Young people between the age of 15-35 in Cameroon account for about 70 % of the population. Of this 70% , these 45 % are females and 25 % are males and this forms 60 % of the total labour force. Despite this vibrant youth population, the socio-economic and political atmosphere of Cameroon relegates this vibrant young population to the background, with limited opportunities to absorb young people into the job market. This has thus created an opportunity for some of these young people to result only to violence as a mean of survival as well created an entry point for violent extremist groups like Boko Haram to radicalise and recruit these young people.
Across Cameroon, young people are caught in the trap as victims and radicalised into violent extremist activities in an effort to earn a leaving. The absence of quality education, employment, social exclusion have pushed these young people to engage in these acts. In an attempt to render justice and bring these young people to order, most of them have found themselves in prison cells or correction centre.
Through our qualitative research in local communities in Cameroon, we discovered that it is easier to radicalise and recruit a young person who has a history of violence than a young person who has never been engaged in violence. We also realised that most of the youth who are placed in prisons or correctional facilities after engaging in violence lack effective programs in these facilities which can properly transform them. In this effect, this project seeks comfort and provide these young people with an alternative to violence and make them positive role models.
The project, “Creative Skills for Peace” seeks to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of 300 violent youth offenders over a period of 20 months. This project seeks to transform these young people into heroes and heroines and use their stories and transformation to inspire their peers across the country to resist radicalization. Within this Rehabilitation and reintegration efforts, we seek to use an interdisciplinary approach of providing context specific entrepreneurial and vocational skills, leadership and civic education, and peacebuilding skills to these vulnerable groups of young people found in correctional and prison facilities. Their transformation into agents of peace and change will serve as an inspiration to their fellow young people, thus contribute in preventing and countering youth radicalization. This project will develop marketable and entrepreneurial skills of these young people through non-formal education which will break the yolk of poverty, identity, unemployment, grievances and marginalisation which is usually the push factor for youth radicalization and violent extremism. It will go a long way to imbibe in them peace building, leadership and entrepreneurial skills, build self-esteem and a culture of peace.
Our initiative is inspired by our 15 years of experience working on youth development, peace building and preventing violent extremism. The pilot phase which we did produce very inspiring results thus we believe it is a groundbreaking initiative to be replicated. Equally, our initiative is also inspired by UN Secretary General's Action Plan to Counter Violent Extremism in 2016 which highlighted Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent offenders and a major tool to counter violent extremism. To add, this projects build on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth Peace and Security which called on member states, donors and civil societies to prioritise youth centred peace initiative, rehabilitation and disengagement of violent offenders and returning fighters.
FEEDBACK OF PILOT PROJECT
As mentioned above, our organisation had launched a pilot phase face of the project. The results were inspiring. Here are links to more information about it. http://loyoc.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/blog-post.html