This past week PPI-SA Marketing and Fundraising Manager, Sbahle Mkhize, attended the Commonwealth Youth Civil Activism Network (CW YouthCan) Innovation Lab in Kigali, Rwanda. CW YouthCan conducts regional labs throughout Europe and the Commonwealth with the primary purpose of capacity building and providing counter-narrative production support. Below, Sbahle shares her experience in Rwanda.
My time with CW YouthCan in Rwanda was really life changing. This might sound cliché, but it really was. This was my first time visiting another African country, and I must say, Rwanda didn’t disappoint.
The Commonwealth Youth Civil Activism Network (Commonwealth YouthCAN) is a network of peace activists that was recently launched in 2015 and is a partnership between the Youth Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. It aims at up-scaling civil society efforts in peace building through all forms. CW YouthCan brought together over 30 young Africans into the heart of Africa with the goal of enabling an ongoing exchange of best practices, and to foster collaboration and create networks throughout the private and NGO sectors. Our group was so diverse! I met young entrepreneurs, civil society leaders, cartoonist, artists, athletes, and innovators, but we all had one common goal: to build a peaceful world.
The highlight of the YouthCan Lab was our visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The memorial remembers the lives lost in 1994 during the genocide. It was an extremely emotional experience for me. To see how thousands of innocent lives were taken because of the way one looked, it reminded me of the violent deaths that occurred back at home (South Africa) because of the color of one’s skin. Rwanda has come a long way since the genocide; it made me happy to see all Rwandans living in peace, and to have developed their country so much. Much like Rwanda, South Africa has a long way to go before achieving social cohesion and peace amongst all communities. But, it is organizations like PeacePlayers International that promote peace building and diversity that are changing the world, one nation at a time.
There is wide ray of violent conflict happening across Africa. But, I am excited when I see young people such as the ones I met in Rwanda, who are using the arts and sports to combat violence and conflict in their countries. Africa is moving in the right direction.