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GPF Forum Hosts Private-Sector Leaders on Strategies for Youth Engagement in Peacebuilding

Empowering youth, amplifying their voices, and developing their moral and innovative leadership skills are important priorities to create peaceful schools and communities according to panelists at a March 30, 2022, forum, “Developing Youth Potential for Peace.”  

Moderator Matt Gamble, Programme Coordinator for Co-operation
Ireland (left), and GPF Vice President for Education Dr. Tony Devine
represented the forum co-sponsors.

Panelists shared insights and experiences in supporting youth in developing countries as well as presented brief overviews of private sector initiatives addressing youth opportunity and peacebuilding. The program was part of a two-day virtual Peacesharing Forum, “Uplifting Youth Engagement for Building Peace,” sponsored by the Global Peace Foundation and Co-operation Ireland.

Aziizi Kafeero, the founder of Kafeero Foundation, a Uganda-based nonprofit working in nine African countries to support youth social enterprise, emphasized the importance of creating spaces where students can cultivate creative and critical thinking while collaborating with peers and experts to share ideas, connect globally, and build relationships.

Mr. Kafeero said governments frequently fail to provide young people with affordable and accessible tools, or sufficient training in technology and the use of digital spaces. He also introduced his foundation’s newest online platform, afwego.com, which seeks to assist young entrepreneurs and innovators with their start-ups and businesses.

Tony Sgro, CEO of EdVenture Partners (EVP), said developing leadership and critical thinking skills was essential to prevent violence and hate in schools and communities. He explained that engaging students in different activities allows them to develop multiple skills and thus have more opportunities for personal and professional growth.  

Women against Violent Extremism (WAVE) is a student-developed program in Nigeria to counter efforts of insurgents to recruit young girls as suicide bombers. Courtesy of EdVenture Partners.

EPV has partnered with nearly 1,000 academic institutions in 75 countries, and more than 175,000 students have participated in EVP’s peer to peer, experiential learning programs. EVP’s Invent2Prevent program, Mr. Sgro said, challenges students to initiate or promote social and digital campaigns to prevent violence and terrorism.

Adapting technology for peace

Technology has become a critical component connecting people with knowledge and opportunities to foster peaceful societies and communities, observed Benjamin Makai, Senior Manager for Technology and Development at Safaricom, a Kenya-based telecommunications company. He stressed the importance of providing digital tools and services to young people, particularly through mobile phones, so that they can become agents of change.

Forum presenters clockwise from top left: Benjamin Makai, Safaricom
Senior Manager for Technology and Development, Kenya; Tony Sgro,
Chief Executive Officer, EdVenture Partners, USA; Aaryan Salman,
President, Global Citizenship Foundation, India; Aziizi Kafeero,
Founder, Kafeero Foundation, Uganda

Mr. Makai said is critical to guide young people in the use of technology to foster peaceful coexistence, a concept he thinks the corporate sector should include among its strategic objectives. He specifically recognized the Mpesa Foundation Academy, a residential school for talented but economically disadvantaged students with demonstrated leadership potential that provides space to explore their creativity and curiosity while becoming more self-accountable.

The final panelist, Aaryan Salman, President of the  India-based Global Citizenship Foundation, cited the lack of access to basic digital and communication resources, particularly in developing countries. He urged policymakers to develop the leaders of tomorrow by trusting them to be leaders today. Decisionmakers need to trust youths to be capable of reflecting on their actions and becoming more responsible, he said.

Mr. Salman stated that at the base of all his foundation’s activities is a willingness to empower every young person to have their own innovative and original mindset, while promoting a “culture of practice” where collaborative leadership and global citizenship are core components.

Panelists also discussed the significant role of teachers in supporting youth. Because teachers and educators are not being provided with the necessary tools, too often well-designed programs at the policy level do not have the expected impact when implemented. Training and equipping educators with the most effective digital and technological tools will help them enhance their students’ learning process, panelists said.

Students from Nigeria, Kenya, and India shared their perspectives on youth contributions to peacebuilding.

Global Peace Foundation Vice President for Education Dr. Tony Devine closed the panel by urging educators to support young people in becoming problem solvers who think critically and build collaborative relationships. A common effort is needed to remove barriers to access to technology and connectivity, especially in developing countries, he said. The combination of all these elements will enable students to further develop their creativity and entrepreneurial mindset, as well as empower them to welcome, and grow, from challenges.

The five session Peacesharing Forum was co-sponsored by the Global Peace Foundation and Co-operation Ireland and is available to view On-Demand.