Young people play an essential role in sustaining peace, strengthening social cohesion and preventing conflict.
Their work is even more relevant in the challenging times of the coronavirus pandemic.
To mark the open debate on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) on 27 April 2020, as well as the first ever Secretary General Report on YPS, we invite you to discover some of the young people building peace around the globe, and their thoughts on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their communities.
Saumya Aggarwal, 23, India
How is she making a difference? Saumya is the co-head of a youth-led peacebuilding organization called Youth for Peace International, a social entrepreneur and an artist. She works with young people who have experienced armed violence first hand. Art is a constant inspiration and she uses art therapy to address issues like the rehabilitation of refugees and violence against women. In addition to working directly with young people through workshops and training, her organization provides rehabilitation support to Rohingya Refugees, and they engage in advocacy and campaigning to focus attention to advance youth peace and security.
How has her community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? According to Saumya marginalized communities like refugees and migrants are most affected by the pandemic, while girls and women are facing domestic violence and young people are undergoing mental health issues, fueled by the uncertainty of their jobs.
“We are working on creating safe spaces for young people to practice mindfulness because as young people we need to step up to support communities at risk for which we need to take care of our well-being first.”
Nigina Shukurova, 15, Tajikistan
How is she making a difference? Nigina is a high school student and a volunteer in her community. After taking part in a peacebuilding project supported by UNICEF in her community, she has continued her journey to advocate for peace. Nigina runs a project for young journalists which enables young people to express themselves through videos and writing and promotes social responsibility.
“We also organize joint cultural events that become a platform to bring communities - and especially youth - together and the interaction helps overcome misunderstanding."
How has her community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? At the time of publishing Tajikistan still did not have confirmed cases, but Nigina’s hometown is near the border with Kyrgyzstan, which does have cases. She has focused on making sure that communities and schools have access to the correct information on preventative measures.
“I am using UNICEF and WHO information materials and because I speak English, I mainly access all the firsthand information.”
Malamine Sarre, 18, Mali
How is he making a difference? Malamine is a high school student who is passionate about theater. The biggest challenges in his community are environmental issues, conflicts between young people who join armed groups, and youth unemployment Malamine is a part of a group of young people who help keep their community clean and spread messages of peace and social cohesion.
How has his community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? After receiving a training by UNICEF on COVID-19, Malamine, along with his aunt and uncle, are helping to raise awareness in their community about the presence of the virus. He’s also been creating videos on the topic that he shares with his friends.
Nicole Mbambu Musimbi, 22, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo
How is she making a difference? Nicole is an active member of the Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a program of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. In her region, women in both urban and rural areas experience many challenges due to violence and the belief among some that women are not equal to men. Using theatre and radio as tools, Nicole trains and mentors young women to have the confidence to reach their full potential, to meet the challenges facing their communities, to raise awareness, and to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
“Women are not only victims but also actors of progress and change.”
How has her community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? In her community there have been many issues related to the spread of misinformation. Nicole is raising awareness online to tackle misinformation and calling for solidarity to help those in need.
Farukhjon Usmonov, 21, Tajikistan
How is he making a difference? Farukhjon is a journalism student who also works as a reporter with a local TV station. He comes from a part of the country near the border with Kyrgyzstan that has a history of conflict. Since 2016 he has been part of ‘Call for Peace’, an initiative engaging young people from both sides of the border to eliminate the deep-rooted mistrust between the communities. He’s hosted seminars and helped set up social projects that focus on peace, friendship and coexistence. One of the projects he focused on got youth from both communities to clean up a local canal that neither community was addressing.
“[We] showed that young people from two conflicting communities can work on joint rehabilitation of a common canal.”
How has his community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? At the time of publishing Tajikistan still did not have confirmed cases. However Farukhjon has been involved in raising awareness through TV and is thinking about a project that could be implemented if the situation changes.
Tamara Nazeh Issa Matar, 23, Jordan
How is she making a difference? Tamara is from Mafraq, in northern Jordan, where half the population is made up of Syrians. Tamara is part of an organization that helps vulnerable families in the area by delivering essential products, including food.
How has her community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? According to Tamara, one of the biggest effects of the emergency has been the negative ideas that people have developed. She says she is trying her best to spread positive energy and the idea of looking at the “glass half full,” rather than “half empty.”
“I think that the best help we can provide the community is by following the rules and laws, committing to the general safety and staying at home as much as possible.”
Rima Sultana Rimu, 18, Bangladesh
How is she making a difference? Rimu is a Young Woman Leader for Peace, a college student and she enjoys writing poetry and stories. Her peacebuilding work is focused on removing gender discrimination, teaching literacy skills, preventing child marriage, and performing community theater to raise awareness. One of the biggest challenges she has faced in her work was stopping a child marriage in her own family. She did this by educating her family about the negative impacts of child marriage and explaining the harm it would cause.
