Consolidating peace, living together, multiculturalism: UNESCO schools young people on behavioural change communication.

Officials and or trainers of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, have schooled some young people on techniques to effectively lead communication without necessarily causing harm to internally displaced persons who have taken residence in their community. 

This was the focus of a three-day workshop, which recently took place in Edea, Sanaga Maritime Division of the Littoral Region. 

The workshop on communication for behavioural change came after a series of others which had been carried out by UNESCO regional office in IDP host communities, as part of the UN's peace-building initiative. 

Within the Cameroonian context, the aim of the activity, officials said, is for the "consolidation of peace, living together and multiculturalism, coupled with exchanges of experiences between young people from different localities on the management of disinformation, prevention and conflict management linked to cultural and linguistic diversity”. 

It should be noted that as a result of the protracted security crises in the North West and South West regions, on the one hand, and the Northern regions on the other hand, a significant amount population have been displaced.

Thousands of Cameroonians fleeing the violence of these crises are forced to migrate relatively safe regions and localities, but which are completely new to them. 

The displaced persons are compelled to share living space, resources, and available services with the populations found in host communities. 

However, the spaces and resources are not enough, even for original occupants. As such, cohabitation between IDPs and populations of host communities then becomes a potential cause of new conflicts.

The risks of conflict are exacerbated by clash of cultures, traditions, lifestyles and even languages. 

In is within this backdrop that UNESCO drafted a project to “Strengthen the role of young people in the promotion of living together and multiculturalism through secondary education and centres of non-formal and informal learning in Cameroon”. 


Mitigating existing tensions, preventing emergence of conflicts

The project is said to have been launched in Cameroon in October 2022. On site in Edea, the project coordinators, Serge Banyimbe, told reporters that the vision is to contribute considerably to mitigating existing tensions and preventing the emergence of violent conflicts between people displaced by the crisis in the North West and South West regions and the communities which host them in the Littoral and the West regions. 

"This project aims to engage a significant number of young people from educational and community environments in areas of strong mixing between IDPs and host populations in the promotion of living together and multiculturalism. It also intends to make cultural and linguistic diversity an entry point to reduce negative perceptions, stigma and promote self-confidence and wellbeing, intercommunity and intercultural dialogue for host communities and displaced people," Banyimbe said.

He added that the project provides for the training of young people in media and information education and in communication techniques for positive change. Noting that effective communication has the power to mitigate conflict, the UNESCO official was hopeful that the trained participants will, after the workshop, serve as ambassadors of change in the various localities. 

To this, the participants gave their words to be ambassadors of behavioural change through communication. 

One of them, Debangue Queen Raquel, said it was the first time she was hearing of behavioural change communication. She said before now, she felt unable to communicate even within her peers. 

Being a local of Edea, she said she has received a handful of IDPs at the training centre where she works. Language, she said, has been a barrier but with the knowledge she has received through the workshop, she said is sure not to stigmatise her Anglophone brothers and sisters through communication. 

She used the opportunity to call on all concerned to be more emphatic to each other, irrespective of their region of origin.


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