Reminiscing ECOSOC Youth Forum 2014: Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship

It has been over a month since the hosting of the ECOSOC Youth Forum and the dreadful statistics are now etched in my mind… “73.4 million young people – 12.6 % – are expected to be out of work in 2013, an increase of 3.5 million between 2007 and 2013”, “more than 6 million young people have given up looking for a job “more than 6 million young people have given up looking for a job…” and how about this one, “the global youth unemployment rate is roughly 12.6%…”[1]

There have been a number of discussions along with recommendations regarding the issue of youth employment and entrepreneurship at the ECOSOC Youth Forum. No one can argue the urgent need for action as it relates to this issue. The above statistics are more than just charted facts; young people are plagued everyday by the harsh realities of not being able to find a job or not being able to capitalize on a great business idea. Over the next decade, if we continue to face these challenges without producing and implementing workable solutions, young people will lose the opportunity of living up to their full potential which will also affect the growth prospects of their countries.

I am a believer of immediate action as there is always something which can be done NOW. However, every sensible action needs a solid plan. So here are a few recommendations which were discussed among youth delegates at the ECOSOC Youth Forum that I believe are solid enough to create sensible actions.

  1. Youth Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship

Globally, many young people are viewing entrepreneurship as a viable career option. Social entrepreneurship is also becoming a very attractive alternative to traditional businesses because of the high social and environmental impacts. There are many organizations which currently fund startups and there is also a lot of support for starting a business.  However, it is imperative that young people create solid entrepreneurial networks within their countries and regions as well as lobby for additional support for startups and existing enterprises.

  1. Education and Training

Young people are in need of the right kind of education and training, one that will enhance employability, promote skills mastery of chosen area, encourage the use of technology, stimulate innovative thinking and resourcefulness and prevent skill mismatches. Learning is no longer limited to what is shared or discussed in the classroom. Knowledge is at our finger tips by the click of a button! Therefore, the phrase “the art of learning” has never been more applicable. Learning must now become ‘hands on’ in every way and not just when it comes to learning a skill. Young people must learn to create innovative solutions for the unique problems they face in their countries through their chosen career. It is no longer about studying for a degree or learning a new skill.

  1. Strong policies and partnerships

Creating jobs is not only about financial resources. You can have all the money in the world and not know what to do with it. Therefore, the need for strong partnerships and polices to create solid action plans is paramount. There is a need for labour market policies which guarantee gender equality at work and eliminates gender pay-gap. Additionally, policies should also promote adequate social protection, decent work and livelihoods for young people in both formal and informal sectors in accordance with ILO[2] labour standards. Furthermore, labour market policies which ensure employment support for disadvantaged youth that is tailored to their needs, and school-to-work transition policies must not be overlooked. Of course, if developed for each country/region, all these policies would be a great start. However, they would not be totally ready for implementation without the right kind of partners. Partnerships are vital to every action plan and are critical to the implementation of every policy. The right kind of action needs the right kind of people, not just for financial support but also for technical support and expert advice.

  1. Apprenticeship

School-to-work transition programmes have become critical to the development of employability skills and employment readiness among youth globally. More of these programmes need to be developed to increase the employment rate among the youth population. Apprenticeship provides young people with necessary work experience that may increase their chances of finding employment. In addition, this also helps to develop mastery in their chosen profession which will allow them to be more efficient and productive in the world of work. In Jamaica, the National Youth Service (NYS), which is an agency of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, has two unique programmes which facilitate this kind of initiative: the Graduate Work Experience Programme (GWEP) and the NYS Summer Programme.

  1. Volunteerism

Although this is one of the most important forms of getting work done, it has not received the prestige and importance it deserves especially in developing countries. However, volunteering whether informal or formal is not only important to meeting the developmental needs of a country, it is also vital to the development of self. The value of volunteerism must be etched in the minds of young people today to ensure its continued benefits for country and self. Personally, in the early stage and even presently, a lot of the skills I have come to master was as a result of volunteering. Moreover, many of the opportunities that came my way (employment included) were as a result of volunteering. Therefore, if your concept of volunteering is ‘free labour’ and limited rewards, think again… Sure, you may be working without receiving a salary or a stipend, but the personal and professional rewards are endless.

