YES Ends Peace Summit in Lofa

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Cross section of Participants posed shortly after the program

The Youth Exploring Solutions (YES) on Friday, September 21, concluded its inaugural Young Leaders Peace Summit in Zorzor District, Lofa County.

The two-day event, held under the theme, “Peace Matters to All,” was geared towards providing capacity building for youth leaders across the district in conflict management and peace-building relating to trust-building and communication, team-building and leadership, social cohesion, social awareness, and social identity. The event was also held in commemoration of the International Day of Peace.

As an accredited not-for-profit and volunteer grassroots organization, the summit also highlighted the rule of law and responsibilities, conflict resolution and management, active nonviolent action, and vision for Liberia and Guinea to foster sustainable peace.

The event took place at the campus of the Zorzor Rural Teachers Training Institute (ZRTTI) from 20th to 21st of September. The initiative stemmed from Youth Exploring Solutions’ participation in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs-funded 2018 Solutions Summit administered by IREX (International Research & Exchanges Board) and the Embassy of Sweden funded by the Liberian National Youth Peace-building Conference led by Accountability Lab-Liberia.

This inaugural Young Leaders Peace Summit brought together 150 young leaders of diverse backgrounds, whose work focuses on peace-building, violence prevention, and social cohesion. The young peace leaders had the opportunity to share, learn, and connect with other experts and practitioners drawn from Liberia and Guinea.

Adolphus Wade, Commissioner of the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC), urged the participants to exercise religious tolerance, mutual respect as well as respecting the rights and dignity of every human being.

He admonished the participants to live in harmony and adhere to the rule of law and respect for constituted authority. According to him, youth participation in peacebuilding is paramount to maintaining the peace everyone has enjoyed for nearly a decade.

Commissioner Wade cautioned the young people to become peace ambassadors and spread the message of peace to every household, quarter, town, clan, district, and county as well as across the border to neighboring countries.

He underscored the need for young people to utilize social media platforms wisely, to promote sustainable peace, lasting social cohesion, and violence prevention.

“Everyone has a responsibility to maintain peace for the benefit of all and we should muster the courage to keep the peace and never revert to our bitter and barbaric past; we ought to respect the rule of law,” he noted.

Wade also urged young people to respect constituted authority as well as make it their binding duty to engage, educate and empower people of all gender and ages to nurture peace as a way of life.

In remarks, Zorzor District Commissioner, Joseph Bedell, called on men and boys to end gender-based violence and other forms of abuses against women and girls. The Zorzor commissioner recounted the pivotal roles women and girls have played over the years in fostering peace, bolstering reconciliation and strengthening justice in the country.

According to him, women and girls are sharing, loving and caring which enable them to contribute to peacebuilding work at all levels in the society. Bedell said the misconception of cultural, traditional and religious barriers has too often affected women and girls from achieving their full potential and he encouraged them to respect the rights of women and girls.

Furthermore Bernice Taylor, a facilitator speaking on “Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Exclusivity,”  said every so often women and girls suffer from physical and psychological effects of gender-based violence, saying that peace begins in the home before it reaches the community.

“We  have come a long way in transitioning our country from a state of fragility to a more consolidated nation, based on the rule of law and respect for human dignity. Therefore, we cannot continue to treat women and girls as properties and not as partners in progress for the forward match of our country.”

Madam Taylor noted that no more should women and girls be denied the fundamental rights to education, decent life, and their ability to make  informed decision over their bodies.

Mr. Sekou Conde, Commandant of Koyamah District Commissioner of the Republic of Guinea, reaffirmed Guineans’ support to promote peaceful neighborliness among citizens of both countries and explained that promoting peace is paramount to the survivability of Liberia and Guinea. He spoke on the topic: “The Guinean Experience in Grassroots Peace-building Initiative.”

Commissioner Koyamah further disclosed that cross-border peace will booster the free movement of people, foster free trade, improve living standards as well as bolster cross-border security.

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