Youth are among the most affected by the conflict in Yemen, but it is youth that will rebuild the country. We share the story of the SOS Foundation, made up of young activists and experts that seek to empower Yemeni youth to rebuild the country.
Yemen has seen conflict for almost a decade. For many, especially youth, the conflict has affected their lives, and the challenging journey of peace and reconstruction also falls on them. Three out of four of Yemen’s 30 million people are under 30 years old – a scathing reminder that those most affected by conflict must deal with its consequences.
SOS Development is a non-profit, community-based foundation established by a group of young Yemeni active in civil society. They work to empower other Yemeni youth, build their capabilities and provide them with the essential skills they need to face the challenges in front of them – the monumental task of rebuilding their country. To do this, the SOS Foundation particularly focuses on restoring social cohesion in their community, promoting youth participation in the road to reconciliation by establishing their awareness of rule of law, democracy, equality, the acceptance of the ‘other’, and justice.
The SOS Foundation has specialised in providing training to its youth stakeholders. They extend their support to local civil society organisations, women’s rights groups, activists, youth groups, traditional community leaders, and even government officials and representatives. The foundation’s efforts reflect their dreams of “planting seeds and building the foundations necessary for Yemen’s stable and peaceful future”. SOS works in four main sectors; sustainable development, protection and human rights, community development, and governance and peacebuilding.
Building Capacity to Help Others
Yemen is dealing with various complex issues including the destruction of basic infrastructure, a breakdown of societal and communal governance, and a dissipation of the rule of law, security and protection. Particularly among youth, the SOS Foundation also reports a troubling increase in harmful social norms and behaviours amid conflict. They have implemented various programmes and activities responding to the unique needs of conflict-affected communities around the Aden area and beyond. Their current efforts cover child protection, gender-based violence prevention and response, as well as the economic empowerment of vulnerable women and girls.
Recently, many of the young experts and activists from the SOS Foundation followed a training through the Orange Knowledge Programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Foundation sharpened its skills in approaching peacebuilding, learning from best practices among others in conflict management and early warning systems for violence. With these new skills at hand, SOS Foundation staff were tasked with contextualising their learnings to Yemen and were encouraged to use their old and new skills to do their part in leading the peaceful transition back home.
Rehabilitating Yemeni Communities
Our participants developed leadership plans to empower Yemeni youth. More confident with the training of trainers from the Hague Academy behind them, they are now seeking to raise awareness on early marriage for girls and boys, and help young men and women work towards peace by building their capacities in fundraising, project management, programme planning and report writing.
“I know now how to analyse conflict, how to enhance transformations, leadership and local peacebuilding. I also learned about useful modern training methodologies”. Training participant
Among the main goals of the SOS Foundation staff was to better learn how to address gender issues and to host gender-based life-skill sessions for youth, aiming to empower women in their role of providing for themselves and their communities. So, they introduced a gender approach to the various life-skill facilitations they developed. This is an impressive feat from our participants, as they not only sought to learn how to better help others but also refined their skills and learned how to implement a gender-conscious approach to their lessons. Training participant“I did not have deep previous knowledge on safeguarding skills, and now for a month, I am even able to deliver training on the topic myself!”
After this training, SOS Foundation staff became more confident in themselves. They feel good about their skills, and the skills they have developed to specifically share their knowledge and learn along with their colleagues back in Yemen. They are now also practising transformative leadership skills in their team to motivate their peers. We eagerly await what they will achieve in the years to come.
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