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Our new cohort of youth from Acholi, Northern Uganda, take a major step in their training as future peacemakers

From Monday 4 to Friday 8, WPDI held in our Gulu office in Northern Uganda, a training for the new cohort of young women and men we recruited in 2017 from the Acholi sub-region to promote peace and sustainable development in their communities. For these 15 young women and 15 young men, this was already their third WPDI workshop in an intensive series of five. Indeed, the YPN is a demanding program established to help young people from vulnerable communities in conflict- and violence-affected places become versatile leaders who can mediate a conflict between two villages, train officials on human rights or manage a small business staffed with formerly at-risk youth.

Such level of community engagement calls for a complex set of skills, which make the core of our one-year training. The objective of the workshop was first to consolidate the skills in ICT, conflict-resolution and entrepreneurship that make the backbone of our work on the ground. As a hinging point in the future paths of our trainees, they started working on the design of the business plans that will eventually become full-fledged  community businesses. Justine from Lamwo district observed: « We need to work together in our different counties by developing clear work plans to start doing something before the 4th workshop, for example for us in Lamwo we shall come up with plans to meet with some of the district leaders to take them through some of issues."

The session saw the introduction of new features in the curriculum, such as the use of case studies, scenarios and documentary video clips. We also strengthened our focus on presentation skills and public speaking, which will prove uniquely useful since the first responsibility of our trainees will be to go back to their communities as Trainers of Trainees (TOTs), where they will replicate their knowledge from us with local youth. All the above made for a very exciting and transformative week, which we recorded through many testimonies from our trainees.

They proved very sensitive to the impact of the training on their personal lives. "The peace building sessions has greatly changed my life. Before joining this training, I used to have an attitude of revenge; but know even if someone wrongs me, I get very peaceful ways of handling such situations. I feel more peaceful." Bosco, from Agago South, said.

As much as the content, the future TOTs valued the insistence on participative approaches and practical outcomes, as expressed by Richard from Aruu North: "The practical presentation has made us understand the concepts more clearly, I wish that could happen with all. When we had just started in the first workshop I had fear that it would be difficult for us to learn the concepts but the practical learning has strengthened our understanding."

In the same vein, Durel from Gulu Municipality "liked the guidance provided by our facilitators. As TOT’s we need to practice what we have been taught to improve on the weak areas. The only fear many people have including myself is perfection, for us to be able to do a great job we need to accept our areas of weakness and improve on them; let’s be role models in our own communities."

They stressed the direct relevance of the training for them, as did Lapyam Emmanuel, from Kitgum West district: "the peace building and conflict resolution sessions have widened our thinking and leadership skills, I am able to use the knowledge I have acquired from these sessions to solve conflict within my community. For example, a week before I came this training I attended three meetings to resolve conflict in some of the schools within Kitgum since I also serve as secretary for education and health at the district level."

Asaya Martha, from Lamwo enthusiastically remarked that "the design for the training was so good because it involved participation of both facilitators and participants and also use of life examples. Sharing experiences during session made it more interesting, educative and practical and improved the confidence of participants through presentations. It was also great to stand before the audience and present them our ideas. This has built my level of confidence at all level."

Self-confidence is a key competence of peacemakers, who will often need to take initiatives and promote peace even when it seems like an impossible outcome. This and other skills will be put the test at the next session as the trainees will be tasked to make presentations on conflict resolution education to actual students in neighboring schools, bearing in mind that such teaching of  conflict resolution in schools will be part and parcel of their future activities with us. Following this third training, we have confidence that these trainees are already prepared to engage in real-life peacebulding.