An interview with Nhial Deng on the International Day of Peace by Charles Falajiki
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Nhial Deng. I am 21 years old and I was born and raised in Western Ethiopia in a place called Gambella. My father originally comes from South Sudan and moved to Ethiopia more than fifty years ago during the Sudan Civil War. In 2010, I fled to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya when our village back in Ethiopia was stormed by armed militias.
The attack separated me from the rest of my family members and I had to trek on a two-week journey to reach safety in the Kakuma Camp, where I have spent the last ten years of my life. I have been able to find hope and education; and this is an opportunity that I have to build my life and look towards the future, fulfilling the dream from when I was a child.
Why do you work for peace? What's your motivation?
When I was fleeing my country as a child, I saw young people like myself picking up guns to fight. I took a stand that, if young people are not too young to fight, they are not too young to lead and contribute towards building a more peaceful and safer world for themselves and the generation to come.
From my experiences, young people often bear the heaviest burden and devastation of armed conflicts and it is crucial that they are seen as not only victims but also as key actors in achieving long-lasting peace in conflict-affected countries. That motivated me a lot to encourage young people to realize their inner power and use it in building a safer world for themselves and generations to come. I’m passionate about the Sustainable Development Goals as a key to transform our world and my work focuses on advocacy, quality education, policy-making, peacebuilding, mental health, human rights, gender equality, and social entrepreneurship.
What has been the impact of your work since its inception?
I have been engaged in several community-based initiatives in different societies and I am passionate about volunteering as a force for social growth. When I was in high school, I helped set-up a Peace Club at my school and this club included students from 10 different nationalities. The students came together to learn about peace and conflict, get peer support, learn basic negotiation skills, and have dialogues on how to promote peace in their communities. This was a great forum for young people to learn peace building and how they could promote peace in their communities.