Youth in Torit in the Eastern Equatoria region took to the streets last weekend to celebrate International Youth Day, voice their many concerns and express their desire to play a bigger role in the future of the country.
â€œWe are calling on the youth of South Sudan in general and in Torit in particular to unite. We want change in the country,â€� said George James, a local youngster.Â
Parading through the streets, decked out in festive attire and carrying signs with slogans such as â€œLove is kindness and forgivenessâ€� and â€œLet us abolish conflict and start developing our countryâ€�, youth called on authorities to create a safe and inclusive environment for their generation.Â
Otililing James, President of the Youth Union in Torit, stressed the governmentâ€™s role in reducing insecurity.Â
Â â€œWe are only safe when the government is able to respond to incidents of insecurity. It is very important for our authorities and partners to consider the issues youth are facing here.â€�
The lack of â€œsafe spaces for youthâ€�, which was also the theme for this yearâ€™s International Youth Day, hinders them from contributing to the development of their communities.
The theme resonates in South Sudan, where insecurity due to the ongoing armed conflict has made many youth feel the need to take up arms to protect their communities instead of dedicating their time and efforts to education and self-growth.
Counterproductive behaviour, like a variety of criminal activities, has been further fueled by the desperation experienced by many young people encountering limited economic opportunities.
UNMISS Head of Field Office in Torit, Caroline Waudo, Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudanâ€™s Field Office in Torit, reiterated the peacekeeping operationâ€™s commitment to working to empower youth to build durable peace.
â€œHere in South Sudan youth lack the space to fully express themselves without feeling uncomfortable, unwelcome, or stressed,â€� she commented.
The International Youth Day celebrations in Torit, organized by UNMISS in partnership with the South Sudan Youth Initiative for Change and the local Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture, and Sports, attracted more than 400 boys and girls.
Performing creative dances, songs, drama skits, and comedy sketches, they spoke out against tribalism, lack of economic opportunities, violent conflict, and gender-based violence.Â
â€œWe want more opportunities for us girls. We have to get together and show everyone that we have ideas to share,â€� said Joice Siama, one of the girls participating in the event.Â
The festive occasion concluded with a song called â€œGiving Handsâ€�, which encourages people from all backgrounds to embrace each other for peaceful coexistence. And embrace they did.
â€œLetâ€™s unite, letâ€™s work for development. Now that peace has come it is time for us to work together and develop our nation,â€� Thomas Lodovico, Executive Director of South Sudan Youth Initiative for Change declared, encouraging fellow youngsters to make the future of their country their own.
UNMISS continues to engage with girls and boys through a Youth Peace Ambassador programme, which includes workshops on peace, reconciliation, social cohesion and leadership. This initiative This program has also spawned a network of peace clubs in Torit schools involving more than 400 students.