UN Launches Youth Promotion Initiative In Liberia — Wants Engagement In Sustaining Peace And Development

By Patrick S. Tokpah

GBARNGA, BONG COUNTY – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Women, and the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) have concluded and launched the Youth Promotion Initiative (YPI) with a call on women and youth groups to serve as ambassadors of sustainable peace and development in Liberia.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the program, which was held on the main campus of the Cuttington University in Gbarnga, Bong County, UN Women Policy and Inclusion Officer, Fatima Gebi, described women and youths as the most challenged group of people in every society, and stressed the need to build their capacities in various skills, such as peacebuilding, human rights, and vocational and other forms of educational programs that will empower them to contribute meaningfully to their society.

“This is why the Youth Promotion Initiative is intended to accelerate digital opportunities for youth civic participation as a lever for building and sustaining peace in Liberia,” Madam Gebi said.

She informed participants that the two-year youth empowerment program, which will begin in the second quarter of 2024, is headed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and will be implemented jointly with the UN Women and the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The UN Women Policy and Inclusion Officer noted that the goal of the project is to increase opportunities for youth participation in decision-making processes through the digitalization of existing youth and women-led informal platforms, networks, and organizations, and observed that the YPI goal will be achieved by transforming the youth-led “Atayee centers” and women-led Peace Huts into spaces where women and youths can meaningfully participate in political and intergenerational dialogues, interact with political actors, women leaders, mentors, traditional and religious leaders, and other State actors, and connect to formal civic platforms using a digital interface.

“As a part of the project, we will be training 12 youth-led and women-led organizations in peacebuilding, advocacy, and civic education, specifically designed for youth networks dedicated to fostering peacebuilding and advocacy,” the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Program Specialist for Youth and Adolescents, Prutus Sackie, said.

Sackie noted that the participants’ contributions in sustaining peace and development in Liberia are expected to contribute significantly to the success of the training program, as well as discuss and resolve issues that threaten the existence of peace and accord in their communities.

“It is important that together, we empower youth networks to become effective advocates for peace and positive change in their communities, and by large, the country,” he encouraged the participants.

Remarking at the ceremony, the Director for Youth Development at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Sando James, lauded the three UN agencies for launching the YPI in Liberia, saying, “Your commitment to promoting peace and creating a better future for our women and youths cannot be overlooked. We thank you for such a wonderful initiative and promise to work with you and our women to ensure that those issues that affect them are given the appropriate attention.”

He named access to assessable and affordable health care, education, sexual and reproductive health care, various forms of domestic and gender-based violence, equal opportunities for persons with disabilities, and marginalized and minority groups, as some of the issues that women and youths in Liberia are grappling with.

“We hope that they (women and youth groups) will use their various platforms to elevate these issues to raise national concern, as these issues are the bedrock for any country for sustainable peace and development,” the Youth and Sports Youth Director said.

Also speaking at the opening session of the YPI launch in Gbarnga, a human rights officer from the OHCHR called on women and youth groups across the country to use the training as a platform to strengthen their capacity to monitor and report all human rights issues that affect women and youths across all sectors of the country.

Atty. Roosevelt Jayjay said the project which is funded by the United Nations Peace Building Fund, also promotes women and youths’ access to equal opportunities, respect for the rule of law, gender equality and equity, and respect for the rights of all citizens, despite their diversity.

Atty Jayjay encouraged the young people to also use their platforms as a place of learning for others, including wayward and disadvantaged youths, those who are in the habit of using illicit and unprescribed drugs, and other unhealthy substances. Share your success stories with them and encourage and lead them to become people with whom you can share a brighter and better Liberia.

For their part, Mohammed Gandhi Kamara, President of Liberia National Students Union, Seawon S. Lawaiyee, Mano River Union Youth Parliament Liberia Chapter, and Ruth B. Cooper Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection a social worker lauded the three UN agencies for the training. 

The participants described the training as an eye-opener for them, describing it as rewarding. 

They vowed to share the knowledge acquired with their colleagues in their respective organizations in the Country.

Participants of the program were drawn from various youth organizations in Liberia.

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