Bopolu City, Gbarpolu County - The Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), an accredited non-for-profit and passionate grassroots youth-led development organization has conducted two Swedish Embassy modeled breakfast meetings in Gbarpolu and Lofa counties.
The Breakfast meetings were geared towards ascertaining information as it relates to sustaining and preserving Liberia’s fragile peace.
It also painstakingly assesses the opportunities and challenges to building peace co-existence.
Besides, the meeting provided a unique platform for exploring community-based and town-hall styled peacebuilding approaches to solving or somewhat minimizing some of the most critical and pressing peace building issues.
In addition, the meeting was in pursuant to a breakfast conversation between the Embassy of Sweden and 27 young Liberian leaders from civil society and the private sectors in May 2016 on the role of young people in maintaining Liberia’s peace.
The conversation resulted in a call for organizing the first-ever national youth conference on peace building, which was then developed and validated.
Over 75 young people participated in the breakfast meetings in Gbarpolu and Lofa counties, particularly in Bopolu, Vionjama and Saleayea districts.
The participants aged between 18 to 35 years old represented the youth from across the counties regardless of the tribal identity, the dialect spoken, religion confessed, social status, the level of education, and family background.
Moreover, local government officials, community-based organizations, youth groups, religious institutions among other stakeholders also attended the meetings.
Young People who are every so often branded as unserious and violent spoke out about the importance of building peace, identified the challenges to sustainable peace, and proffered grassroots-based approaches to foster lasting peace in Liberia.
In Gbarpolu County the youth took the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) methodology towards sustaining peace in the counties.
The participants were separated into four groups and allowed to present findings.
On the other hand, in Lofa County the participants were placed into five group to respond to the following open-ended questions:
“What are the opportunities for peace building? What are the challenges for peace building?
What needs to be done by our leaders for peace building? What can the international community do for peace building?”
A young leader from Gbarpolu County expressly described what peace means in these words:
“The threat to peace in Gbarpolu County is not merely the absence of UNMIL or a limited number of ill-equipped State Security personnel; it is the lack of jobs, healthcare, inaccessible roads, inadequate water & sanitation, and most importantly access to quality, affordable, efficient and effective education for all.
"We have only one vocational school and no institution of higher learning, so we have to commute to Monrovia to find a better education”.
21-year-old, Watta Sheriff stressed the need to empower young people and unshackle their minds to believe in themselves and take positive action to change their communities.
“We are very grateful for this meeting because we need to be educated and empowered to building peace not only in our family, but our community and country.
As you made be aware, we are the custodians of peace and the natural resources of our country—the timber, diamond and other minerals in Gbarpolu County will be of no use if we are not working together to make our county peaceful” Ms. Sheriff pointed out.
For his part, Honorable Paul Kimba, Development Superintendent of Gbarpolu County expressed gratitude to Youth Exploring Solutions for organizing the Breakfast Meeting in Gbarpolu.
“On behalf of the county authority, we want to extol the Embassy of Sweden for initiating such an innovative idea to brainstorm about possible peace building approaches”.
Young and energetic Beatrice N’dorbor of Voinjama City who has tasted the bitter swill of civil conflict and the deadly Ebola virus disease could not hold back her praises for the Breakfast Meeting.
“We have long awaited a platform like this to explore practical solutions for peaceful co-existence."
Lofa is home to diverse ethnic groups and religious beliefs.
However, today’s meeting has taught me to think that peace and unity in diversity is possible in spite of all the challenges.
"We just need to muster the courage to know that wisdom is better than strength and the new Liberia is possible through our own creative, culture and national proud” Ms. N’dorbor noted."
Theresa Honnah, President of Lofa County Female Association emphasized the need for the Government and international partners to support reconciliation and peace building efforts across the country not only through musical extravaganza and sporting festival, but with dialogue and empowerment initiatives of young people who were either participants or victims of the 14 years of civil strife.
The Embassy of Sweden intends to support young people to work on the Liberian Youth Peace Building National Conference which will take place from April 25 to 26, 2017.
The conference will further consolidate young people’s thinking and actions on Liberia’s national interest, peace, and stability and sustainable economic prosperity.
The conference will ensure that diverse voices of young people come alive on the need to take initiatives, synergize and build coalition and confidence in the pursuit of sustainable peace.
The conference will also focus on tangible initiatives to economically empower young people.