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146 WPDI youth peacemakers from South Sudan launch 9 businesses in the Eastern Equatoria area

WPDI proudly announces that, despite immense hurdles in the midst of an ongoing civil conflict, our peacemakers from Eastern Equatoria have succeeded in initiating nine social income-generating businesses in their communities.

Youth-led social businesses are one of the key pillars of our flagship program, the Youth Peacemaker Network, which empowers young women and men from fragile communities to become mediators and entrepreneurs. To achieve this objective, we first recruit a group of talented and educated youth already engaged in civic life and take them for one year through a unique mix of trainings in conflict resolution, life skills, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and entrepreneurship which includes the design of full-fledged business plans based on the needs of their respective communities. When their training is complete and they are certified as mediators, they go back as Trainers of Trainees (ToTs) to their communities, where they select another rung of local young people many of whom are at-risk of engaging in deviant or violent behaviors, and gather senior leading local figures into advisory councils to ensure ownership at the county level. As community leaders, our ToTs replicate their training with the local youth so they can in turn become mediators and participate in the implementation of the community business that WPDI supports with the help of our partners Mastercard Foundation, IKEA Foundation and Education Above All. 

The program had reached this very critical phase - the 18 ToTs from Eastern Equatoria had started training 146 local youth and nine teams formed to develop as many social businesses – when the civil war suddenly redoubled in violence. This was in July 2016. In this context of heightened tension and insecurity, our ToTs’ mission as peacemakers took precedence over their role as entrepreneurs. The surge of violence was clearly a trial to their capacity as leaders – and they passed it, emerging stronger, with more confidence in their skills and more determination to solidify their business plans.

As soon as the security situation stabilized to acceptable levels, our ToTs resumed work on their nine project in the counties of Budi, Ikwoto, Kapoeta East, Kapoeta North, Kapoeta South, Lafon, Lopa, Pageri, and Torit. The projects have been designed to meet the needs of communities in these counties through businesses in the areas of farming, brick building, retail and produce selling. The launch of the projects in March was a highly-anticipated moment for all the concerned communities, who also receive regular trainings on business skills from WPDI. The very presence of the ToTs and their enrolling local youth had already created an interest and an awareness that things could well change for good in their community. The launch of each business was thus marked by an inauguration ceremony attended by many community members, notably by officials and leaders. Such support has further reinforced the motivation of the ToTs and their local recruits to make their projects a success for themselves and for their communities. 

From now on, the nine teams are managing their projects on their own with the support of their advisory councils. WPDI will continue to monitor their work, providing backstopping and unfailing support.