Lessons learnt during the PEACE II PLA (Participatory Learning and Action) at the Somalia cluster revealed lack of youth participation in decision making activities in the community. Youth are one of the main conflict drivers and have been involved in militia groups. To respond to the needs of the youth involvement in society, the community during PLA selected a resource center and a social hall. The center is used as a venue for training and provides useful literature where youth have unrestricted access to information, internet and audio recordings.
The youth manage the facility giving them responsibility and empowerment in decision making. The Elwak Youth Resource Center was built through the Peace II project supported by USAID and implemented on the of Kenya-Somalia and Kenya-Uganda borders. The youth center has become communal interaction and youth transformation hub. Youth for Peace in Elwak town, Kenya, has been collaborating with the government agencies, women, religious leaders, councils of elders and other opinion leaders. The youth initiative was recently recognized by the elders as avenue of transforming them into more responsible citizens. As a result of this and other activities a number of youth leaders have been graduated into the council of elder status--an institution most respected among the Somali nomadic pastoralists--while others were recruited as civil servants (Chiefs) to lead their communities.
Additionally, the cross-border youth groups in Elwak, Kenya, and Somalia are now using the resource center for training of the youth in peace building activities, with some youths registered in distance e-learning courses in conflict management. So far 15 youth have graduated from the short online courses at the center and currently 10 are pursuing online peace education courses. The center is also a source of income for the youth groups and acts as a response unit during conflict. Other users include 15 school children and 28 secondary students. In total, 177 youth use the center, 49 of Somalia origin. The center so far has approximately 500 books of mixed disciplines. Before some of the youth were engaged in drug and substance abuse that influenced them into crime. With the construction of the resource center the youth are busy and the crime rate has reduced in Elwak. Also, the resource center has strengthened the relationship between youth and government security agencies whose role has been clearly defined through the many forums held at the resource center.
PEACE II program uses peace dividend projects selected by communities to mitigate conflict between cross-border communities in the Horn of Africa. Elwak, Kenya resource center is one of these projects on the Kenya/Somalia border.