Brief History of CJPS:
In 1997, a member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a religious body within the Catholic Church, approached CAFOD to support the establishment of a development and conflict transformation entity called The Center for Peace Studies (CPS) to be located in the Diocese of Gbarnga, Bong County. This idea was supported by the late Bishop Benedict Sekey of the Diocese of Gbarnga. The diocese covers three counties: Bong, Nimba and Lofa. A proposal was submitted to CAFOD and the initial support was given for the establishment of CPS which took place in August 12, 1998.
At the height of the civil crisis in 2002, CPS was forced to relocate to Monrovia where security was relatively better. Because of its new focus, the institution detached itself from the Catholic Church and became incorporated and renamed the Center for Justice and Peace Studies (CJPS). As a result of this shift in location, an interim program strategy was developed to continue to respond to the needs of young people who had moved from the previous target locations toward Monrovia. The mid-term strategy targeted Kakata where young people with whom the Center was working with in Gbarnga and Ganta had moved. This involved supporting youth radio stations in IDP camps providing people with crucial access to information – a platform that UN agencies and International NGOs used. During this time, CJPS also began working with abused women and youths, particularly girls and unaccompanied children. As a means of empowering rural youths and their various Organizations, the Center for Justice and Peace Studies in 2004 decided to work with young people through a structure called the “Secretariat”. The purpose of the secretariat is to facilitate identification of issues that affect young people and with common front, seek redress through a non-violence manner. These bodies witnessed the consolidation of splinter youth organization under one umbrella and the subsequent training and engagement in various areas; such as: advocacy, leadership, conflict management and prevention, fund raising / resource mobilization, awareness on health related issues etc. was being provided to strengthen their capacities. There were also several meetings facilitated between the young people and community elders as a means of bridging the gap created by the war between the youths and the adults. Based on the positive outcome as a result of these engagements of the secretariat in Margibi, the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY) in 2008 requested to adopt and replicate the secretariat concept Nationwide.
Additionally, CJPS worked with and through community structures to initiate a dialogue between the major ethnic groups in Ganta in 2003-6; this platform facilitate the return of the first group of mandingos to the city of Ganta after the civil war. By the same token, and as a means of creating the space for youth from diverse background to interact, CJPS with support from Diakonie facilitated the construction of a Youth Center in Ganta in 2010; this structure has since been turn over to the community (youth) and the ministry of youth and sports to enhance youth activities in Nimba County.
Also in Kakata, Gbarnga and Ganta, CJPS identified and trained 270 underprivileged youths in marketable and alternative livelihood skills over the period of eighteen months per phase. These youths were identified through the support of community structures, and they were taken through career guidance counseling which was supported by a market survey. Whilst these youths were in training, they were being provided daily hot meal, counseling, literacy and numeracy, small business management and other health lectures on topic related to teenage pregnancy, diseases among others. The Master Artisans were also provided financial and material support as a way of enhancing their abilities to deliver quality trainings to the beneficiaries.
CJPS also worked with 30 schools in Kakata, Gbarnga and Ganta facilitating the establishment of peace and health clubs in those schools; the purpose was to reduce risks of abuses on school campuses and also support the reduction of youth led violence and the reduction of students particularly females dropping from schools due to teenage or unwanted pregnancy and other form of exploitations. These clubs were provided trainings in conflict management, facilitating dialogue, mediation, health related awareness rising. Psycho-therapeutic care was provided for school going kids and counseling for traumatized community members.