We Thank and Celebrate these Young Leaders on International Youth Day 2019

At EAI, we know that youth are essential leaders and partners in finding solutions to the issues they face in the world today. They must be fully engaged in their own social development, forging their own paths and building a peaceful future.

THEY’RE BUILDING THE FUTURE

At Equal Access International, we know that youth are essential leaders and partners in finding solutions to the issues they face in the world today. They must be fully engaged in their own social development, forging their own paths and building a peaceful future.

On August 12, 2000, the UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace, and Security designated this day to acknowledge the urgent need to engage young peacebuilders in promoting peace and countering extremism.

On this International Youth Day and all days, we support our youth and thank them for their efforts and successes. Read about some of our young partners below…

CHANGING SOCIAL NORMS IN THE PHILIPPINES

This is Ashley Dejarme. As a Mindanaoan in southern Philippines, she has lived her entire life surrounded by conflict and violence, caught between the actions of separatists, communists, clan militias, and criminal groups.

I am a student, a youth, an idealist, a Mindanaoan, and fortunate enough to be a Peace Promotion Fellow.

Peace Promotion Fellows are young messengers who receive support and mentoring from our staff to provide powerful alternative narratives that prevent and overwhelm the influence of violent extremism.  They are partnered with local organizations and receive a stipend to implement their Peace Projects, which are awarded through a competitive process.

Ashley’s project is the Peace Education Symposium, which focuses on raising awareness for students and young people and ensuring inclusivity for the all the people of Mindanao. To her, peace fellows are people who want to change social norms, people who are tired of conflict, of fear, and of violent extremism in their communities. They are people who have imagined a better Mindanao and want to contribute to a peaceful future.

DOCUMENTING LIFE IN NORTHERN NIGERIA

This is Musa Ishiaku Gwary, one of our Peace Promotion Fellows from Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. For his Peace Project, he set out to document daily life in Borno and some neighboring states.

Armed with high quality digital cameras, recording equipment, and plenty of energy, he has photographed and interviewed shopkeepers, school children, security personnel, and internally displaced persons, showcasing the resilience of people affected by the insurgency. Musa advocates for peaceful coexistence among youth in Nigeria using photography as a tool.

JE M’ENGAGE

Our Voices for Peace (V4P) project supports community leaders and amplifies their alternative narratives through high-impact media programming in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Cameroon. Since the early 2000s, violent extremism has become endemic to parts of the African Sahel and West Africa, where tens of thousands of people have been killed, caught in the violence between extremist groups and state-led counterinsurgency campaigns. The regional conflicts and resulting humanitarian crises have displaced millions within and across national borders.

“Je m’engage” has become a rallying cry for V4P staff as well as those touched by their efforts and activities. Being actively engaged with your community means that no one is overlooked, no one is victimized, and everyone always has a support system nearby.

This young man reaches out to people he’s never met to learn about their lives. Building networks and making new acquaintances is only one way young people are working to build peace and counter extremism.

What actions can I take as a youth in bringing change to my community?

Alarmed and dismayed by the prevalence of violent extremism in his community and feeling that young people are being ignored as potential movers in transforming societies, Lo has decided to take the lead in empowering and training peace volunteers. Using strategies he has learned in capacity building and community organizing and involvement, he is working with his fellow youth to create a whole generation of peacebuilders. Lo has also started using social media platforms to reach a wider range of target communities.

PEACEBUILDING IN GARISSA COUNTY, KENYA

Garissa County has a long history of unrest and violence, vulnerable to the ebb and flow of conflict in neighboring Somalia. It gained global notoriety following the al-Shabaab attack that claimed the lives of 148 people at Garissa Uniersity in April 2015.

Fora Habiba Sharamo attended one of our recent Tech Camps and learned that youth are important partners and leaders who can shape a better future.

Now armed with the knowledge, confidence, and skills to relay messages of peace via social media platforms and in person, these youth leaders are engaging with others and are helping to change the path of Garissa County.

I feel so empowered, so confident to talk about violent extremist organizations. Before the training, I could not even talk in front of people, but now I can deliver my messages.

The original version of this post appears in Exposure.

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