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WPDI Peacemakers Gather and Learn More About Their Responsibilities

“I have realized my role as a social change agent”

Recently, WPDI took a decisive step to strengthen its peace force on the ground in northern Uganda. From September 3-7, we gathered our two groups of youths peacemakers from the Acholi sub-region and the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, respectively, to increase their capacity for engineering peace and sustainable development in their communities. During this intensive period, the 70 WPDI-certified peacemakers had the opportunity not only to hone their skills but also to exchange amongst themselves. In so doing, they deepened an esprit de corps that will help cement the youth network they are about to grow throughout their communities.

The workshop is part of the development process of our flagship program, the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN), which we are currently developing in two locations of northern Uganda, the Acholi sub-region and the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, in partnership with the Education Above All and Western Union foundations, respectively. 

Under this youth leadership and partnership initiative, WPDI empowers young women and men from vulnerable, conflict-affected communities. We enroll core groups of talented and motivated youths whom we provide with a host of skills in peacebuilding, life skills, ICT, and business skills. The two groups we gathered in Hope North – 30 from the Acholi sub-region and 40 from within and around the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement – have taken an initial one-year training in 2017, graduating to become certified peacemakers.

Taking these youths through such an exhaustive and thorough training is an already empowering step that enables them to act. Akello Pisiline, one of the trainees, expressed her experience to us: “WPDI’s programs have been more than a blessing in my life. Before, I was a kind lady with low confidence because of the little knowledge I had. But, after completing trainings in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, ICT, and business skills, I can confidently say that I have been fully empowered to address issues within my community. I was even able to recently mediate a case between a teacher and a parent at a local school.” Ottio John Bosco, another peacemaker, noted that “when I joined WPDI in 2017, I received training in conflict resolution, ICT, and entrepreneurship skills which have enabled me to become an influential person in my community in the field of mediation, where I have mediated three different situations. On top of that, I was able to resolve a conflict between the families of one of the sub-county youths; in that situation, I was able to play a neutral role as a mediator.” 

Empowering these youths as individual peacemakers is only a first objective. Our end goal is that these young people build on-the-ground networks around local youth that they must train so they can develop together initiatives to foster peace and development in their communities, including income-generating projects. This is the second phase of the YPN: transferring skills to local youth in the communities where we operate. This “training and teaching” phase is critical to the program. With that in mind, gathering the two youth groups from Acholi and Kiryandongo was even more important, as they just delivered their first training to their local youths, 277 in Acholi and 368 at the settlement. Ottio John Bosco told us that “when it came to business skills training, I was able to train a group of youths in business management and others in conflict management in the field of business development. It was a pleasure training groups of young, dedicated sub-county youths who proved themselves as change makers. From the skills I gained, I was able to build confidence and develop additional knowledge.”

One of the objectives of the workshop was indeed to strengthen the confidence of our ToTs. We wanted them to exchange and share experiences, strengthen their capacity to work together, and reflect on their work as they develop projects in their communities. Strengthening their confidence also involved improving their understanding of their responsibilities as peacemakers and entrepreneurs. As such, they had sessions on topics including risk management and record keeping. They also received assistance from our long-time partner, Ericsson, who sent a team that provided a full day of training at our Community Learning Center in Kiryandongo on the various tools and formats they can use for their small businesses. 

The impact of WPDI’s program is stark: as Andrew Magong reminded us, “I am a South Sudanese refugee living in Kiryandongo, Uganda. During the start of the conflict in South Sudan, I was taken captive in December 2013 and was forced to join the army until my father realized I had become a child soldier and helped me escape to Uganda.” However, Andrew has resolved to make the most out of his current situation: “thanks to my training with WPDI, I have been able to treat people equally. Because I have achieved inner peace, I was able to address some of the personal bitterness that I had developed. I am also able to conduct mediation and train other groups of youths who need my support in conflict management and peacebuilding. That has helped me realize that people are equal, and no one has to be segregated in any way.”

Achieving inner transformation and empowerment is what these young women and men will now work to promote around them. As Mary Valentine Ajwok proclaimed, “I am grateful to WPDI for this training, which has impacted me and helped me realized my role as a social change agent. Above all, these experiences have inspired me to become an advocate for young girls who have been suppressed by the cultural norms which are against their wills.”