In Uganda, more than 78% of the population is below the age of 30. These represent an enormous untapped potential that can significantly contribute to the country’s political and social development if they are actively involved in influencing, shaping, designing and contributing to policy formulation and development processes. That being said, it is critical that youth inclusively participate in peacebuilding processes to ensure sustainable and inclusive peace.
Daniel Omara is a youth leader in Acholi Quarters Banda, home to some of the LRA war survivors in Northern Uganda. Here he has served as a youth leader since 2019 and is also the General Secretary of the Lango community.
In March 2021, Omara was one of the participants of the youth leadership and peacebuilding training organised by the Peace Centre with an aim of enhancing the skills and attitudes of youth to effectively promote peace, and enhance leadership and development that is gender-responsive.
Within the community, Omara and a group of youth started 3 initiatives; an online platform on Facebook, Space Media through which live sessions of professional discussions on various issues related to politics, society and culture that affect the community are held, and a storytelling hub for the youth living in Banda B1 and B3 addressing issues such as gender-based violence, drug abuse, forced marriage held every last Sunday of the month as well as a project called “Let Girls Be Girls”, an initiative aimed at distributing sanitary pads to young girls as a way of supporting them to stay in school and promoting menstrual hygiene.
Since the training, Omara with the support of other youth has used these platforms to create awareness and sensitise the masses about the dangers of community vices like drug abuse while offering solutions for problems like these which he thinks have helped with the reduction of GBV cases that were on the rise.
Trained in peace mediation, he has been able to resolve recurring conflict issues in his community while working with local courts and police. “I had an opportunity to mediate one of the cases at the local court and during the process, we realised that both parties were in the wrong and with the mediation skills I had just learnt, I was able to find common ground to enable reconciliation between the two parties.” He told the peace centre.
Omara’s confidence and self-motivation too have since increased as he is now able to speak up openly against vices in the community. He is now very articulate with his words and can express himself with a lot of ease. “After the training in March, I went to KCCA and presented the issue of the water crisis in my community and they appreciated my presentation because it was articulate and straight to the point.” He told the Peace Centre.
Unfortunately, one of the major challenges youth face in this community is the negative attitudes from conservative elders of the community who are rigid and not willing to adapt to change. Instead, try so hard to frustrate the initiatives put in place rather than supporting them. The unwillingness of local leaders to work with youth due to negative perceptions that they cannot perform their roles effectively has immensely contributed to the collapse of many initiates in this community.
However, despite the many challenges in the community, Omara is not giving up.
By this time next year, he hopes to have reached over 10,000 girls through the “Let Girls Be Girls” initiative. He also wants to be able to liaise with different political leaders to bring various livelihood projects, and hands-on skills like craft making to keep youth engaged. He believes this will contribute to the reduction of drug abuse and other negative vices in his community.
With the existence of the storytelling hub, Omara intends to use the avenue and his position as General Secretary of the Lango community to meet more youth to amplify the peace message to them.