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Strengthening our youth peace force in the Western Equatoria area of South Sudan

After a week of intense training that started on Sunday 11th March, our latest group of youth peacemaker in South Sudan are now fully ready to promote lasting peace and sustainable development in the counties of Western Equatoria.

A year into establishing the newest branch of our flagship program, the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN), in South Sudan, WPDI is very proud of the progress accomplish by the 22 aspiring peacemakers and entrepreneurs whom we have formed over the past year.

In the coming weeks and months, they will settle by pairs in their respective counties of origin to lay the ground for a future of resilience and sustainability in their communities. As for their first mission under the YPN, each pair of leaders will enroll another cadre of local youth mostly originating from vulnerable contexts with whom they will, as Trainers of Trainees (ToTs) replicate the training we have provided them in peacebuilding, life skills and entrepreneurship. This will afford each county a peace force that will work hand in hand with local communities, ensuring relevance and ownership to the activities they will undertake. This is our philosophy: the youth are in the driving seat, with WPDI bringing resources to help them make inroads towards a brighter future.

Together, these youth will initiate peace-building activities ranging from mediation processes among conflict communities to teaching conflict resolution in primary and secondary schools. They will also establish income-generating projects, which are a hallmark of the YPN. These small businesses will benefit communities twice: by bringing services tailored to the actual needs of the population – such as farming projects helping lowering the price of good in a neighborhood – and by providing revenue to often at-risk young people – who can reinvest it in school equipment, as we have seen some do through the YPN in Eastern Equatoria.

We have no doubt that peace initiatives and small businesses will soon be fully operational in the Western Equatoria area. In the meantime, the first priority of our new group was to strengthen their knowledge and skills. First of all, we ensured that those trainees who had not passed their written exams at the previous session would succeed this time. We set up a very intense format of training the youth by county pairs, going through the core notions of the curriculum in conflict resolution, ICT and entrepreneurship. Thanks to their hard work, the majority of the trainees did well and could finally graduate.

The week proved just as intense for the other youth, those who had graduated last December. They were taken through workshops designed to raise their capacity to replicate their trainings – either with fellow youth at the local level or with primary and secondary school students.

The dedication and enthusiasm of this cohort for their future missions as peacemakers and entrepreneurs was particularly felt on Friday 16th, when three of the ToTs, Odilia, James and Benjamin participated in the talk show at the invitation of Radio Miraya, one of the leading radios in South Sudan, owned and run by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). They discussed their impressions on the program so far, expressing their conviction that their training imparted them the right tools to serve their communities and to an extent they had not imagined before. Odilia concluded the interview on a vibrant call to women, urging them to join the program and seize the opportunity to acquire skills that will make women and the country stronger in the long term.

Her words felt to us like a vindication of our past efforts with these young people. Above all, this felt like a promise that, one day, the women and men of South Sudan would reclaim their country from the fangs of civil war and rebuild it for good.