International Youth Day: celebrating young people building peace

Children and young people often go unheard in war zones. The challenges they face are unique and urgent. But this is not the only story. To celebrate International Youth Day, we share stories from three young people who are using their passion and power to build a better future – so that the next generation does

 

Children and young people face urgent challenges in war zones. Their experiences are often harrowing, and often go unheard.

Many, some younger than ten years old, are forced to become fighters. Some are separated from their families and face abuse and abduction as they fend for themselves. Others become refugees, an uncertain future away from their home awaiting them. But this is not the only story.

This International Youth Day, we want to recognise the enormous challenges young people face in war and conflict. But, more importantly, we’re celebrating their crucial role in building a peaceful future for themselves and their communities.

Today we share stories from three young people who are using their passion and power to build a future in which the next generation does not have to face the things they have.

 

Choosing journalism over guns in Nigeria

 

In Kano, northern Nigeria, local organisation Peace Initiative Network runs a number of activities to encourage young people to lead peaceful lives. As part of their work, they run a peace club which teaches local youth the importance of factual journalism. Usmen, who is seventeen years old, explains the importance of the peace club and what he learns there.

‘’I have been in the peace club for four months. I learn how to talk to people, how to interview them and I learn about studying. I also learn how to report the crisis in the country [Boko Haram violence] and other global crises.

I live nearby and I speak to local people about the problems we face.’’

For Usmen and many other young people in this part of Nigeria, militant group violence is a daily threat to their lives as they know them.

‘’Boko Haram kidnap us and there is violence. I want to stop that violence when I’m older. With journalism, we can take our reports to the police and other agencies. Journalism helps because we talk about conflict in a non-biased way. It helps us to be open minded. This helps people learn about what is really happening and helps us find ways to solve the crisis.

When I grow up I want to be a BBC journalist and I also want to work for peace in my country.’’

 

Fighting for equality and peace in northern Pakistan

 

Nosheen Jamal, is turning stereotypes on their head in northern Pakistan as she fights for women’s rights and equality.

Nosheen Jamal, started participating in the training run by our local partner, Aware Girls, in Pakistan.

She had not received more than 10 years of education and comes from a place where women’s roles in society are strictly limited – where they are kept out of politics and decision making.

But now, Nosheen Jamal is now emerging as an amazing women and peace activist.

Following the training, Nosheen established her own local campaigning group (called the Qabayeli Khor Organisation) which brings together women activists from all over her region to advocate against the government legislation that deprives women of their rights.

Nosheen is reaching out to women who are victims of this legislation, and the cultural customs it is based on, and has started linking them with media and civil society organisations to help them access the justice and services they require.

Through her activism, she is also working to counter radicalisation by advocating for changes to policy that have lead to poor governance and open spaces for extremists.

 

A chance for prosperity rather than violence in Somalia

 

Mohamed Abdi had a difficult childhood. His father died before he was born and, growing up, his disabled mother struggled to take care of him. She sold charcoal to make a living, and managed to make enough to send him to a local school. He was a good student, and volunteered at the local mosque reading out prayers during worship.

As militant group al-Shabaab took control of Kismayo where he lived, he thought about joining their ranks. Luckily, he was persuaded not to. But he and his mother still struggled to survive. She had fewer customers for her charcoal business. They survived on donations from the mosque, and the little his mother made from her business.

Desperate to transform their lives, Mohamed found out about training from SADO. He began training to become an electrician. He received $60 a month to live on during his course, crucial money that covered their basic living costs and allowing him the time to study.

Now Mohamed has graduated and is beginning to use his new skills to earn a living. ‘’I wish to have enough money to ensure my mother’s well being’’ he says. He no longer has to consider joining an armed group to ensure the survival of himself and his mother.

It costs on average £216 to provide training for these young people to become peacebuilders. From here, they can go on to teach others what they’ve learned, and used their skills to support themselves and their communities.

Together we can support incredible young people like this to become the next leaders, and positive role models, in their communities. As much as violence has knocked down, they have stood back up. Today’s youth fight for a better tomorrow because they are the ones who will live it. Now is the time to support them.

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