In Liberia, 4,000 youths and young adults have vowed to: Respect self and others, listen, forgive, respect nature, and act courageously without using violence. The young people who took this Nonviolence Pledge are participants in the Liberia Transition Initiatives' Community Youth Peace Education Program, a nonformal education initiative targeting 18-to-30-year-olds in urban areas. The peace-education program is an outgrowth of the Youth Education for Life Skills (YES) program that is being implemented in rural communities throughout Liberia.
Based on the positive response of rural YES participants - discussing topics of identity, governance, health and the environment - Liberia Transition Initiatives (LTI) quickly recognized that a similar program could address the specific predicament of young, urban Liberians. Young Liberians represent approximately 45 percent of the population, but are faced with an unemployment rate of 80 percent and with an education system that has struggled to function during the past 15 years of civil war. There are currently thousands of young Liberians in urban centers around the country, displaced by the war and not yet ready or willing to return to their communities. Thus, any attempt to target these young people needed to respond to the urban realities.
In November 2004, LTI redesigned the YES curriculum with urban-focused topics and initiated the Community Youth Peace Education Program. The peace-education program is now active in five cities: Monrovia, Kakata, Gbarnga, Ganta and Tubmanburg, with 63 communities within those cities participating.
As part of the program in the five cities, thousands of younger Liberians, with the potential for violence and disruption of the peace process, undergo an intensive six-week course that is beginning to have an impact on their lives and communities. Not only are they learning and discussing topics that are of interest to them, but they are doing so in new ways. One 23-year-old participant recently stated that she now "realizes that learning by group discussions and role play is more practical than lectures from one individual, as sharing generates more knowledge."
Participants are encouraged to share their experiences and perspectives and thus have an opportunity to review their own behavior. One young woman taking part in Kakata said during her training program: "I used to be the one to add to the conflict... , but since the training I have taken on a new role. I am the one who tries to help people resolve conflicts whenever and wherever I see them."
The Nonviolence Pledge undoubtedly helps remind the young Liberians of their responsibilities in creating lasting peace as they commit:
- To make peace start within us, in our
homes, schools and community.
- To become, as best we can, nonviolent
and peaceable people.
- To respect self and others: To respect
myself, to affirm others, and to avoid uncaring criticism, hateful words,
physical or emotional attacks, negative peer pressure, and self-destructive
behavior, including abuse of alcohol and drugs.
- To communicate better: To share my feelings
honestly, to look for safe ways to express my anger and other emotions,
to work at solving problems peacefully, and to encourage communication
throughout the community.
- To listen: To listen carefully to others,
especially those who disagree with me, and to consider others' feelings
and needs as valid as my own.
- To forgive: To apologize and make amends
when I have hurt another, to forgive others and keep from holding grudges.
- To respect nature: To treat the environment
and all living things with respect and care and to promote a less violent
society; to avoid social activities that make violence look exciting or
- To act courageously: To actively challenge violence in all forms, whether at home, at school, at work, or in the community, and to stand with others who are treated unfairly.
In Washington: Donna Kerner, Senior Program Manager, 202-712-0716, email@example.com