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Thai Students Win Mobile App Contest

A group of five first-year Thai engineering students won the USAID Asia Students with Solutions 2012 Mobile App Contest last week. The contest challenged Thai university students to create mobile applications (“apps”) to help solve development issues.

The winning group, Team Optimo from King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), received a cash award of 50,000 Thai baht (equivalent to $1,625) and tablet computers. The team designed an app called “FloodFinder” that provides real-time data on water levels by using a smart phone’s built-in capability for high-quality photos, GPS and 3G connection, to be available on the market by next April. They were inspired to create the app by the historic flooding that occurred in Thailand in 2011 “to help save people’s lives and improve the quality of life,” said Nuntipat Narkthong, of Team Optimo.

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie A. Kenney, USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia Director Michael Yates, and KMUTT Vice President Assistant Professor Bundit Thipakorn posed with the Students with Solutions 2012 winner, Team Optimo, and members of six finalist teams after the final presentations at Hitech Digital Live Studio, Digital Gateway, Siam Square. Photo credit: Jakkapong Mangmool

Team Vana, consisting of four computer engineering students from KMUTT, won the contest’s popular vote with more than 2,900 “likes” for its deforestation app called “A-Eye” on Facebook, which available on the market next year. The app is designed to capture details of illegal logging and report the information to park officials, and to provide helpful information to park tourists.

Organized by USAID Asia, the Students with Solutions 2012 Mobile App Design Contest launched in June and focused on encouraging university students to think of creative ways to address disaster resilience and response, deforestation and forest degradation, and human trafficking. Six teams were chosen from the original applicants for the final round of the contest. U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie A. Kenney announced the top winning teams at the final event, based on a decision by an expert panel of judges.

“The Students with Solutions contest looks to Thailand’s brightest to develop answers to their country’s most pressing development challenges,” Kenney said at the event. “Realizing that mobile phones have transformed our lives, apps like these can provide easy ways to share information and create greater access to services.”

Read about the Students for Solutions 2012 Mobile App Design Contest from one of Thailand’s online newspapers.

How We Can End Modern Day Slavery

MTV EXIT Media Event to Announce Burma Concert on Combatting Trafficking in Persons. Front row (left to right): Ko Pho Hla, The Trees; Chit Thu Wai, Actress & Singer; Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein, MTV EXIT Celebrity Ambassador; Ohnmar Ei Ei Chaw, UNIAP; Matt Love, MTV EXIT Campaign Director; Simon Goff, MTV EXIT CEO; Police Brigadier General Soe Myaing, Head of the Department Against Transnational Crime, Myanmar Police Force; Derek J. Mitchell, U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar; Michael Hassett, AusAID Counsellor; Myint Moe Aung, Music Composer. Back row (left to right): R Zarni, MTV EXIT Celebrity Ambassador; Kyaw Zin, The Trees; Nick Grono, Walk Free; Phyo Gyi, Singer; Lynn Lynn, Singer; Saw Thar Gay, The Trees. Credit: MTV Exit Photo

After decades of isolation, Burma is quickly becoming the place to be. Today, President Obama became the first U.S. sitting President to visit Burma and last Friday, multi Emmy-award winning singer songwriter Jason Mraz announced he will headline a historic MTV EXIT concert there on December 16th to raise awareness and increase prevention of human trafficking.  The free, live concert will be held at the Yangon People’s Square, which lies at the base of the 2,600 year-old Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the country’s most iconic and auspicious sites.

Launched in 2004, MTV EXIT is a public awareness campaign that uses the power of music and entertainment to educate young people about human trafficking.  In addition to concerts, MTV EXIT and their partners use advertisements, hotlines, PSAs, music videos, documentaries, and youth training to reach at-risk communities.  To date, MTV EXIT has produced 30 concerts across Asia, reaching tens of millions of people.

The United Nations estimates that at any one point there are 20 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, more than half of these victims are in the Asia – Pacific region.  Human trafficking is the illegal trade of women, men and children involving force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of exploitation.  It is also one of the largest criminal industries in the world today, grossing an estimated $32 billion a year through forced labor, forced prostitution, debt bondage, and other forms of enslavement.  In Burma, citizens are at risk of being trafficked within the country, across its borders, and internationally.

