“Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.” — Kofi Annan
World Youth Skills Day is a United Nations observed event started in order to bring awareness to the need to address the high number of unemployed youth and the need for education, training, and gender-equality. According to the International Labor Organization, despite making up 18 percent of the total global population, youth (ages 15–24) account for 40% of unemployed persons. An estimated 71 million youth will be unemployed in 2017, with 11.6 million of them living in Sub-Saharan Africa (compared with 2.9 million in North America). The substantial increase in the number of youth who have the core skills needed to be employed is featured prominently in the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
A major challenge facing youth is structural unemployment, in that they lack the skills to match the jobs available in the marketplace. In addition to basic and technical skills, employers are looking for leadership, entrepreneurial, problem-solving skills, strong communication capabilities, and the ability to work effectively in teams. We came face-to-face with this challenge and quickly realized the potential the youth in East Africa had and the gap in the supply of resources that would prepare them for a livelihood beyond the classroom. In response, we started the Leadership and Entrepreneurship Incubator (LEI) Program, which focuses on developing these types of core employment skills through a focus on Job Readiness, Entrepreneurship and Personal Development.
A few alumni of our 2016 LEI Program from Masikonde Secondary School took what they learned and applied it to the business of raising rabbits, with proceeds ear-marked for a needy child at the school.For approximately $4 per person, they were able to secure 5 rabbits to raise and sell. They have already increased inventory to 21 rabbits and have attracted others who wish to learn the business for themselves.
Though small in scale, the students proved that they can succeed in developing and operating their own enterprise as a team and in the process teach others what they learned through the LEI program.
Another challenge is gender inequality in development and opportunity, which positions female youth to struggle even more. Often it is harmful traditions and cultural norms which are obstacles to the empowerment and success of women, young and old. Asante Africa’s Girl’s Advancement (Wezesha Vijana) Program focuses on providing a safe environment to address these topics and promotes the empowerment and equal treatment of young women through teaching them about their health, their rights, the social and business skills they will need to build a stable future.
Grace Wairegia of Michinda Primary school in Kenya has proven to be a quick learner. Using her skills in beadwork to create and sell purses and necklaces, Grace is able to cover the cost of goods for production, school and personal hygiene supplies, and set aside money in savings. Her success in generating her own income encouraged others to find activities of their own and do the same, multiplying the effect of her own success by empowering others. A few from her savings group, who were given chickens to rear by their mothers, used their proceeds to buy stationary for their school and sanitary towels. Seeing the efforts being put in by girls, the club patron at Laisamis Primary School made efforts to ensure that girls have access to sanitary supplies including regular supply of sanitary towels. She went to the Ministry of Education, advocated for this and ended up with a provision of 9 months.
Through proven and sustainable initiatives, Asante Africa is committed to closing the skills and gender gap for our youth to ensure they are positioned to join the workforce. We are proud and grateful for each of our donors that have planted seeds, through their sponsorship of programs like the LEI Program, in both lives and communities, impacting over 360,000 lives.
Our 2016 Impact Report, Girls Outcome Report and LEI Outcome Report are out now and are available for download at www.asanteafrica.org. To stay connected with our updates, subscribe to our newsletter.