It was estimated that about 670 million jobs will have to be created over the period of the Post 2015 Development Agenda in order to cope with the current spread of unemployment and growth in the working age population. Globally, young people must work together to assist world leaders with solutions for job creation. We can no longer practice exclusivity with such a pressing global issue. Countries, regions and the world at large must develop and enforce strong polices and partnerships to target youth unemployment, and who better to assist with this than youth themselves.[i]

To learn more about the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2014 and the Crowdsourcing initiative on youth in the post-2015 development agenda, visit http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/youth2014/ and http://www.un.org/youthenvoy/news/crowdsourcing-initiative-on-youth-in-the-post-2015-development-agenda-launched-today/

 

[1] http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/multimedia/maps-and-charts/WCMS_212430/lang–en/index.htm

http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/youth-employment/lang–de/index.htm

 

[2]ILO-International Labour Organization

 

[i] http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/youth2014/

http://www.ilo.org/global/lang–en/index.htm

 

Skateistan and The UN, a kickflip and hope in Afghanistan

The World Urban forum was a tidal wave of impressions. Medellin is impressive and truly progressive when it comes to urban development. The possibilities are tremendous, given that so many people from all over the world come together and share their ideas and experiences.

One of these is Madina, a 16 year old girl from Afghanistan who has left her country for the first time to talk about Skateistan, a project giving opportunities of a better life for children and youth in Afghanistan and Cambodia.

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Madina is ‘one of the oldest students and most accomplished teachers representing Skateistan‘ and her story is touching as well as empowering. Young girls her age are living this life on a daily basis all over the world so it is therefor motivating to listen to Madina’s story and how she has developed over the past years:

 “In 2010 Madina was selling trinkets on the streets of Kabul in order to contribute to her families economy. She has six sisters and one brother (where most of them are younger than her), and while many Afghan families would keep their girls at home that is not an option for a family with only one son. One day Madina saw a group of young boys skateboarding and she asked them where they learned how to do it. From there she got introduced to her new found passion and Skateistan.”

Skateistan was founded in Kabul in 2007 where skater Oliver Percovich established a small skating school in Afghanistan. With a large amount of eager children and youth and only three skateboards they soon realised that the potential was big. They eventually made an indoor skate-park, imported more skateboards and made facilities where both girls and boys could safely participate.

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Skating is a way of connecting with children and youth whom are usually difficult to reach. It has a therapeutic effect on them and it is easier for them to open up and socialise when they are sharing a hobby.

With the big effect on the children and Youth, the people behind Skateistan has implemented education to the programme which is a big advantage – Skateistan has in addition to the skating a variety of programmes with different goals aiming to contribute to the development of young people between the ages of five and eighteen. One of the programmes is about creative self-expression whereas another one aims to create young leaders. Their program “back to school” gives children that have fallen out of the public school system a way to get back in. Skateistan also aims to have the participants progress within the system, which resulted in Madina becoming one of their employees.

   Skateistan engages over 400 young people every week. Some comes to skate, others paint, participate in classes or do other types of sports. Skateistan takes the children of the streets and has a unique way of reaching underprivileged young people. Skating as an activity in Afghanistan is still quite unknown, so all skateboards are either imported or made by themselves.

The kids at Skateistan gets the opportunity to start fresh with something unknown but yet very safe. Madina expresses that it takes some diplomacy and work to create an understanding among the parents that what they are doing is safe, especially when it comes to the girls. They have separate days for boys and girls, which makes it possible for many to participate. As it says on Skateistans website: “Afghan girls can´t ride a bike, but they can ride a skateboard”.