At an MTV EXIT media event in Burma to announce the concert, U.S. Ambassador Derek Mitchell spoke on a panel moderated by Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein, Burmese pop singer and MTV EXIT Celebrity Ambassador.  He was joined by Burma’s Police Brigadier General Soe Myaing, AusAID Counsellor Michael Hassett, Nick Grono from Walk Free, MTV EXIT CEO Simon Goff, and OhnmarEiEi Chaw, UNIAP’s Program Coordinator for Burma.  Ambassador Mitchell reaffirmed the U.S. Government’s commitment to combat human slavery, saying “Human trafficking offends the conscience of everyone.” He also urged the young people of Burma to “be alert, be educated, and be empowered to make safe choices.”

USAID has a long history of countering trafficking in persons (C-TIP) around the world and has been a dedicated supporter of the MTV EXIT campaign for six years.  This year, the Agency released its Counter-Trafficking In Persons Policy to reinvigorate and focus Agency efforts to combat trafficking on concrete, measurable principles and objectives.  We also announced Challenge Slavery, a C-TIP campus challenge that calls on university students to develop creative technology solutions to prevent trafficking, enable victims to escape from traffickers, and help survivors recover.  Please join the community online and work with us to end trafficking.

On December 16th, the people of Burma will join the growing list of communities that won’t accept human trafficking as the reality today.  The concert will be broadcast nationally and will air across MTV’s international network, available in more than half a billion homes.  Raising awareness about human trafficking is key.  If freedom comes from knowledge, then we all have the power to end modern slavery.

USAID Fall Semester Review

It seems this semester is flying by and exams are fast approaching, making this the perfect time to step back and review everything that has happened so far during the USAID Fall Semester. Over the past two months, Administrator Rajiv Shah and other senior USAID staff have visited 14 college campuses across the country, directly engaging over 1,600 students. While introducing students to USAID’s mission, these visits have highlighted the important role that university students can play in development and how their ideas and innovations can be the difference in solving the most pressing global challenges. In addition to our campus visits,  Fall Semester has introduced USAID 101, which provides the history of USAID and in-depth learning materials about select development topics. All of these materials and a complete list of universities visited can be found below.

Administrator Shah greets students from University of Michigan's ONE Campaign campus group this past October. Photo Credit: Gerald Ford School of Public Policy.

And remember, whether it is getting an e-internship or a fellowship, competing in a Grand Challenge, applying for a DIV grant, or engaging with one of our partners, there is no shortage of ways to become involved in development work.

Learning Materials:

  • USAID 101
    • Lesson Plan: Innovation
    • Virtual Classroom: Mobile Money
    • Lesson Plan: Food Security
    • Book Club: Our Fall Semester Book Club gives you a list of development books that have been recommended by senior USAID experts. These books cover a wide range of development topics, from global economic history and world-changing science discoveries to strategies that help companies succeed in developing world markets.
    • USAID Impact Blog

Campus Visits: Check out pictures from USAID Fall Semester visits on the USAID Facebook Page

Serve with USAID: Visit this page to see how you can get involved with USAID.

Mobile Games Bring Social Change to Developing Worlds

The Half the Sky Movement is excited to announce the release of three mobile phone games in India and Kenya. These new games are designed to educate women and girls about essential health issues, increase awareness about gender equality, and empower them to bring about social change in these areas. Family Choices game aims to increase the perception of girls’ place in and value to families, with a focus on keeping girls in schools; 9-Minutes introduces players to the key do’s and don’ts of having a healthy pregnancy; and in Worm Attack!, players work to rid themselves and their communities of intestinal worms.

Can games on mobile devices create impact in the developing world?
With support from USAID, Games for Change (G4C) set out to answer this question with a seemingly simple goal: to produce free, high-quality mobile games that reach and educate women and girls about critical social, economic, and health issues. Looking back, we couldn’t have imagined the challenges we would encounter and the many lessons that we would learn. Here are a few tips to other “game changers” out there with similar aspirations.

