Recognizing Young Peacebuilders: A Key Step for Sustainable Peace
Anthonia Folashade, Director for Welfare,
Building Blocks for Peace Foundation
All over the globe, the critical role of young men and women in maintaining peace and security is gaining significant attention, all thanks to the historic adoption of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2250, the first UNSC resolution on Youth, Peace, and Security. This historic global policy framework which was adopted in December 2015 explores how conflict impacts young people’s lives and what must be done to mitigate its effects. It specifically calls for the recognition of young people as critical stakeholders in conflict prevention and peace processes.
The importance of the UNSC Resolution 2250 cannot be overemphasized as it laid the foundation for several other UNSC Resolutions such as resolutions 2419 and 2535 and also the African Union Continental Framework on Youth, Peace, and Security (2020), and has also played a key role in the development of Nigeria’s National Roadmap for the implementation of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.
In 2018, Building Blocks for Peace Foundation, a youth non-governmental organization championing the advocacy and implementation of the Youth, Peace, and Security agenda in Nigeria introduced the ‘Nigeria Youth 4 Peace Award’ which is aimed at identifying and recognizing ‘Most Outstanding Young Peacebuilders’ in Nigeria annually. In this article, we shall reflect on the impact of the Nigeria Youth4Peace award on the works of two past awardees.
About the Nigeria Youth 4 Peace Award
Nigeria Youth4Peace Award is an annual event designed to reward, celebrate and showcase young people who are making exceptional efforts in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and sustainable development across Nigeria. And it is put up in commemoration of the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250, the first UNSC resolution on Youth, Peace, and Security. Previous winners have benefitted from micro-grants, technical guidance, and several peacebuilding materials from Building Blocks for Peace Foundation together with her partners.
Some of the requirements for application include that the applicant must be a Nigerian or in the case of Non-Nigerians, their activities must be on Nigeria soil and they must be between 18–35 years of age. Also, all applicants must be working on conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and sustainable development, and all previous winners are usually exempted from new applications. Final winners are usually determined by a panel of judges made up of credible Nigerians across all sectors of life.
Oluwatoyin Esther Agaja (Most Outstanding Female Young Peacebuilder, 2020)
Oluwatoyin Esther Agaja is a Nigerian young woman who is working to become a transformational leader. She is a youth development advocate; founder of Eco Diversified International, an organization that is working to promote Climate and Environmental literacy among the young generation and supports the Sustainable Development Goals.
Oluwatoyin is a graduate of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Pure/Applied Chemistry. Her passion for more knowledge led her to take professional certification courses which include Project Management Professional, Health, Safety and Environment (HSE 1–3), Diploma in Environmental Management, Facility Management among others.
Having received the award as the 2020 Most Outstanding Young Peacebuilders (Female category) in Nigeria and the allocated micro-grant of $150, Oluwatoyin was able to carry out a project themed; Education for sustainable development: peacebuilding as a necessary tool to achieving economic and sustainable development.
Oluwatoyin implemented her project in Olomi area of Ibadan, the Southwestern part of Nigeria. Her target group was students in JSS 1- SSS 3, totaling 30 students, consisting of 18 females and 12 males.
She focused on sensitizing the students on the importance of peacebuilding in order to tackle the problem of climate change in their immediate society, and every other location they find themselves. Oluwatoyin reported being so proud of carrying out the project with the seed grant as it enabled her the opportunity to raise eco-consciousness among residents of Ibadan through climate change education, peacebuilding education, education for sustainable development. One of the outcomes of her sensitization program is that the students developed a positive mindset toward the need for peace as a necessary tool to achieve sustainable development.
Michael Afolami (Most Outstanding Male Young Peacebuilder, 2020)
Michael Afolami is a young peacebuilder and development professional with over four years of experience in leveraging development for peace and conflict prevention. He is the founder and program manager of Peace Actor Network (PAN), a peacebuilding organization using peace education, capacity building and community engagement to build peace and prevent violent conflict in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
At PAN, Michael leads the design, monitoring and evaluation of peacebuilding and development projects. Michael holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations. He is a global advocate with IMCS Pax Romana where he is engaged with the advocacy to curb youth violence through meaningful youth education, empowerment, employment, and engagement in political processes. Michael is a compassionate integrity advocate, Erasmus virtual dialogue facilitator, peace ambassador of the Institute for Economics and Peace, and an alumnus of the Young African Leaders Initiative network. His research interest is generally on the peace-conflict-development nexus.
After winning the Nigeria Youth 4 Peace Award 2020 (Male Category) and receiving the micro grant from Building Blocks for Peace, Michael was able to organize a project centered on Youth4Peace training and dialogue both for youth and traditional rulers, themed; Empowering Youth as Agents of Peace and Non-violent Action in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, with 13 youth (two females and 11 males), and 1 traditional ruler in attendance as against 25 youth and 6 traditional rulers earlier planned.
According to a pre-evaluation exercise carried out on the participants before the training by Michael, the participants had no clear understanding of the relationship between peace, conflict, and violence, and the UNSC Resolution 2250, but after taking them through the modules, shedding more light on them, and giving them a safe space to engage and participate, they had a clear understanding of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.
Although, Michael had highlighted some challenges which he faced during the course of the project, some of which include unfavorable weather conditions, internal community politics, inability to mobilize participants, shortage of funds, and a host of many others.
According to Michael, the $150 microgrant he received from Building Blocks for Peace Foundation enabled him to make a relative impact in his community.
As we continue to advocate for the meaningful inclusion of young people and their recognition as equal partners in the peace processes, Building Blocks for Peace would continue to highlight the positive contributions of young men and women in Nigeria and Africa to peace processes in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 2250, African Union Continental Framework on Youth, Peace and Security and the recently adopted Nigeria’s National Action Plan on Youth, Peace and Security (2021).