Sierra Leone has struggled to maintain peace following a long and bitter civil war. The Ebola crisis and 2017's mudslides and floods have placed additional strains on the country. Women have historically been marginalized in the society. UN Resolution 1325 calls for the increased participation of women at all levels of decision-making, in peace negotiations, and in mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict. The large population of young people in the region are facing a high rate of unemployment and an economic crisis. Confronting these issues is critical to building a sustainable peace. For these and other reasons, Mediators Beyond Borders, International (MBBI)'s Sierra Leone Team has developed a program to train women and youth to assume leadership positions.
The program developed is intended to provide in-depth and long-term support of capable and empowered leaders who are: (1) skilled in conflict prevention and resolution, and who (2) are empowered to take active roles in sustaining peace and building societal resilience, and (3) are actively engaged in Sierra Leone's ongoing development.
The program is designed to provide training via a core, 5-day intensive learning program followed by personalized coaching, a robust network of in-country colleagues and peers comprising a vibrant support system, ongoing training and skill refreshers (live and virtual), and a dedicated team and resource materials available as appropriate to facilitate leadership and change agent processes. Specific training blends theory and practical learning in leadership, conflict management, communication, civic responsibilities, personal leadership and development processes, team effectiveness, among other topics. Approximately six months after the original 5-day session, participants will participate in a webinar to share experiences and practices.
Up to 28 regional women and youth will participate in each session, each selected by local leaders based on their potential to lead and train others in their communities. Targeted curriculum covers Women's Empowerment courses that equip women with political aspirations to seek public office in line with Sierra Leone's goal of increasing women in political leadership to 30%, as well as to serve as leaders in their respective communities. Sierra Leonean culture faces additional challenges as changes to gender roles threaten traditional family and social structure. This resulting widespread disruption also makes the country vulnerable, and our program will seek to empower women to build the capacity to manage these risks and become leaders while managing conflict situations.
The Youth Leadership curriculum, designed for participants ages 21-35, raises awareness of leadership potential of young people who comprise the majority of the population, empowering them with skills to address issues such as unemployment and conflict management in order to become change agents for non-violent problem-solving and serve as resources for community development.
During the recent trip in February 2018, four workshops on Building Unity for Peaceful Elections were held with 300 participants from diverse stakeholder groups from civil society. Tribal Chiefs also attended and supported the workshops. The MBBI team and local partners conducted needs assessment interviews and focus groups with corporate CEO's, UNDP, women's and youth leaders, youth and women. Data collected overwhelmingly supports the challenges of women and youth in society, and the need for building the capacity of women and youth leaders.
The Program Objective is to significantly increase collaborative problem-solving and consensus building skills for 56 participants over a 12-month period so that at least 80% of participants will go on to establish peace building programs in their community. This is based on discussions with our partners which are still ongoing.
The direct Beneficiaries will be approximately 28 women and 28 young people participating in the programs. These participants will then impact potentially hundreds in their communities throughout the country. Participants will learn more about Rotary, and members of the Rotary Clubs will also learn more about conflict resolution.