1992 Noble Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchu Tum has opened this year’s PeaceJam Youth Leadership Conference in Ghana.
The Conference which is taking place at the GNAT Hall in Accra will see the youth (Peace Jammers) drawn from some Junior and Senior High schools in Ghana with the help of some adult mentors study the life and work of the Nobel Peace Laureate.
They would also learn about issues such as violence and intolerance facing young people today, and develop and implement service projects designed to address problems in their communities.
Aside the Noble Peace Laureate speaking at the event, participants (Peace Jammers) of the conference together with their adult mentors and teachers would join several campaigns including clean-up exercises and mental health education.
According to the Executive Director of the West Africa Centre for Peace Foundation; the official chapter of Peacejam in Ghana, Mr. Wisdom Addo, “The WACPF and the PeaceJam Foundation has its core mandate of getting young people to learn about peacebuilding, community service and human development and if this canker exists with us and we do not do anything about it, then indeed we are being irresponsible.”
PeaceJam is an international education programme built around peace prize laureates who work with the youth to help pass on the spirit, skills and wisdom they embody.
The programme sparks commitment to justice and peace, social responsibility, academic excellence and other values that seeks to inspire young people and make them transformational leaders who will cherish changing themselves and society for the better.
Menchú Tum was born in 1959 to a Mayan family in Chimel, a mountain village in Guatemala. The Mayan people could not grow enough food in the mountains to survive, so most years her family left their community to work on cotton and coffee plantations. While her family struggled to survive; Guatemala also struggled as a country.
In 1954, the United States government helped overthrow Guatemala’s democratically elected government. The
Guatemalan army took power and sparked more than 30 years of dictatorship, war, and violence, during which 200,000 Guatemalans were murdered.
The military brutally targeted the Mayans, including a campaign that destroyed 450 Mayan villages and displaced 1 million. refugees. Menchú Tum lost both of her parents, two brothers, a sister-in-law, and three nieces and nephews to violence in Guatemala.
Menchú Tum worked with the Committee of the Peasant Union to secure basic rights for the Mayan people, including fair wages and protection of their land. From 1980-1981, she participated in nonviolent demonstrations and helped educate Mayan peasants to resist military oppression.
In 1983, she told her life story to Elisabeth Burgos Debray in a series of interviews that became the book, I Rigoberta Menchú. The book drew international attention to the horrors occurring in Guatemala and led to her recognition as a world leader for indigenous rights.
In 1996, Guatemala’s 36-year civil war ended with a peace accord. Menchú Tum fought to have the Guatemalan political and military establishment tried in court, and ran for President of Guatemala in 2007 and 2011.
She also established WINAQ, the first official indigenous-led political party in national history. Rigoberta Menchú Tum has joined her sister Nobel Peace Laureates to form the Nobel Women’s Initiative, to shine the light on women and children’s rights around the world