Children play the Half the Sky mobile games in Kenya. Photo credit: Ed Owles, Worldview

1. Involve audience and content partners to inform and iterate on design.
Early on, G4C and publishing partner E-Line Media reached out to a handful of NGOs, seeking partners who would mutually benefit from the use of these games. We worked to integrate the NGOs into the development process. Each group assisted with the game conceptualization and helped define the goals of the game. NGOs were also enlisted for their content expertise –  to align the game content with their existing programs.

Our NGO partners also connected us with local communities to solicit feedback on art, gameplay, language and instructional content. We strengthened relationships with each NGO and used their valuable feedback to enhance the games. One local partner was so enthusiastic about helping that we decided to name a game character after her.

2. Design with the technology platform in mind.
Next we explored how to get the games into the hands of our hard-to-reach audiences. Just how does someone living in a rural village access digital technology?

Recognizing this problem from the outset, we looked to mobile technology as a gaming platform. Feature phones (J2ME) offered an opportunity to reach a much broader audience and offered media consumption to communities who might not otherwise see any other form of interactive media.

3. Penetrate the market with multiple distribution channels and consider how each will impact game use.
Upon release, G4C and E-Line Media will launch the games for free on local mobile operators’ and handset providers’ app stores in India and East Africa. However, no access to mobile Internet would mean that the games would never be seen by the hardest-to-reach audiences.

To address this problem, we worked with our NGO partners to leverage existing infrastructure and distribute the games through their programs on the ground. E-Line Media developed a multi-pronged strategy, with several NGOs in both India and Kenya, to create a variety of additional channels for distribution.

Conclusions
For everyone involved, this has been an incredible journey that has created a foundation for mobile game development and distribution that we hope to build on and bring to scale in the coming years. As mobile technologies continue to penetrate and dominate emerging markets, we will continue to shape and build the infrastructure and methodology for game design and development.

We are pleased to announce that starting today and in the following weeks, the three mobile games will be made available for free download from local app stores. They will be featured on the Nokia, Safaricom, GetJar and Appia app stores for a range of operators and devices in both Hindi and Swahili.

 

From the Field: Giving At-Risk Youth a Chance in Guyana

For many at-risk youth, workforce development training is the key to gaining the necessary skills to enter the workforce and become productive, earning members of society. In Guyana, a Caribbean country on the northern coast of South America, USAID workforce development programs serve critical needs in areas where crime rates are high and youth who lack job skills have few options to make a living. A USAID-supported program aims to give young Guyanese youth who are vulnerable to crime and violence, or have already committed minor crimes, a chance to turn their lives around.

Employment coach Rollin Tappan advises a participant in the Guyana SKYE program. Photo credit: Tomaisha Hendricks, SKYE Program Officer (fully owned by EDC and the SKYE Project)

The Skills and Knowledge for Youth Employment (SKYE) Guyana project will, by August 2013, provide 805 at-risk youth ages 15 to 24 with training in market-driven skills, and improve their ability to transition into the workforce. Community partners are preparing youth for the workplace by providing training in communications, personal development, local labor laws and financial literacy — areas that have been identified as priorities by public and private sector employers in Guyana. All activities are integrated through the provision of employment coaches that are paired with each youth to assist them in reaching individual development destinations.

The SKYE Project is part of President Obama’s Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), in which the United States is working together with the nations of the Caribbean on substantially reducing illicit trafficking, increasing public safety and security, and promoting social justice. Funded by USAID, SKYE is managed by the Education Development Center (EDC), and works with private sector partners, government ministries, community agencies and NGOs.

Youth participating in SKYE activities are given the opportunity to avoid entering or re- entering the juvenile justice system by taking part in activities that help them achieve their goals and become productive members of their communities — before their lives are lost to crime, violence and incarceration.

Employment coaches are key to the project’s success. The SKYE Project is recruiting and training 22 employment coaches, mostly local credentialed social workers that focus on youth, to work with young participants in four regions throughout Guyana.

“It isn’t difficult to train youth to be carpenters or construction workers,” Corbin says. “But when training ends and job seeking begins, youth are in danger of vulnerability if they don’t get a job right away. Our employment coaches are there to provide support and guidance to transition youth to real jobs in their communities.”

In the next few years SKYE will also assess labor market needs to better position youth for success. The project is also working to build local capacities by providing curricula and training so that Guyanese communities can continue to engage at-risk youth and provide opportunities to become productive members of society.

