Woman as Global Leaders:
Children Look at War
In the fall of 2007, I arrived as a new faculty member in Child Development from Zayed University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). I envisioned a collaborative research project among students and faculty in the College of Education at Zayed University, Dubai campus and students at Chico State. The purpose of the international research project was for students on both campuses to investigate"“Children’s Perceptions About War and Peace Across Cultural Contexts."
Interviews with the children in both countries were completed in January 2008; the interview data was shared between the two campuses, and the Chico students traveled to Dubai to present the research, in collaboration with Zayed students, at the Women as Global Leaders Conference, in Dubai, March 2008.
In addition to honor students Emma Nie and Allison Schultz, professors Cindy Ratekin, Judy Bordin, and I, Child Development, and Behavioral and Social Sciences Dean Gayle Hutchinson attended the conference. During our time in Dubai, we had the pleasure of spending time with Asma Altajer, a former student of mine, who took the group on a cultural tour of Dubai-visiting both historic old and new sites.
Next year, to create and maintain further opportunities for cultural and intellectual exchanges among university students, we hope to expand the project to include not only the UAE but also Kenya and South Korea.
The following gives an example of questions the children were asked and their responses:
- What is war? Most of the children in both the UAE and U.S. said war was "fighting between people and/or countries." Children in the UAE, however, made more specific references to countries and leaders. In both countries, younger children (5- and 6-year-olds) made more references to children fighting, while the older children (7- to 10-year-olds) referred to concepts such as enemy and conflict between countries as well as dying.
- What is peace? Children in both the UAE and the U.S. said peace was an absence of fighting and was love and friendship, greeting each other, health and wellness, and happiness. Older children in the UAE responded with words that seem to relate to religion, for example, peace was given in the context of "Peace be upon you," which is reflective of Islam. In the United States one child referred to peace as "U.S. hippie." Themes in younger children's responses from both cultures referred to peace as calmness and quiet.
- Is your country at war? For all ages, approximately half of the children in the U.S. responded "yes." For those responding "yes," many of them mentioned hearing about war from the news or being told about it by parents. The UAE children responded "no," their county was not at war. They mentioned knowing that their country was not at war because of "cooperation with other countries," "not fighting with other countries," and &q'because the people lives are quiet and comfortable."
- Do you think that there would be a day when all wars will stop? Responses from all the children were divided, with about half believing that war will end one day. This was true for all ages; however, a greater percentage of the girls, approximately 90 percent, said that wars will stop.
—Chris Coughlin, with Judy Bordin