Girl Ambassadors for Peace (GA4P)
From an early age, girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan are told “You are only girls”. Yet a new generation of young women’s leaders are emerging - ambitious to take a stand against discrimination, promote women’s rights and contribute to peacebuilding. The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and their Congolese and South Sudanese civil society members have trained young literate women and girls in conflict-affected areas to become Girl Ambassadors for Peace. The girls undergo training on how to conduct literacy education, build leadership skills and learn about UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and its related resolutions. The Girl Ambassadors for Peace (GA4P) members then travel to rural communities where they teach illiterate girls and women to read and write, and raise awareness about the importance of women’s rights and participation in decision-making and in peacebuilding.
Increase Literacy: Literate Congolese and South Sudanese girls are trained in literacy education by GNWP and its local partners. The girls then travel to villages to teach other girls how to read and write, raising literacy rates.
Build Leadership: Leadership training, to do good for the broader community and society, and self empowerment are taught by GNWP. In addition, the Girl Ambassadors for Peace are given different responsibilities to manage the GA4P program, to further develop their leadership skills.
Promote Peacebuilding: Workshops on UNSCR 1325 and the supporting resolutions are conducted to raise awareness among girls on their rights to participate in decision-making and peacebuilding.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
GNWP started the GA4P program in DRC and South Sudan to provide young women and girls with the leadership skills, confidence and knowledge to become leaders in their communities. The program focuses on training young women and girls through workshops on literacy education, leadership skills, and community social dialogues on gender discrimination and sexual and gender-based violence. They also were taught the principles of UNSCR 1325. The Girl Ambassadors then went on to lead monthly workshops in rural villages training other girls. Trainees played key roles in social dialogues, giving them a voice within their communities for the first time. Through literacy, education and dialogues, they will go on to become leaders within their communities. Fostering the opportunity for women to hold leadership and decision-making roles within a society helps to create policies that benefit women and families.
The GA4P program aims to teach young women and girls to use the principles of UNSCR 1325 to spread peace and security within their communities, particularly amongst other young women and girls; however, it is impossible to talk about peace and security when the majority of women in these areas cannot read or write. GNWP knew that literacy training was a necessary component for the opportunity to become leaders and peacebuilders. The innovation of this program is its focus on the crucial combination of literacy, leadership, and peacebuilding education so that the Girl Ambassadors for Peace and their trainees receive a holistic learning experience that empowers them to create positive changes in themselves, their families and communities.
The overall impact of the GA4P program has been an increased literacy rate and leadership skills among participants. In South Kivu, DRC alone, 50 girls and young mothers have learned to read and developed basic computer skills. In DRC and South Sudan 68 young women have undergone leadership and peacebuilding training and all participants lead skits and dialogues in their local communities, attracting up to 2,000 people including local authorities, religious and traditional leaders, school teachers, local police and military personnel. More than 20 village chiefs and traditional leaders now support the program by: sending their daughters to the literacy classes, taking care of the children, and providing venues for the community dialogues and skits. These seem like small contributions, but in communities where girls and young women had no role except bearing children and serving the men, these are challenging the norms and breaking discriminatory traditions.
The predominantly patriarchal culture in DRC and South Sudan remains a challenge. There are still some parents and husbands/partners who do not allow their daughters or wives to attend literacy classes. They think it’s a waste of time and resources to invest in women and girls’ education. The governments of DRC and South Sudan do not prioritize the education, welfare and protection of women and girls’ rigths.
The lack of predictable funding to sustain and expand the GA4P Program is also a big challenge.
The most important lesson we have learned is the strong impact that girls and young women can have within their community when given the opportunity. Even with the obstacles they face, the GA4P are able to call on their governments, the UN and other institutions to find peaceful solutions to violent conflicts; and promote, protect and fulfill women and girls’ rights.
We also learned that teaching or training others –e.g., GA4P members teaching others to read and write—is very empowering. When a GA4P member conducts literacy education and community dialogues, it is tantamount to saying: “Look at me. I am a leader. I have skills. I have views on issues that affect ourselves, our community and country.”
Parents who appreciate the positive changes they see in their daughters are the most powerful campaigners for the GA4P. They go from house to house encouraging other parents to send their children to literacy classes and allow them to participate in GA4P and community activities.