How has she been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Rimu is unable to attend college right now due to the virus. Exams have stopped for a few months and this has affected her and other young people.
Anas Zain, 23, Jordan
How is he making a difference? Anas is a software engineering student, a fan of astronomy and a refugee from Syria. He volunteers as an English tutor to help his peers learn English. Anas thinks that a lack of English language knowledge is a barrier to success for the children in his community, which is why he is committed to changing the situation.
How has his community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Anas had to stop tutoring English in-person. However, he is trying to get his peers and children to use Zoom to communicate with him and to keep up with their assignments.
“I want to make sure that everyone can continue to learn, while staying home safe and sound.”
Agatha Lydia Natania, 25, Indonesia
How is she making a difference? Agatha is the head of International Relations for the ASEAN Youth Organization (AYO), which provides opportunities for youth in the region through youth development programs, training, workshops and discussions, to build young people’s skills and promote tolerance in the region.
“In a region with very diverse cultures and religions, we are prone to conflicts and hatred that can hamper the peace in our region. That is why in my projects, I prioritize intercultural learning including peace studies and interfaith collaboration to be passed on to younger generations to build tolerance since the early stage of their life."
How has her community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? A lot of young people in the region have faced difficulties with their studies and skills-development during this pandemic. In response AYO has created online discussions and campaigns to support young people to take care of their health and develop their skills through digital platforms.
Parvina Jumaeva, 21, Tajikistan
How is she making a difference? Paravina is a university student who comes from a region bordering with Kyrgyzstan where there has been a history of conflict between communities. She started her volunteering journey as part of a peacebuilding project supported by UNICEF and since then she has been busy with many different social projects with other young people in her community.
“I started a newspaper and I involved the girls from the other side of the border to also write stories and contribute to the content of my newspaper. This newspaper quickly became a popular reading piece in our school. By reading each other’s stories, within a very short time, it came to be known that we knew so little about each other, and there were many commonalities between us.”
How has her community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? At the time of publishing Tajikistan still did not have confirmed cases.
Nur Aisyah Maullidah, 19, Indonesia
How is she making a difference? Nur is an international relations student and part of Young Women Leaders (YWL) for Peace and other peace and youth leadership organizations. Her work focuses on mobilizing women and adolescent girls who live in conflict-affected areas to become peacebuilders. The YWL works to amplify inclusive peace, promote gender equality, raise multi-faith peace awareness, and women’s empowerment.
“We fully realize that the very basic thing that we need to do is raise awareness of the importance of young women’s involvement in order to build sustainable peace and ensure gender equality.”
How has her community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? A big challenge in Indonesia is the rapid spread of misinformation - especially on social media. In response, Nur and her peers are developing trustworthy content for social media, and reaching those who don’t have access to the internet through radio and the network of young women leaders.
Ousmane Traore, 28, Mali
How is he making a difference? Ousmane is a photographer and blogger. He works in the media and civil society on themes such as citizenship, education, the environment and democracy.
How has his community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak?
“We already live in a fragile setting with security and educational crisis. Now on top of this comes a health and sanitation crisis. The curfew and social distancing rules mean all economic activities are slowing down. People are having a hard time making ends meet, and most are exposed unwillingly to COVID-19.”
In this context, Ousmane is focused on raising awareness on the necessary health precautions and working with people developing solutions to combat COVID-19.
Remah Habashneh, 25, Jordan
How is she making a difference? Remah is a volunteer for an organization called Generations For Peace. For over 3 years, she has been a youth activist engaged in civil society and humanitarian organizations. She started her community work by enrolling in various skill development programmes and volunteering in different local youth and community initiatives. She has worked with several projects targeting different social groups including women, children, youth, and refugees.
“Through these projects, I have become more aware of the issues facing my community and started searching for solutions that each member of my society can be a part of.”
How has her community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? With a lot of people staying at home, Remah is trying to use this time to stay connected with her community and to provide supportive content.
Fatimata Toure, 27, Mali
How is she making a difference? Fatimata is a blogger who uses her platform to positively influence her community and sensitize young people about peace. Her organization, Global Peace Chain Mali focuses on raising awareness and advocacy about peace and citizenship, as well as supporting underserved schools. She also helps organize conferences, petitions that promote peace.
“Awakening young people to the importance of their role in the peace processes, is one of our greatest challenges. But we also cultivate in them a culture of peace, and an understanding of their rights and responsibilities as young and engaged citizens.”
How has her community been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Fatimata has seen the impact of COVID-19 on her community - income generating activities have slowed, as have many community projects. Her organization is working on a digital campaign using videos and visuals sensitizing communities on COVID-19.