Zain Group, the pioneer in mobile telecommunications across the Middle East and Africa, announces the expansion of the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN) to South Sudan’s Equatorias region, in association with UNESCO Special Envoy, humanist and artist Forest Whitaker, and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO.
The peace-building program has been developed by The Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI) in partnership with UNESCO, Zain and Ericsson. Mr. Whitaker is currently on a visit to South Sudan together with Ms. Bokova, and Leila Zerrougui, Special Representatives of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. Also joining the distinguished UN representatives during their visit are Mr Basel Manasrah, CEO of Zain South Sudan and Jennifer Suleiman, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Zain Group.
Despite a recent escalation of conflict in the world’s newest nation, Mr. Whitaker remained optimistic that peace is possible. “I have always believed that when given the right tools, youth have the power to create ripples of change through their communities that will ultimately lead to lasting peace,” said Mr. Whitaker. “This belief was reinforced during this trip to South Sudan, where the youth I met with are determined to build a better future.”
The expansion to the Equatorias region is a continuation of WPDI’s five-year commitment to the region. In 2012, WPDI initiated a peace-building and life-skills training program for young women and men from 11 counties and multiple ethnic tribes in the Jonglei state. After an outbreak of violence in South Sudan, and following an assessment on the ground, the next deployment of the YPN will initially focus on Eastern Equatoria, where Torit is the main city. The program will directly impact hundreds of youth in the region, and indirectly impact thousands in their local communities through a series of programs including peace-building, conflict resolution, life-skills, technology and vocational skills trainings.
Zain South Sudan CEO Basel Manasrah said, “Our partnership with ‘The Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative’, UNESCO and Ericsson aims to enhance the prospects of young people in the country by bringing them together and motivating them to become agents of positive change. Through telecommunications, we are all jointly focused on narrowing the digital divide, capacity building and empowering the South Sudanese youth with the necessary skills to develop a more productive future.”
Manasrah continued, “It is one of Zain South Sudan’s core values to invest in the communities in which we operate and we are of the strong belief that the work being undertaken by WPDI and the YPN is well aligned to this goal. We remain determined to raise the capacity-building abilities of people in South Sudan at the grass roots, and investing in youth is investing in the future of a country.”
Because WPDI believes that communication and interaction are central requirements for peace, reconciliation and solidarity, the YPN will seek innovative opportunities to connect the youth involved in the project. WPDI views knowledge, information, learning, learning-by-doing, and communication as key to peace and prosperity. Modern communication technologies supplied by Zain and Ericsson offer unprecedented tools to boost human potential and help fulfill aspirations. The YPN will focus on connectivity, through ICT trainings, computer centers, and mobile technologies.
Mr. Whitaker is a frequent visitor to South Sudan, having visited Zain South Sudan’s offices last October to discuss the progress of peace and development initiatives, which fall under the PeaceEarth Foundation.
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