Rigoberta Menchu Tum, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 1992, has officially opened this year’s PeaceJam Youth Leadership Conference held at the GNAT Hall in Accra.
The conference brings together young participants, known as Peace Jammers, from various junior and senior high schools in Ghana, along with adult mentors, to study and delve into the life and work of the esteemed Nobel Peace Laureates.
The aim of the conference is to empower and educate the youth on critical issues such as violence and intolerance faced by young people today. The participants will engage in learning sessions and discussions, equipping them with valuable knowledge and skills to develop and implement service projects that address pressing challenges in their communities.
In addition to Menchu Tum’s keynote address, the conference attendees, including Peace Jammers, mentors, and teachers, will actively participate in campaigns focused on community service, such as clean-up exercises and mental health education initiatives.
According to the Executive Director of the West Africa Centre for Peace Foundation (WACPF), the official chapter of PeaceJam in Ghana, the core mission of WACPF and the PeaceJam Foundation is to foster peacebuilding, community service, and human development among young people. By taking action against the existing problems and challenges, the organizations strive to promote responsibility and a sense of duty among the youth.
PeaceJam is an international education program that revolves around Nobel Peace Prize laureates collaborating with young individuals, imparting their spirit, skills, and wisdom. The program inspires commitment to justice, peace, social responsibility, and academic excellence, aiming to transform young participants into leaders who can drive positive change within themselves and society.
Rigoberta Menchu Tum was born in 1959 into a Mayan family in Chimel, a mountain village in Guatemala. Her family faced significant hardships, as they were unable to cultivate enough food in the mountains and had to work on cotton and coffee plantations. During this time, Guatemala was grappling with political turmoil, as the United States government supported the overthrow of the democratically elected government in 1954, leading to decades of dictatorship, war, and violence.
The Mayan people, including Menchu Tum’s family, were brutally targeted by the military, resulting in the destruction of Mayan villages and the displacement of millions. Menchu Tum lost numerous family members to the violence in Guatemala. Undeterred, she worked tirelessly to secure basic rights for the Mayan people, advocating for fair wages and the protection of their land.
Menchu Tum’s powerful life story, shared in the book “I Rigoberta Menchú,” shed light on the atrocities occurring in Guatemala, garnering international attention and establishing her as a global leader for indigenous rights. In the aftermath of Guatemala’s civil war, she continued her activism, pushing for accountability and justice within the political and military establishment. Menchu Tum also founded WINAQ, the first indigenous-led political party in Guatemalan history, and joined other Nobel Peace Laureates to form the Nobel Women’s Initiative, focused on advocating for women’s and children’s rights worldwide.
The PeaceJam Youth Leadership Conference serves as a platform to inspire and guide young individuals in Ghana, encouraging them to become active agents of change in their communities and beyond. Through the insights and experiences shared by Rigoberta Menchu Tum, the participants gain valuable perspectives and inspiration to work towards a more peaceful and just society.
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