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An Interview with Susan and Isaac, Two WPDI Youth Peacemakers from South Sudan

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 2018 – The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) works to foster peace and sustainable development in fragile and conflict-affected communities in South Sudan, Uganda, Mexico, and the United States. We do so through a variety of initiatives, but mainly through the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN) – our flagship program that seeks to empower youths with the skills they need to positively transform their communities. Recently, we sat down to talk with two future members of our YPN in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria State, Susan and Isaac.

Tell us about yourself and your background.

I am Susan Sanuna Jamal, a 23-year-old South Sudanese from Yei River County. I completed my secondary education in 2012 in Uganda. I have both parents and come from a family of seven children, comprising of six girls and one boy. I grew up in a family where very little attention was given to girls, especially in the area of education. Basically, since I was a girl, I could not have an education. This led me to join a gang of girls who were engaged in things like drug abuse, alcoholism, and other bad practices. Due to that, I became pregnant when I was under-18. I only managed to complete my secondary education due to the help of a good Samaritan. Otherwise, I had lost direction in life and could not see anything better in the future with what I was doing at that young age. I am who I am now because of the support of other people.

 

 

 

 

My name is Isaac Taban Samuel. I am 28-years-old, from Lainya County, and am South Sudanese. I was born in a poor family for which education and basic needs were not easy to access due to the conflict between the South Sudan Liberation Movement and the Sudanese Government. This period was characterized by internal displacement of civilians, no schools, no medication, and forced conscription. Due to that situation, my family was forced into the bush for safety. We lived there for more than six years. Three of my brothers were murdered and my family lost all of its livelihoods like goats, cows, and crops. As a result, I took refuge in Uganda for two years. 

Why did you decide to join WPDI’s YPN in Central Equatoria State?

S: I decided to join WPDI’s YPN because I believe as a youth I have a very important role to play in bringing durable peace to my community and country. Given my experience as a child who was neglected, I would like to use this opportunity to advocate for the rights of women and girls in South Sudan as we implement other peace building programs.

I: Given what I went through in life since my childhood, I was traumatized, lost, and developed feelings of revenge. However, when I heard of WPDI’s program, I felt that I could be part of a team that will heal this country through peace building activities. I believe WPDI’s YPN is the real solution to current youth problems and South Sudan at large.

How have you been impacted since joining WPDI’s YPN?

S: The trainings have impacted me so much. I can now speak with confidence on issues affecting my community due to the skills I received during trainings, especially on peaceful coexistence. I am grateful to WPDI for this wonderful program. It enables us to turn our sad stories into good for others, especially for young girls and women who are often marginalized and victimized.

I: At a personal level, the training has changed me greatly. I now believe in forgiveness, not revenge. I have better skills in conflict mediation, conflict mitigation, and I know how dangerous conflict can be in the community. The training has also given me knowledge of ICT [information and communications technology] and entrepreneurship. I can now confidently articulate peace building issues at any forum, if given the opportunity.

What are your ambitions for the future?

S: I would like to be a strong advocate for girls and women to ensure that no child is left behind when it comes to education, regardless of sex. I also want to see that youths are positively engaged in different businesses as part of peace building in my community.

I: With WPDI’s help, I would like to train others in peacebuilding and conflict mediation within my community. I would like to promote peace activities by using football, netball, and youth farming groups to promote trauma healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

What are your hopes for your community and country?

S: I would like to be a strong advocate for girls and women to ensure that no child is left behind when it comes to education, regardless of sex. I also want to see that youths are positively engaged in different businesses as part of peace building in my community.

I: I would like to see South Sudan embrace durable peace, equality for all, good governance, and economic reforms. At the community level, I would like to see that all are free from abuse and violence, that all girls and boys can go to school, and that the community coexists peacefully.