Visit our website to learn more about the new USAID Youth Policy (PDF).

Education Week 2012: Reading Improves with the 5 “Ts”

As part of the USAID Education Strategy (PDF), we are focused on improving reading for 100 million primary school students. We are supporting a movement to get All Children Reading. Our core approach is focused on improving teaching, making sure children have enough time to learn to read, using a language they understand, making sure they have access to reading materials, and testing to ensure they are meeting goals. These five “Ts” are key to reading success.

Reading is the most important skill that children learn as they start school. Reading success in elementary school leads to success in other subjects, higher education and life. And yet, in some sub-Saharan African countries, children who have attended school for five years have a 40 percent chance of being illiterate.

Reading saves lives. A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5. Educated women are more likely to send their children to school and better able to protect their children from malnutrition, HIV infection, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Reading impacts financial stability. As many as 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills. That is equivalent to a 12 percent drop in the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day. Research has found that countries that have experienced surges in literacy rates by 20 percent to 30 percent have seen simultaneous increases in GDP of 8 percent to 16 percent.

USAID’s approach to improving reading and literacy revolves around five goals, also known as the five “Ts”:

  1. More time devoted to teaching reading
  2. Better techniques for teaching reading
  3. More texts in the hands of children
  4. Teaching children in the mother tongue (a language they speak and understand)
  5. Testing childrens’ reading progress

Time. Reading has to be taught every day. Teachers and administrators need to maximize the amount of time spent on reading. Children also need additional practice time. Increased time spent learning and practicing reading results in success.

Teaching. To be effective, teachers need to teach the five components of beginning reading: phonemic awareness (knowing the sounds of their language), phonics (matching
the sounds to print), vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

Text. In order to learn to read, children require ample reading materials. Materials don’t have to be expensive, but they must match children’s reading levels, and every classroom needs multiple titles so children may strengthen their reading skills.

Mother Tongue. Beginning reading instruction must be conducted in a language that children speak and understand. Acquiring solid reading skills in their first language allows children to learn content and to become successful learners of other languages.

Testing. Assessment should be conducted in classrooms to ensure that teachers are aware of children’s progress and instructional needs. Assessment must also be conducted at the national level to support data-driven policy making.

Watch how this teacher uses a traditional reading approach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now watch how this teacher uses an improved reading approach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USAID and our partners are dedicated to pursuing reading improvements because they change lives.

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The White House (Blog): Supporting Human Rights in Burma

This post originally appeared on The White House Blog.

Yesterday’s announcement that President Obama will become the first U.S. President to visit Burma marks an historic step in the United States’ engagement with Burma. In the past year, since President Obama first noted “flickers of progress” in Burma – and since Secretary Clinton became the most senior U.S. official to visit since 1955 – we have seen continued progress on the road to democracy. Several opposition political parties have been permitted to register legally for the first time and their members – including Aung San Suu Kyi – have been elected to parliament. Restrictions on the press have been eased. Legislation has been enacted to expand the rights of workers to form labor unions, and to outlaw forced labor. The government has signed an action plan aimed at ridding its army of child soldiers; it has pledged to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to help ensure that Burma’s natural wealth is not squandered to corruption, and it has announced fragile ceasefires in several longstanding ethnic conflicts.

Seeing these signs of progress, we have responded in kind, with specific steps to recognize the government’s efforts and encourage further reform. We have eased sanctions, appointed our first ambassador in 22 years, and opened a USAID Mission. At the same time, we have also updated sanctions authorities that allow us to target those who interfere with the peace process or the transition to democracy, and we created a ground-breaking framework for responsible investment from the United States that encourages transparency and oversight.

We are clear-eyed about the challenges that Burma faces. The peril faced by the stateless Rohingya population in Rakhine State is particularly urgent, and we have joined the international community in expressing deep concern about recent violence that has left hundreds dead, displaced over 110,000, and destroyed thousands of homes. There is much work to be done to foster peace and reconciliation in other ethnic conflicts, develop the justice sector, and cultivate the free press and robust civil society that are the checks and balances needed in any stable democracy. But we also see an historic opportunity both to help Burma lock in the progress that it has made so far — so that it becomes irreversible — and to meet the many challenges in front of it. In May 2011, as the Arab Spring took hold, the President noted that America’s interests are served when ordinary people are empowered to chart their own political and economic futures. And to governments, the President made a promise: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States.

