ERIKA MAE ZAMORA
Over 200 young peace-builders trained in Zamboanga under EU-funded program
As Filipinos continue to be hounded by threats of violent extremism nationwide, over 200 youth leaders underwent training on peacebuilding in Zamboanga City under the Extremely Together (ET) Philippines - Panaghiusa program funded by the European Union (EU) and led by the Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF) and Philippines-based non-profit organization KRIS.
Youth leaders aged 18-25 were selected to attend the program on preventing violent extremism and project management on March 14 and 17 in the city of Zamboanga which has historically been the site of several armed conflicts and terrorist attacks.
“Taking inspiration from the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan who believed in the power of young people and who started the Extremely Together movement, we trained these youth from Zamboanga, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan so they can work together and take the lead in promoting peace”, shared Ymari Pascua, the Project Lead of ET Philippines.
She added, “Filipinos have been victimized by violent extremism and conflict for decades, and unfortunately it’s young people nowadays who are being actively recruited to these groups. This is why it’s high time we actively recruit them into peace and into development, instead of war and violence.”
During their training in Grand Astoria Hotel on March 14 and in the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) on March 17 held in partnership with Rotaract Metro Zamboanga, the Sangguniang Kabataan Youth Federation of Zamboanga City, and the Local Youth Development Council, young leaders were trained on the context and history of violent extremism in the Philippines, on developing solutions towards peace, and on conceptualizing and managing projects under the initiative.
Following these capacity-building sessions, groups presented their proposals for promoting peace in their own communities, with six groups selected during the two events slated to receive Php 30,000.00 each as a seed grant.
“We know that young leaders hold the key to addressing conflict and extremism in their own communities, because they know their peers best and they can think outside the box. That’s why we want to empower them and we want them to be working together, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, location, and background, hence we named the movement Panaghiusa which means solidarity and unity,” explained Kier Aventurado, who serves as fellow Project Lead of ET Philippines.
Trainees under ET will now be inducted into the Extremely Together Philippines - Panaghiusa Chapterk, which is part of the Kofi Annan Foundation’s global Extremely Together initiative present in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Launched in 2016, the worldwide ET network of young leaders has produced a toolkit in preventing violent extremism and organized conferences and sessions for young people worldwide.
ET chapters in South and Southeast Asia are supported by the European Union and are made possible through the participation of KRIS in the Philippines, the College of Youth Activism and Development (CYAAD) in Pakistan, and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) in Bangladesh.
Established in 2008, KRIS started by building libraries, providing scholarships, and donating educational materials to schools in areas affected by conflict and poverty in the Philippines. Today, KRIS is focused on building the capacities of young people on peacebuilding, providing online and offline platforms to promote positive values of unity and empathy, and empowering young Filipinos through leadership and education.