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WDPI recruits 98 youth and 70 local figures in all the counties of Western Equatoria State, South Sudan to build a grassroots peace force in the area

Scouting the 10 counties of Western Equatoria State (WES), our South Sudan country team succeeded in laying the ground for our work in the area for the years to come. Their main accomplishment was to recruit two groups of people, namely 98 young women and men from the payams (local subdivisions) of WES and 70 people among the figures respected by local communities throughout the area. 

This effort is part of the process to fully implement the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN) our flagship program. The YPN is a leadership program aimed at fostering resilience, peace and sustainable development in vulnerable and fragile communities affected by conflict. The 98 payam youth we just recruited are an essential component in the program since they ensure that we mobilize on local energies to promote peace and development. Indeed, our view is that resilience can only build from the inside of a community. We equip local young people and they do the work. To achieve this, our strategy is to first enroll a group of talented, educated and motivated youth whom we take for one year through an intense and diverse training including on peace education and conflict resolution, ICT, entrepreneurship and project management, life skills and teaching. Once certified, they become Trainers of Trainees (TOTs), mediators and entrepreneurs who go back in their communities to work with local youth – the 98 we just recruited. In this second phase, the TOTs train the local youth so that they can develop together peacebuilding initiatives as well as income-generating projects.

Because we conceive peace and resilience as bottom up processes stemming from the core of the community, it is essential that our activities, even while they mobilize local youth, are fully endorsed and appropriated by the communities where we operate. For this reason, the selection of these 98 payam youth has implied a thorough process involving authorities and local leaders as well as the TOTs from each county of WES, ensure transparency and acceptability in the eyes of the communities where they will officiate. 

Transparency and acceptability of the YPN is also ensured through the establishment of local advisory councils, which was another key aspect of our team’s mission in WES. These councils are established in each county to monitor the work of our youth and warrant that they really work in the benefit of the community. The 70 people mobilized as part of the councils are respected figures, such as local officials or community leaders, who can provide a space for dialogue between the communities and the youth.

While the constitution of these two groups may seem cumbersome – and we must commend our team for travelling extensively in a very tough terrain– it is indispensable to invest this amount of time in the preparation of the YPN. This is how, constituting a peace force that will work for the sustainable and peaceful future of WES, we can ensure that our programs are eventually appropriated by local stakeholders and have a chance to prosper even after our direct intervention is over three or four years from now.