Young women leaders are agents of peace & beacons of hope: Testimonies of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace

Young women leaders are agents of peace & beacons of hope: Testimonies of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace

Young women leaders are agents of peace & beacons of hope: Testimonies of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace

September 21, 2018 by Katrina Leclerc*

“I know how it feels to be a victim of war and that is not the reality that I desire for myself, for my family and for my community. For me, fighting for peace is a human responsibility and a personal commitment.” – Lynrose Jane D. Genon, Girl Ambassador for Peace (Philippines)

On International Peace Day, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and its Girl Ambassadors for Peace program stand united with young women across the world in calling for peace and enabling leaders of today. As Girl Ambassadors for Peace, Emilie Katond (Democratic Republic of Congo), Ilmiyah Maslahatul (Indonesia), and Lynrose Jane D. Genon (Philippines) share their stories of resilience and passion to inspire others to join their efforts.

The Girl Ambassadors for Peace (GA4P) was first established in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2014 and is now operational in five countries (DRC, South Sudan, Indonesia, Philippines, and soon in Bangladesh). Girl Ambassadors for Peace are members of a global network of young women and girls who promote peace, women and girls’ rights by implementing the UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 2250 and their supporting resolutions – through education, empowHERment, and community activism.

Together, GA4P members, are a united face in light of adversity and conflict. Through the four components of their work: leadership, literacy, peacebuilding, and economic empowerment, GA4P members have become crucial actors for peace and development in their communities and the world. They embody the ideal of positive peace and provide positive examples of young, female leadership, even in the face of violence and marginalization.

Another important aspect of the program is to provide opportunities and support young women’s voices. Emilie, Ilmiyah, and Lynrose are prime examples of strong, young women who use their voices to raise the narrative and inspire communities to fight towards a peaceful future.

We sat down with Emilie, Ilmiyah, and Lynrose and asked them three key questions in light of 2018’s International Peace Day. Here’s their message for this year’s Peace Day:

 

Emilie Katond (Democratic Republic of Congo)

 

1. Why is fighting for peace important?

It is important to fight for peace because a country cannot advance economically or continue to develop if there is war.

2. How do you stay hopeful despite violence around you?

I remain hopeful because of my confidence and faith that one day we will have lasting peace. With the courage that drives me, I see the potential in working together with other young leaders who are advocating for peace, and together we will create lasting peace.

3. What are the Girl Ambassadors doing to promote peace in DRC?

We are educating young people about UN Security Council Resolution 1325, resolutions related to women, peace, and security, as well as Resolution 2250 which speaks to youth involvement in peacebuilding; conflict management, women’s leadership; entrepreneurship; and education regardless of gender. Being a Girl Ambassador for Peace, I promise we will achieve peace despite the long period of time my country has been known for killing and rape.

 

Ilmiyah Maslahatul (Indonesia)

 

1. Why is fighting for peace important?

I am involved with GA4P because we are role models for young women and girls in promoting the women, peace, and security agenda. We challenge the beliefs of the government about peacebuilding and encourage young women to participate.

2. How do you stay hopeful despite violence around you?

I have the power to promote peace and female participation in peacebuilding and decision-making through my organization.

3. What are the Girl Ambassadors doing to promote peace in Indonesia?

We meet with national and local leaders to express our views on the various problems in our community and the country as a whole. My organization influences the way my community members think. Women who are less active will participate in making decisions, motivated by the desire to end radicalization and violent extremism. We are also improving our English language skills.  

 

Lynrose Jane D. Genon (Philippines)

 

1. Why is fighting for peace important?

Peace is important for it keeps you safe, and it frees you from living in constant fear. I have experienced the ugliness of violent conflict when I was 13 when our hometown was attacked by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) because of the failure of their peace agreement with our government. I was made to understand conflict and witness it firsthand at a very young age. It was traumatic, and I don’t want that to happen again.

Peace is important because it sustains life, and I fight for peace because I value and respect life. I have seen how wars killed lives, shattered homes and communities. I have seen how the Marawi Siege, for example, has displaced more than 350,000 individuals, destroyed millions of infrastructures, damaged social structures, and created divides in the communities. I have seen how hard it is to leave home and live in an evacuation center. I know how it feels to be a victim of war and that is not the reality that I desire for myself, for my family and for my community. For me, fighting for peace is a human responsibility and a personal commitment.

2. How do you stay hopeful despite violence around you?

Working with fellow young people makes me more hopeful that we can achieve peace in Mindanao. Working with individuals of the same wavelength and sharing the same passion, it keeps you going and it convinces you every day that it can be done. Having a network like Girl+ Ambassadors for Peace makes me hopeful despite the challenges around me because it reminds me that I am not alone. It is a reminder that you have a community who will serve as your support system and a safe space where you can express yourself.

3. What are the Girl Ambassadors doing to promote peace in the Philippines?

Girl+ Ambassadors for Peace is empowering young women to become peacebuilders in the Philippines. It provides a space and network for young women to participate in peace initiatives and be heard. It gives us a safe space where we can articulate our truths even if our voice falters. It gives us a community that serve as our support system and sounding board.

As part of the network, I also help create that safe space for other young peacebuilders in our community in Lanao. We implemented Project YACAP (Youth Amplifying, Co-Creating and Advocating Peace), a 5-month  leadership development program, funded by the US Embassy through a grants competition, that envisions creating a network of young peacebuilders in Mindanao. The program is deliberately named to sound like yakap, the Filipino word for embrace, a universal gesture that perfectly demonstrates what it is like to be at peace, with oneself, and with another.

It aims to provide the youth of Mindanao a space where they can amplify stories about peace, a platform through which they can co-create initiatives that will counter violent extremism, and promote peacebuilding, and a network through which they can sustain these initiatives to continue to advocate for peace.

The program specifically recognizes the need to involve young people who have been affected directly or indirectly by the ongoing siege in Marawi, especially in the narratives that emerge from the siege, and in conversations on how to move forward together. The program in its pilot implementation has trained 30 young leaders, involved more than 300 youths from 5 communities in Lanao.

 


*Katrina Leclerc is GNWP’s Girl Ambassadors for Peace Program Coordinator, for more information about the program please contact: [email protected]