 

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– Safety is a relative term, and there is no doubt that for a country who is for the first time conducting to elections in a row there is still a lot of concerns. Madina hopes the future for Afghanistan is bright, and that girls and women will get more opportunities. She is still very aware of the realities. Strong forces do not want to see girls get the opportunities Skateistan is giving them, and there is always a risk of attacks. Madina talks about a friend from Skateistan who was killed in a suicide bombing. That is their reality, attacks on a regular basis and an overwhelming uncertainty of what might happen in the future.

Over 60% of the worlds urban dwellers have been victims of crime over the last five years. Developing countries have higher rates of crime and violence in their cities. Creating safer cities is among other things about infrastructure – proper lighting, transport and safe ways of travelling. Girls are particularly vulnerable in this context. An example is how many girls have reduced access to education because they rely on travelling while there is daylight, making them having to leave school before their classes have finished. At Skateistan they provide safe transport for girls, without it they could not have had nearly as many girls there as they do.

Safety in cities is still about more than physical conditions. It is about creating an environment where you can unfold without risk, and its about creating alternatives to an everyday life without sensible activities, a life that for many leads into crime or substance abuse. Skateistan represents such an alternative, targeting the most vulnerable and marginalised groups among children. Skateistan is about giving children and youth a possibility of a better life, but it is also about creating a sense of community. Skateistan is creating a generation that can contribute to society through the opportunity of individual and collective development. 68% of Afghanistan’s population is under the age of 25 – they are shaping the generation that will be responsible for developing the country, and they are giving the most vulnerable groups, girls, poor and disabled children a chance to take part in this.

– When Madina was 14 she spoke to the Afghan parliament about the challenges that young people in Kabul face. She is also the youngest person to have spoken at the TEDxKabul. When Madina speaks to an assembly of UN officials, politicians and civil society about Skateistan and the realities for children and youth in Afghanistan, they listen. It is both engaging, sore and completely unmasked. We must stand with Madina in the fight to give young people better opportunities – for play, education, work and a decent life.


 

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 – Madina teaching Tone (UN-Habitat) how to skate at World Urban Forum 7, Medellin.

Visit… Wadi Foukin

Sharek Youth Forum and Wadi Foukeen’s Youth Local Council Conduct the “Visit Wadi Foukeen” Campaign

Sharek Youth Forum alongside with Wadi Foukeen’s Youth Local Council conducted the campaign, “Visit Wadi Foukeen”, in hopes to shed the light on Palestinian farmers and show the cruel realities in which they face. By organizing regular visits from families and tourists and whilst inviting the media to document and track these violations we have been able to show what the village is currently experiencing. This was accomplished with the presence of more than 250 visitors and a number of officials including local and international organizations.

Abdel Sabaaneh, the Project Manager, affirmed that this campaign is one of many campaigns conducted by Sharek in accordance with local youth councils conducted by Sharek in accordance with local youth councils to promote youths’ role in their communities and ensure their active participation in making all possible changes.

Sabaneeh added, “These kinds of activities can help youth get involved and influence local government policies”.

Salah Baba, the Director of Agriculture in Bethlehem, asserted the importance of youth in preserving the local agriculture despite all the obstacles they currently face. Baba confirmed the necessity of continuous agriculture advancement in this village, stating that these factors help them supply the city with crops.

Furthermore, the Youth Local Council of Wadi Foukeen stressed that this campaign was born out of a sense of responsibility for the village. Expressing that they are determined to improve the situation of the village and preserve its’ cultural and natural heritage whilst promoting the role of Palestinian farmers and the resistance.

The council added that this is only their first step in encouraging the regular visits to the village and stated that they will not stop until they have fulfilled their duty.

“We Have a Role”, is a project implemented by Sharek Youth Forum alongside UNHABITAT and three local governing bodies that are located in Jenin, Bettir and Al-Khader. This project works to engage young people with their local governing bodies and encourage them to strive for policy development, further hoping to enhance their social accountability.

 

PDF download with pictures available here: wadi foukin