Gwendolyn Myers, a graduate of the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program at Eastern Mennonite University, has been appointed regional coordinator for West and Central Africa by the United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNYP). With two other members of her team, she will monitor and help to coordinate advocacy activities in the region related to the implementation of the Amman Youth Declaration with key stakeholders.
UNYP, headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, has ties to 60 youth organizations in 45 countries. One of those youth organizations is Messengers of Peace (MOP) Liberia, of which Myers is founder and executive director. In her organization, youth develop life skills through coaching, mentoring, advocacy and volunteering for peace and development (for information about MOP-Liberia’s accomplishments, click here).
Women’s leadership program built her skills
When reached for comment, Myers, who is currently residing in Washington D.C. as a fellow at the Center for Women, Faith and Leadership with the Institute for Global Engagement, called the appointment “inspiring, humbling and exciting.”
“The tasks ahead are daunting,” Myers said, “but with the team’s effort and the anticipated collaboration, we will overcome all obstacles along the way as we promote the Amman Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security and advocate for the active and meaningful involvement of youth on peace and security issues within our region.”
She praised the preparation she received through the WPLP program and at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute as “great help with my advocacy for sustainable peace and development,” she said. “EMU has equipped me with the right tools to carry on this task.”
Myers was a member of the first WPLP cohort with three Liberian women and others from the South Pacific and Somalia. She earned a graduate certificate in peacebuilding leadership in 2014.
“We here at WPLP and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding are thrilled about Gwen’s appointment,” says WPLP director Leda Werner. “Her passion and energy are well-suited to this role and her past experiences speak to her ability to lead in this capacity. Gwen’s appointment is an excellent example of the leadership positions that women in WPLP are equipped to take on. We expect to see more graduates soon following in Gwen’s footsteps into positions of peacebuilding leadership.”
Several WPLP participants have gone on just as Myers has to have dramatic impacts in their countries and to be recognized for their peacebuilding efforts. This summer, Khadija Isse Fara’adde, of Somalia, and Shamsa Omar, of Kenya, were awarded USAID’s prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
With the support of two recent grants, WPLP is accepting applications for a cohort of women from Kenya and Somalia, starting in May 2016. A second cohort of eight women from the Horn of Africa region will enter WPLP in May 2017.
Peacebuilding advocacy in Liberia
This summer and fall, Myers was instrumental in a nation-wide campaign in Liberia to publicize the Amman Youth Declaration. This document was drafted with input from 11,000 global youth at a conference in Amman, Jordan, in August 2015. It presents a “common vision and roadmap towards a strengthened policy framework to support [young people] in transforming conflict, preventing and countering violence and building sustainable peace,” according to the United Nations.
MOP-Liberia, led by Myers, celebrated International Peace Day with a week of activities in Monrovia, which included media engagement, interfaith interactions, community outreach into underprivileged communities, and a main event for the official launch of the Amman Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security in Liberia on the University of Liberia campus.
More than 500 youth representatives of national organizations joined the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Republic of Liberia to show support for the Amman Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security –“the first time that all Liberia rallied around any youth declaration unconditionally,” Myers wrote in a blog post for the United Network of Young Peacebuilders.
Myers aided six peacebuilding youth from MOP-Liberia Inc together with the youth liaison adviser to the President of Liberia in introducing the document to the Liberian president; the two houses of Liberian legislature, the office of the chief justice, UN entities, the Carter Center, Action Aid and a number of local youth and civil society organizations.