In a remarkable initiative aimed at promoting peace and nurturing peaceful coexistence, youth representatives from four local government areas in Plateau State recently gathered at the Valada Hotel in Jos from September 14th to 16th. Organized by Mercy Corps in partnership with the United States Aid (USAID) under the Community Initiatives To Promote Peace (CIPP), this three-day training program sought to equip young leaders with the tools and knowledge needed to create a more harmonious environment for all.
The youth participants, hailing from Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Bassa, and Bokus local government areas, were thoroughly trained in strategies to foster peaceful coexistence within their respective communities. The significance of engaging youth in shaping narratives that can either fuel or prevent conflicts was a central theme throughout the event.
Magdalane Fwangbrine, Director of Youth Development at the Ministry of Youth and Sport Development, delivered a compelling message to the attendees, emphasizing the importance of peace among the youth. She stated, “The program is all about strengthening peace among the youth. As you know, youth represent the majority in every society, and their energy can sometimes be misused to perpetrate violence. When we have peace among the youth, our society will thrive. This training is aimed at sensitizing the youth, who are often involved in crime or violence, to not only tolerate but also live in peace with one another, respecting each other’s values and beliefs. Violence only brings destruction and continuous reprisal attacks, so we aim to shape their minds towards cooperation for a better future.”
The Plateau Youth Council expressed gratitude for the training and emphasized the importance of sustaining the knowledge gained and implementing it in their respective communities. They also pledged their readiness to provide support whenever needed.
Ene Elyonezer Omoha, Mercy Corps CIPP Youth Engagement Officer, while speaking to journalist provided an overview of the program’s objectives, saying, “The CIPP program prioritizes youth engagement and leadership in the peace-building process. We support and strengthen youth structures to lead initiatives that promote peace and development in their communities. This training, known as the Youth Peace Network Sustainability and Capacity Training, aims to empower youth groups and ensure their ability to continue their work beyond CIPP’s involvement. The training includes components like strengthening the networks of youth peace groups in various local government areas, resource mobilization, advocacy, and networking. We also emphasize collaboration with government institutions, such as the Ministry of Youth, to ensure long-term sustainability.”
The participants eagerly developed action plans tailored to their local government areas, which involve advocacy and addressing key issues in their communities. These plans aim to promote unity and change negative stereotypes.
Kefas Mallai, the team lead for Bokus LGA Network, outlined their strategy: “Our first action plan after this meeting is to embark on advocacy visits to traditional rulers, local government chairmen, and other stakeholders, including security agencies. We will also conduct training sessions for the youth in our community. We acknowledge that stereotypes often lead to conflict, and we intend to change this narrative. Criminal perpetrators don’t adhere to religion or ethnic groups, and we want our community to understand this.”
Moses Gata, representing the Bassa LGA Network, highlighted the program’s impact: “This program has enhanced our knowledge, allowing us to improve our activities such as sensitization campaigns and awareness. Advocacy, networking, and resource mobilization have taken on a new dimension, and I am confident that our activities will be more effective. The program’s sustainability is also crucial to us.”
Suleman .H. Musa, a leader from the Barkin Ladi LGA Network, emphasized the need for collaboration among diverse communities: “This training has enlightened us on the importance of uniting with other community members, irrespective of tribe, religion, or political affiliation. Collaboration will give us a sense of belonging and help us address the issues affecting us.”
Taye Lucas, the Senior Program Officer for the CIPP program, reassured participants of ongoing support and collaboration: “The Centre will continue working with you to ensure the implementation of your thematic areas and the involvement of stakeholders in your activities.”
Throughout the training, participants engaged in group discussions, addressing challenges in their respective Plateau communities and offering recommendations.
The event also featured humorous dramas and games that illustrated community issues and demonstrated strategies for fostering peaceful coexistence.