ​​developing teaching and learning resources for schools, including a collection entitled Growing Up in Peace. In Switzerland, the cantons of Vaud, Fribourg and Valais have validated these textbooks. Delia Mamon greatly appreciates the culture of the Swiss consensus. She warns, however, that that there are signs of erosion. The education system must take this into account. In this respect, she welcomes the School Program of French-speaking Switzerland, which incorporates “creative thinking”, solidarity and self-esteem. Because Graines de Paix considers it essential to develop the emotional intelligence of children, it has developed a traveling school exhibition, “Leon and his emotions,” which should also soon come out as a book.

“We are very active in Ivory Coast, where we are developing multi-year projects” adds the president. Ivory Coast has been for forty years, like the Yugoslavia of Tito, a benevolent state although authoritarian under the aegis of Felix Houphouët-Boigny. Following the end of the civil war in 2011, the Ivorian authorities realized the need to restore the culture of peace to avoid a new war. “It starts with school” says Delia Mamon. "Although the practice was banned in 2009, teachers continued to beat students with whips. To remedy this, we developed novel educational tools including “Learning in peace, educating without violence”. Globally, physical, sexual and emotional violence affected 50% of children in 2016, nearly one billion people. That’s why our work, says Delia Mamon, is also about helping teachers with tools to prevent such violence.”

We hereby thank the CPNN (Culture of Peace and Nonviolence Network) and its president, David Adams, for their translation (slightly adapted here).