April 30, 2021 – Recently, the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) successfully recruited 180 local youths hailing from the nine districts of Uganda’s Karamoja Sub-Region to expand its grassroots peace force on the ground there. As part of our flagship program, the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN), these young women and men will be working in the coming years under the aegis of the cohort of the Youth Peacemakers leaders whom we trained last year. Working together in their respective districts, the young leaders and these local youths will assuredly constitute a unique, grassroots force working to promote peace and sustainable development in the sub-region. In a first step toward this goal, the young leaders will shepherd the local youths through a series of intensive training in areas including Peacebuilding, Conflict Resolution, and Business & Entrepreneurship. With this knowledge, they will have the tools they need to become changemakers in their communities.
As one of the poorest sub-regions in all of Uganda, Karamoja’s population has struggled with low-intensity conflict and limited economic development for decades. To help address these and other prevalent issues, WPDI recruited and trained a cohort of 36 Youth Peacemakers last year to help foster positive transformation across the sub-region. These peacemakers will, as part of their mission with us, undertake activities designed to help peacefully transform their communities, such as teaching Conflict Resolution Education to students in primary and secondary schools or starting small businesses aiming to have a social impact in their communities. This is complex work that they will precisely perform with the support of the local youth they are about to train over series of four individual five-day workshops, to be held in each of the nine districts.
To this effect, WPDI started recruitment efforts for local youths at the end of February, establishing contacts and collaborative relationships with local organizations to ensure that our efforts were efficient and well understood across the target locations. For more than one month, our Youth Peacemakers were mobilized to reach other youths in their communities by speaking about their training and work on radio talk shows, in public spaces, and over social media. These efforts received a substantial amount of interest, with 529 youths submitting applications from across the entire sub-region. Of the applicants, 363 youths were shortlisted for interviews, and a review committee comprised of WPDI staff and key local stakeholders, such as local government officials, eventually selected 180 applicants to be trained by our Youth Peacemakers.
In a strong indication of just how well our work has been received by stakeholders in the Karamoja Sub-Region, 155 local officials and leaders participated in the recruitment process. Such a level of endorsement of our presence in the sub-region is key for the future of the program since, in the end, it is with the communities and their leadership that our youths will be working.