Galvanizing youth for peace
Though great strides have been made since the end of the Liberian civil conflict in 2003 there is still a lot of work to be done to assure sustained peace and development. It is against this backdrop that Messengers of Peace – Liberia (MOP) conceptualized and executed the outreach programme 21 Days of Activism: Volunteerism for Peace and Development to which the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme Liberia has been giving critical support.
To a child in Liberia, the definition of “peace” means clean drinking water, access to a health centre, a permanent roof over his or her head, at least two meals a day and access to education. These were some of the universal themes that came out of the outreach that MOP conducted in six counties of Liberia- Bong, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Montserrado.
The primary purpose of the outreach according to Ms Gwendolyn Myers, Executive Director, MOP was “to promote volunteerism as one of the primary tools for promoting peace and development."
"We targeted youth because we feel that they are the ones who hold the peace of Liberia in their hands." she said. "It is important that they fully understand the benefits they will enjoy from volunteering to sustain the peace in Liberia so that the country can develop in the way that it should.”
UN Volunteers participated in the activities in all six counties and without fail all were struck by the enthusiastic participation of the population. Children, youth and adults alike all congregated in their hundreds to listen to messages of peace and volunteerism proffered by MOP’s volunteer Peace Messengers - young people all under the age of 25 years themselves.
UN Volunteer Ernest Merriman-Johnson, Transport Assistant in Gbarnga (Bong County) was blown away by the level of dedication of the Peace Messengers.
”As an international volunteer working in Liberia for the peace and development of the country I was heartened to see a group of young people spreading the message of peace to their Liberian countrymen. Can you imagine? As an adult you are hearing these messages from young people you are supposed to be leading. I was so impressed by them. Though there were several challenges, they were resolved and determined to deliver their message to the people rain or shine.”
UN Volunteer Lubna Lasu, Civil Affairs Expert, Grand Bassa county, was thrilled to participate in the outreach. “This is a great partnership for us as UN Volunteers,” said Lubna “It falls right in line with our work as volunteers to promote peace and development in Liberia.”
UN Volunteer Human Rights Officer, Sabrina Cajoly, found the outreach very revealing in identifying what ordinary Liberians think is important to maintain the peace.
“Unsafe drinking water, bad road conditions, high school fees were the most cited concerns as potential threats to peace in Liberia as the population’s top requirements of the Government of Liberia," said Sabrina. "Peace indeed implies more than the absence of war."
"Development and respect of human rights -- such as freedom of movement, right to education, and access to safe water – are crucial to prevent conflict and achieve sustainable peace," she continued. "While legitimately awaiting government's response to fulfill its duties, people should show solidarity and help each other through community volunteerism for, as the African proverb says 'The rhino and the giraffe cannot reach the same leaves, but together they can strip the tree.'"
Messengers of Peace carried the message of volunteerism to churches, mosques, schools, open markets, palava huts et al. Everywhere they went they found Liberian youth -and adults- willing to listen to their message and ready and willing to volunteer to do their part. The impact of the work done by the Peace Messengers will be felt for years to come and UN Volunteers are proud to be a part of it.
Bio: UN Volunteer Sarah-Jane Mungo works as Advocacy, Information and Communications Specialist for the UNV Support Unit of the United Nations Mission in Liberia.
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