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WPDI reinforces the capacity of future youth leaders from the former Western Equatoria State area in South Sudan

“Thanks to WPDI trainings, I am now changing my behavior on how I handle situations with other individuals. With the new knowledge I am receiving, I will be able to be a leader in my county and prevent violence and conflict, to change the minds of people to bring positive peace in my community.” These words by Jacklin Eliuda, one of our twenty Trainers of Trainees (ToTs) from the Western Equatoria area in South Sudan, capture perfectly what we aim to achieve through our trainings. As peacemakers, these trainees are to become a force of peace in times of tension and a force of sustainable development when the weapons go silent. To establish such a force of young leaders, we have established a holistic curriculum delivered through an intensive series of trainings.

We recorded Jacklin Eliuda’s testimony as she was taking the second in a yearly series of five trainings that will eventually certify her and the nineteen other trainees from Western Equatoria as WPDI peacemakers. The training was held in Juba from 26 to 30 June 2017. Under the overall leadership of our peacebuilding trainer, Prof. Brian Williams of Western Cape University, South Africa, the ToTs increased their knowledge on peacebuilding, notably through sessions on human rights, transformative peace, equality and diversity as well as justice and reconciliation. WPDI also provided sessions on project management and business skills. This course included session on market assessment, a tool that will be critical as the ToTs go back to their counties to initiate the process of developing income-generating projects with local youth. Partners of WPDI delivered trainings on other key topics of the curriculum, such as gender equality by UN Women and ICTs by the ICT Society South Sudan on behold of Ericsson.

There is a lot to learn in just one week. Importantly, we do not just expect our trainees to learn about new information and factual knowledge. We also expect that they will learn about themselves and that the training has a real impact on their behavior. A ToT we interviewed, Susan Paul, described very well the transformative dimension of the training: “Before the trainings, I had some arguments with my neighbor and we didn’t talk to each other for almost 3 months. After the first training I received, once I came back to my county, I decided to go back to her and discuss our issues peacefully to reach an agreement. This is what happened, we have been able to open a new chapter in our lives and we are now friends. I am convinced that through WPDI trainings I will be able to mediate and solve issues that are affecting my community and bring another vision on how conflicts can be resolved in a peaceful way.”

WPDI peacemakers are the cornerstone of our flagship program. Once trained, they go back to their communities where they carry a wide array of activities to increase the resilience capacity of their community. They enroll and train local young people with whom they conduct mediation work and develop local businesses. They would run advocacy campaigns on human rights or intervene to lower tensions among conflicting families. They can also deliver conflict resolution education courses in local schools.

These are roles and responsibilities that our trainees realize progressively, hence the importance of this second training, when their awareness of their personal progress and destination is clearer to them. Benjamin Ibako Gabriel thus said: “Before I joined the Youth Peacemaker Network, I didn’t know I had the potential to contribute towards conflict resolution and peacebuilding in my community. The YPN has helped me realize my potential and ability. My ambition as a peacemaker is to be a role model and an agent of change in my community to ensure that let there be peace and let it begin with me in order to bring hope to those affected by conflict.”

Such awareness of their potential is essential to the program in itself. Indeed, when their training is achieved, these twenty young women and men will need to train other young people from their local communities. This is how we hope to create the conditions for long-term peace in Western Equatoria and beyond.