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WPDI’s Youth Peacemakers in Central Equatoria State Undergo Their Second Training Workshop

December 2018 – The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), in partnership with the Education Above All Foundation, recently conducted its second seven-day training workshop for our 40-strong cohort of youth peacemakers – colloquially referred to as ToTs (Trainers of Trainees) – in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria State (CES).  These ToTs will, upon successful completion of their training, join our already existing peace force of almost 300 youth peacemakers in the Equatoria region of South Sudan under our Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN) program. Through the YPN, we seek to empower youths with the skills they need to become transformative agents that can foster peace and sustainable development in their communities at a grassroots level.

The workshop was held from November 17-23 and its sessions were divided in the following way: three days focused on peacebuilding, one and a half on business and entrepreneurship skills, and two days on information and communications technology (ICT). A further half day was allotted to our partners, UNESCO and UN Women, so that they could conduct trainings on adult literacy and alternative education in peacekeeping and about gender mainstreaming in peacebuilding and leadership in peace and development work, respectively. Both sessions were deemed “helpful” by the ToTs, though some found the session provided by UN Women to be emotionally charged because it challenged many of the “status quo” stereotypes of traditional gender roles held by male participants. By the conclusion of that session, however, the male ToTs had learned to accept and embrace the work of their female counterparts.

During the seven days, our ToTs made remarkable progress in their training regimen. During the ICT-related sessions conducted by our partner ICT Society, for example, they learned how to conduct research on the Internet, utilize LibreOffice suite, and promote connectivity on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. At the conclusion of the ICT training, each ToT received a laptop computer generously donated by our partner, Ericsson, to support their peacebuilding activities at the community level. That way, they will be able to provide WPDI staff with regular feedback about their activities, including those related to developing income-generating projects and community-wide educational presentations. 

The business and entrepreneurship skills training focused on enhancing the record keeping skills of the youth peacemakers as well as taught them how to conduct a cost projection analysis, which was especially popular; some of them that already operate small businesses sought to integrate these newly developed skills into their business plans. Also popular were the training sessions delegated to peacebuilding, which specifically focused on developing skills related to conflict analysis and mediation. Considering the background and experiences of our ToTs, the peacebuilding session began with trauma healing activities that were appreciated by the entire group.

All of the sessions were well-received and, as many ToTs noted, have a real impact on their lives. James Yata Ambrose told us about how, after beginning his training, he secured “employment with the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization as a facilitator of peacebuilding training. Based on the skills I acquired in meditation with WPDI, I have been able to mediate between youths with some very serious disagreements. My position has also allowed me to train more than 200 community members on the topics of peacebuilding, mediation, and forgiveness, all because WPDI empowered us ToTs with the skills we need to conduct peacebuilding activities in Central Equatoria State.” 

Other ToTs at the training mentioned their desires to become agents of peace and transformative change within their communities as well. Vicky Juan Angelo, a 25-year-old woman from Terekeka County, discussed how her “new skills in mediation will help me solve conflicts in the community. I will be able to build up the capacity of youths in South Sudan to support efforts to foster long-lasting peace in the country, since youths are the majority and can determine the direction the country should take.” Albino Dier Labbaddu agreed, telling WPDI that “I know challenges are everywhere, but given the knowledge and skills I have acquired from the training, I plan to organize peace events in my community to educate the entire community on peacebuilding. I hope to advocate against forced and early marriages. I know my dreams can become a reality in South Sudan.”