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The Power of Youth

The way we engage young people today will determine the prospects for sustainable development and peace. Young people, who represent a majority of the population in most developing countries, are today visibly contributing as political actors, innovators, entrepreneurs and peacebuilders. United Nations Development Program

The older and mainly male political leadership in our world has not had a very good track record of securing peace and prosperity for all in many countries. If the trend is left to continue, I believe this will have dire consequences not only in terms of global peace but in all aspects of our life. Sustainable development must include the way we care for our planet and manage our resources as well as how we live with and welcome each other. However, amidst the turmoil are signs of a palpable movement of young minds daring to have a voice in world affairs. These same young minds are our future. We must listen to, nurture and empower our youth.

Noreena Hertz, Honorary Professor at the Institute for Global Prosperity at the University College of London in her ground breaking and compelling book The Lonely Century speaks of loneliness as the most crippling disease of this century. Loneliness disempowers and is a major contributor to both psychological and physical illness. At Shikodo, in our training of mentors and specialist coaches in South Sudan and Uganda, we have heard stories of a people trapped in deep isolation and despair. We have listened to stories of young children as young as twelve and thirteen forced to fight in civil war. They have told their stories of horror of having witnessed their parents killed in front of them and their mothers and sisters raped. Yet in their isolation and loneliness there has been often no one to hear their stories. Loneliness creates fear and fear so often creates further conflict and violence. Disempowerment is not only about lack of education, health, food and opportunity, it is also about the erosion of psychological skills and mindset to cope. This has been the work of Shikodo in cooperation with the South Sudan Cultural Development Agency of Uganda.

We recently trained eight dedicated volunteers working with youth, women and children both in South Sudan and Kampala Uganda. They will reach out to mentor and coach in local villages and United Nations Refugee Camps in Uganda.

As a continuation of this project is our project Youth Beyond Borders designed to engage peer youth coaches in both Australia and South Sudan. Many South Sudanese came to Australia during the 1990’s as refugees. While many integrated well into Australian Society, many more of the diaspora struggled with post traumatic stress and many of the youth are struggling with ‘inherited’ post-traumatic stress as well as lack of employment opportunities. The trauma exists on both sides and the youth in both countries have much to offer each other in support. While transnational coaching and mentoring is not new, we believe it has not been rolled out to the scale that Shikodo and South Sudan will affect.

The South Sudan Cultural Development Association of Uganda is partnering with Shikodo to train a large number of Youth Peer Mentors both young men and women. The value of this training to the youth will be enormous. Leadership and psychological skills development, conflict transformation skills, peer support, creating international relationships and peace development are just a few of the benefits of this program. We are aiming to decrease crime and create innovative opportunities for growth using the Cloud Thinking Method of Coaching and Mentoring.

At Shikodo we believe that post Covid-19 needs, more than ever, not only a new normal but far more importantly a new mindset. Our youth have taken up that challenge. It’s not in what you think; it’s how you think that can make all the difference. It’s powerful. Our youth can only make a difference to our planet if we nurture them and stand by them. Empowering is power.

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