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Youth Peacemakers from South Sudan Conduct Peace Workshop in Kiryandongo, Uganda

In the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, Youth Peacemakers from South Sudan conduct a peacebuilding workshop and share experiences with young refugees and local youth from Uganda

From Wednesday 16 to Friday 18 August, 46 young refugees from South Sudan and from neighboring communities participated in a conflict resolution workshop conducted by Hidita and Ukongo, WPDI youth peacemakers from South Sudan as part of their training to become peacemakers. Hidita Scovia and Ukongo Martin travelled all the way from South Sudan to the refugee settlement in Kiryandongo to share their stories with the young refugees and inspire them with words of advice and encouragement.

This proved to be a decisive moment for both facilitators and trainees. Hidita noted that “It was very exciting to be part of this training at Kiryandongo Refugee settlement. The training went very well. The participants are very active, cooperative and attentive during the different sessions. They were very interested in knowing our experience with WPDI from the beginning until now. It was also important for me to give them some words of encouragement as well as tips on whatever tasks will be required of them in their communities and the entire world. I believe this will give them more confidence and resolution.”

The workshop built into the one-year training offered by WPDI to these 23 female and 23 male youth aspiring to become Trainers of Trainees (ToTs) as part of our flagship program, the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN). The YPN is a youth-focused peace and development program through which WPDI enrols and trains young women and men who originate from vulnerable communities impacted by conflict and armed violence and who, upon completing their training go back to their communities to replicate their training among local youth and develop educational, cultural and income-generating projects. To certify these young people as effective mediators and entrepreneurs, WPDI has developed a unique training based on a mix of conflict-resolution, ICTs, life skills and business skills.

The program in the Kiryandongo Settlement gathers young refugees, who have been forced out of South Sudan by the different episodes of the civil war of the past and the present, and young people from the areas surrounding the settlement, called the host communities, which is intended to reinforce the relations between communities. Based on his experience as a ToT in South Sudan, Ukongo observed that “WPDI has thought wisely in involving young refugees in such training workshops, not only to develop their capacity but also to heal and relieve them from the trauma they went through during and after the war broke out in 2013 and 2016.”

As part of the curriculum established by WPDI, the training included presentations on key concepts such as conflict, violence, peace and development and their relations as well as more practical sessions on role play and simulations as well as meditation, a component we deem essential for the trainees to deepen their understanding of inner peace as a key dimension of peace in general. This was well perceived by Rajad, one of the Kiryandongo ToT, who confessed that “Today, I am a changed person, I used to be rude and did not like to interact with people who are not of my tribe; but through the training, I feel that a lot has changed with me. I treat people with respect; I promise I will work hard to change others, This is my vision from now on.”

As indicated above, a special feature of the workshop was that its sessions were co-facilitated by ToTs from our program in Eastern Equatoria, Hidita and Ukongo. Exchanges between the Eastern Equatoria ToTs and the young refugees constituted a high point in the workshop. For the trainees, testimonies from peers who have completed the training and been active for years now shed a very concrete light on the preparation process. They asked questions on wide array of topics, including the impact of the program on communities, the challenges met by the ToTs in South Sudan, the advancement of the community businesses, and the relation with local governments.

Reflecting on these very intense moments, Mary, another ToT from Kiryandongo, reflected that “The training helped us to share freely, participate actively, network and interact. We learned a lot with direct examples from home country. I was struck by Ukongo’s word: “Commit yourselves fully in this program because you are the pillars on whose shoulders South Sudan will soon rest.” 

Hidita’s encouragement also struck a chord: “Step up for opportunities and utilize it for the good of your people tomorrow. South Sudan is in political crisis because of failure to implement agreements. As a young woman, I would like to emulate the examples of good leaders who are willing to serve freely. I look at myself as being lucky to have joined WPDI and will commit myself fully to the program.”

In addition to the feedbacks from the Hidita and Ukongo, the trainees also had the opportunity to hold exchanges with a group of our young entrepreneurs from the YPN branch in the Acholi sub-region. Those 5 young people were on their way to the Youth in Agribusiness Caravan 2017, a platform aiming to motivate young people into agribusiness. Here again, the Kiryandongo trainees were eager to obtain practical hands-on information on what to expect upon completing their training.

Involving former trainees into the training of new recruit has become part and parcel of the approach developed by WPDI to ensure the sustainability of the YPN. Because our goal is for our participants to eventually own the program beyond the lifetime of the project, it is vital that the young people whom we train in different locations develop relations at the earliest stages, so as to create an esprit de corps that will help strengthen their capacity to learn and to deliver in full autonomy.