HOW CAN YOUNG PEOPLE BE LEADERS FOR PEACE
1st Prize in 18-21 age group
by Abdul-Ganiyy Abdul-Wasiu Olanrewaju from Nigeria
In a world marked by ongoing conflicts and global challenges, the imperative for peace has never been more pressing. In this essay, we delve into the essential question of how young people can emerge as leaders for peace in the 21st century. With their innovative perspectives, boundless energy, and a deep-seated commitment to positive change, the youth of today have the potential to shape a future where peace, understanding, and cooperation prevail. This exploration will highlight the various ways in which young individuals can actively contribute to fostering peace within their communities and on a broader scale, paving the way for a more harmonious world.
Here are some possible ways to nurture leaders for peace :
- Help them develop their self-awareness: One effective way to groom young leaders for peace is by nurturing their self-awareness. Self-awareness is the foundation of effective leadership for peace. Encouraging them to reflect on their values, strengths, and weaknesses allows them to gain a deeper understanding of themselves. For example, through programs like mindfulness meditation or self-assessment exercises, young individuals can cultivate the emotional intelligence necessary to handle conflicts peacefully and lead by example. You can organize workshops or activities that encourage introspection and self-discovery. For instance, group discussions on personal values and their role in conflict resolution can prompt young individuals to reflect on their own beliefs. Sharing stories of leaders who exemplify self-awareness, like Mahatma Gandhi, who practiced nonviolent resistance, can inspire them.
- Position yourself for honest conversations about their character: Building character and ethics is crucial for peace leaders. Open and honest conversations about character are essential for young leaders. By engaging in dialogues that address ethics, integrity, and the importance of empathy, you can help them understand the impact of their actions on others. For instance, discussing real-life scenarios where ethical decisions were pivotal can be a powerful way to impart valuable lessons in peacemaking. Engage in regular dialogues that explore ethical dilemmas and moral decision-making. Share stories of individuals who faced ethical challenges, such as Nelson Mandela’s commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation after years of imprisonment. Encourage young leaders to journal their thoughts on these topics to foster critical thinking.
- Expose them to big people in big places: Young leaders can benefit immensely from exposure to experienced individuals in leadership roles. Arrange mentorship opportunities or visits to organizations working towards peace and conflict resolution. Arrange visits to international organizations like the United Nations or invite guest speakers who have worked in peacebuilding and diplomacy. By connecting with seasoned leaders, young people can gain valuable insights, guidance, and inspiration to pursue peace initiatives effectively. Allow young leaders to interact with these experts, ask questions, and learn about the global efforts for peace. These interactions can inspire them to pursue careers or initiatives in the field of peace and conflict resolution.
- Speak life into their giftedness: Recognizing and affirming the unique talents and skills of young individuals can ignite their passion for peace leadership. Identify the unique talents and interests of young individuals and connect these to peace building. Encouraging them to explore and develop their talents, whether it’s in art, diplomacy, or community organizing, empowers them to make a meaningful impact. For instance, if a young person displays artistic talent, supporting them in creating peace-themed artwork can promote peace awareness in a creative way. If someone is skilled in communication, encourage them to start a peace-oriented podcast or blog. If they excel in leadership roles, guide them to organize community peace events or lead peace clubs at school. This approach helps them leverage their strengths for peace initiatives.
- Provide stretch experiences: To develop leadership skills, young people should be given opportunities to step out of their comfort zones. Assign them responsibilities that challenge their problem-solving, communication, and decision-making abilities. Assign tasks that require leadership and teamwork, such as organizing a peace-themed event or leading a peer mediation program. These experiences could include organizing community events, facilitating workshops on conflict resolution, or leading group discussions on peace-related issues, and also these hands-on experiences allow young leaders to develop practical skills and gain confidence in their ability to handle complex situations, all while promoting peace in their immediate surroundings.
- Push them to read: Readers are leaders: Encouraging a love for reading can expand young leaders’ horizons. By providing them with books, articles, and resources related to peace, diplomacy, and the experiences of prominent peace leaders, you can stimulate their intellectual growth. Establish a reading club focused on peace literature and biographies of notable peace leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. or Malala Yousafzai. Encourage discussions to explore how these individuals navigated challenges and promoted peace. Provide access to academic journals and research on peace studies, helping young leaders deepen their understanding of the field. Reading can help them acquire knowledge and insights that will be valuable in their leadership journey.
- Challenge them to dream with audacity: Fostering visionary thinking is essential for young leaders. Challenge them to envision a world without conflict and to set audacious goals for peace initiatives. Encourage them to formulate action plans and collaborate with like-minded peers to turn their dreams into tangible projects, such as organizing peace summits or initiating conflict resolution programs in their communities. Organize brainstorming sessions where young leaders envision their ideal world and discuss ambitious peace projects. Encourage them to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals for their initiatives. Provide guidance and resources to help them take the first steps toward turning their dreams into reality, such as creating a peace action plan.
By employing these strategies, we can empower young individuals to become compassionate, empathetic, self-aware, and effective leaders for peace, instilling in them the values and skills needed to contribute meaningfully to a more peaceful world.