"My inclination towards peace-psychology has been there since my 11th grade when I even didn’t exactly know what I was after. The model of peace-psychology that I work with is something I have created on my own; taking my experiences, learnings, research and above all, the need for it, into consideration. Broadly speaking, I merge Philosophical understanding and Creative Thinking with conflict reconciliation and peacebuilding through leadership development, facilitation, neuroscience, critical thinking, mental health work, empathy, stress management, peace and conflict analysis and using arts in conflict. The field of peace-psychology is dynamic-it includes elements of various other branches of psychology such as media, social, behavioral, organizational, political and conflict psychology. Understanding, studying and analyzing peace and conflict issues at different levels from intra to global levels fascinates me. It helps me think more deeply about the complexities of the world. Most people I work with keep looking for peace as something that exists in future. I believe it’s the basic reason why most people today feel conflicted inside and stressed out all the time because we are constantly thinking about achieving peace in future, juggling between past and future. But philosophically, I believe Peace is dynamic, nuanced; it’s a process not a product. If you can have your own inner-pillar of strength and equanimity amidst chaos; if you can deal with conflicts in a healthy way; if you can be mindful of what’s happening to you in the present moment; that to me is peace at the very core level. It’s important to understand that peace and conflict exist at various levels: from intra to inter to community to political to global levels. But having a deeper understanding of the essence of peace at the core level is important because it helps you understand and build peace at other levels through a more conscious approach. Because I believe world today lacks imagination and philosophical understanding of problems; we are busy quick-fixing things without taking the broader-picture and sustainability. I intuitively think like an artist; I use imagination, creative thinking and creative sensibilities in everything I do. Because I believe where there is pain, chaos and conflict, there is scope for art, creativity and deepening of relationships, if only we can make that switch in our heads. This is the reason, I help people learn how to express their trauma, stress and conflicts through creative expression. When I took Psychology course as a part of my International Baccalaureate diploma in my High School (UWC, India), I knew it was something I would do for the rest of my life, keeping the need of my state (Kashmir) in mind. However, I soon realized that I can’t just do mental health work there because it’s a conflict zone where the dynamics of much desired peace and ongoing conflict changes everyday- I needed something more eclectic because I believe in the holistic wellness where your physical, mental, emotional, occupational, social-all aspects are interlinked and depend on each other. Conflict is complex; things that can help also need to be multidimensional and eclectic. Hence, I thought of devising a multidimensional model and approach for my philosophy and understanding of peace-psychology. This interaction between psychology, and peace and conflict is beautiful- anyone regardless of their backgrounds and professions can connect with what it has to offer."
Ufra is the first & only peace-psychologist from Kashmir/Sub-continent, having her double degree from USA (Luther College) and UK (University of Nottingham), certification in the Kingian Nonviolence (University of Rhode Island, USA); lifetime membership in Psi Chi- The International Honor Society in Psychology; along with formal training in facilitation, conflict management, dialogue, change management & self-transformation skills. Over the years, she has presented her analysis on the Kashmir conflict, conducted workshops on her pioneering Peace-psychology work & received recognition from international forums including the World Economic Forum (Shape South-Asia Summit, India), Nobel Peace Prize forums (USA), the Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative (USA), as a fellow at the Swedish Institute (Sweden), the Campaign for US department of Peace (USA). Ufra has introduced her peace-education, peace-psychology & self-transformation programs at a few schools in Kashmir, in addition to working with youth, orphans, half-widows, teachers, students, artists and other professionals in Kashmir through the modalities of leadership development, change management, critical and creative thinking, empathy, emotional intelligence and well-being, stress management, spiritual counseling, mental health, healing, conflict resolution, arts in conflict, peace and conflict analysis. At present, she works with a social-change management organization, PFEL that works on transforming education systems, where she is currently anchoring an empathy vertical for rural women-led-virtual field support initiative (VFS). She has previously worked with Meta-Culture – South Asia’s first conflict management center & critical thinking studio. Voluntarily, Ufra is also the co-director of a non-partisan think-tank focused on research and dialogue to impact public policy, The Kashmir Institute. Her main area of interest is to work with youth in the context of peace-psychology exploring mental health, changemaking, peacebuilding, empathy, youth empowerment, leadership & human rights.