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Music and More: Gambian Youth Commit to Promote Peace Through the Annual Open Mic Festival

Music they say, is soothing to the ear. But, how about getting the satisfaction of melodious rhythms as well as the richness of the message it carries all in one?

This is possible and in The Gambia UNFPA thought it necessary to leverage the 12th Annual Open Mic Festival, the biggest music gathering in the country which is estimated to bring together over 15,000 people on the last Friday of each December, at the nation’s international Stadium, to celebrate progress made in the country’s music industry, while showcasing young Gambian talent and celebrating beauty in diversity.

It has fast become the norm, December in The Gambia is a festive period and music is used as a tool to unite people, especially young people. However, with numerous planned protests and potential division along religious lines based on the interpretation of the country’s draft constitution, there is the potential for tension and conflict.

As a result, it was thought ideal that this year’s Open Mic Festival can provide a great platform to leverage on youth interest in music to support social mobilisation for awareness raising and peacebuilding efforts, with thousands of young people in attendance and millions of online viewers across the world.

This year’s festival which happened in two days for the first time ever (27 and 28 December 2019), featured major international acts including a performance by world renowned Senegalese musician, Baaba Maal, who following his performance, sent out a message of peace and encouraged dialogue and understanding throughout Africa. This message was re-echoed by the other artists who performed at the festival.

Thus, in the 10-day leading up to the Festival, UNFPA The Gambia in partnership with Black Lynx, launched the #PeaceCommitments220 campaign, to get young people to make strong commitments to promote peace in their communities, encourage attendance of the festival and implore the population to actively participate in peacebuilding processes in The Gambia. The campaign also resulted in the adoption of “Young People for a Peaceful Gambia” as the theme for this year’s festival, by the organisers.

Through either taking a picture with one of the photo frames positioned in various strategic locations, or recording a thirty-second video of yourself making your commitment and sharing it on social media using the campaign hashtags, the public was invited to participate in the campaign. 

As a way of promoting the Open Mic Festival, UNFPA also had 100 tickets to the festival, as give-aways to lucky winners who joined the campaign, if they followed the guidance on how to participate. 

When we ask for commitments to promote peace however, it could mean different things to different people.

So what really does peace mean to you?

For some who joined the campaign, peace to them means the eradication of Gender-Based Violence, ensuring inclusivity in sports, using media to preach peace, encouraging dialogue and understanding, encouraging the use of theatre and other performing arts to speak up against violence, among many others. Beautiful yet powerful voices came together and committed to take action through this campaign.

A fresh approach to counting down to the renowned festival, the campaign garnered a lot of attention, with young people from various works of life, heads of diplomatic missions, musicians, poets, media personalities, lawyers, among an array of participants, accepting the challenge to make commitments for sustainable peace in The Gambia.

The question you may be asking yourself right now could be – is the #PeaceCommitments220 campaign ending at the Open Mic Festival?

Well, the good news is, no. We will continue the campaign in other spheres and ensure diverse participation of young people from all parts of the country in the coming months.

Until then, will you commit to promote and maintain peace in your community?

We challenge you today!

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Media Contact:

Haddy Jonga, Programme Analyst - Communications

UNFPA The Gambia

jonga@unfpa.org