Building Capacities for Change and Development
The Peaceful and Credible Elections (PeaCE) Project was a project designed to herald peaceful elections, and to improve youth participation in governance. Peace Committees were formed in 4 district in the Northern Region, including Gushiegu, a district that has been afflicted by violence following previous elections.
Having experienced the effects of conflict following previous elections, these Peace Committee members were passionate about preventing violence in the 2016 elections. As one committee member of he Gushiegu Peace Committee expressed, without peace you cannot even stay in your community, and “without peace, you cannot work for development”.
The Gushiegu Peace Committee worked with volunteers in various communities to teach community members about the voting process, who is eligible to vote, and spoiled ballots. They also educated communities about how to conduct themselves at polling stations and how to accept election results peacefully and without sparking violence. They used dramas to engage and educate communities, and created pamphlets showing the effects of conflict. They worked with members of political parties, encouraging them to commit to a peaceful election. They also worked with local leaders and religious leaders to help spread their message.
By attending CALID’s peace campaign trainings and gaining first hand experience working with communities, organizing events, and campaigning for peace, Peace Committee members were able to build their capacities as leaders of change their communities. Throughout the project they gained valuable experience and learned many new skills. The committee members feel that they were able to improve their public speaking and communicating, gain experience organizing volunteers and planning workshops, engaging community members, and were able to broaden their creativity. They now feel that they have the skills they need to advocate for other important issues in Gushiegu.
The committee is proud that their work encouraged more voters, reduced confusion and violence at polling station, and contributed to more inclusive elections. One success that they are particularly proud of is improving women’s participation in the election. One member described one community where “there was a group of 50 women who said they would not vote.” By educating these women about elections and about the voting process the committee was able to influence these women to get out and vote. Now that community members are educated about elections and the voting process they can feel empowered to participate on a local and national level.
On election day, the Gushiegu Peace Committee members acted as election observers. They were happy to see individuals who they had worked with in the queue at polling stations. Some community members even approached them to thank them for their work.