Last month, as part of our effort to fulfill that promise, the Obama administration held the first-ever official bilateral dialogue on human rights with the Government of Burma. Led by Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy Human Rights and Labor, the purpose was to initiate a new channel between our two countries to discuss challenges ahead – a high-level exchange on urgent and delicate issues that would have been unthinkable a year ago. Our delegation included not only Posner, Ambassador Derek Mitchell, and other State Department officials, but also senior officials from the White House, the Vice President’s office, USAID, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense, including both civilian officials and uniformed military. The delegation included experts on labor rights and economic development, rule of law and political reform, ethnic conflict and reconciliation, land-mine removal and criminal justice. Our hosts included senior advisors to President Thein Sein and ministers and senior officials from across the Burmese government and military. Aung San Suu Kyi attended in her capacity as a member of parliament and the chair of a new legislative committee on the rule of law.

Before the official dialogue began, the U.S. delegation spent three days in Rangoon meeting with former political prisoners, ethnic minority leaders, labor advocates, LGBT organizations (who said that this was the first time any government had ever invited them to meet together), and other members of Burma’s nascent civil society. When we sat down for our official dialogue in Naypyidaw, we were able to convey the concerns raised in these meetings to our counterparts, and also stress the importance of their building an inclusive reform dialogue that will seek input from Burmese civil society.

The U.S. government engages with many countries around the world in official dialogues on human rights. While these discussions are often a useful forum for diplomacy, it is fair to say that these conversations can sometimes be stilted, characterized by predictable presentations rather than a spontaneous back-and-forth in which uncertainty can be expressed. The U.S.-Burma dialogue was unusually high-energy and candid.

We both recognized the need to empower reformers in and out of government, protect against backsliding, and ensure the broader Burmese public feels the changes afoot. One of the most challenging aspects of reform is enlisting the country’s military, which governed the country through authoritarian rule for five decades. U.S. Army Lieutenant General Francis Wiercinski drew on his own experiences to make a powerful case to senior officials from the Burmese Defense Ministry that national security is helped rather than hindered by transparency and independent monitoring, and by compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law. The discussions, which emphasized areas where commitments to reform are necessary – including on child soldiers, forced labor, and in conflict areas – underscored that the gradual process of normalizing our military-to-military relationship will hinge on progress on human rights.

Many of the issues that we discussed in detail will likely feature in the President’s upcoming trip to Burma. These included:

  • Prisoners of conscience. The release of more than 700 political prisoners in the last year has been unprecedented. But as Secretary Clinton has made clear, for the United States, even one prisoner of conscience is too many, and the State Department has passed along a list of those we are concerned remain imprisoned. In addition, as one ex-prisoner put it, “we have been released, but we are not free.” The released prisoners have a huge amount to offer a democratic Burma, but, as we noted, the government will need to lift outstanding travel and other restrictions in order for them to participate fully in society.
  • Political reforms. Reforms have begun to change the political landscape, particularly as parliament has become more inclusive, and as representatives are increasingly answerable to their constituents. But efforts to build civil society, make government ministries responsive to the public, and create a more inclusive political process have just begun. In particular, the central government needs to tackle the challenge of ensuring that any reforms that are made by the parliament and central government are felt at the local level and especially in Burma’s border areas where the majority of the country’s ethnic minorities reside.
  • Rule of law. The parliament and the executive branch have tackled part of an ambitious agenda for remaking Burma’s law and legal institutions. But the judicial branch remains the least developed of Burma’s political institutions. Judicial reform, repealing outdated and restrictive laws, educating citizens of their rights, creating a vibrant civil society to protect those rights, and remaking the legal system and the legal profession all are required to lay the foundation of rule of law in Burma, and all have a long way to go.
  • Peace and reconciliation. The challenge of ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence – including in Shan State, Kachin State, and Rakhine State – remains an area of deep and ongoing concern. If left unaddressed, it will undermine progress toward national reconciliation, stability, and lasting peace. Serious human rights abuses against civilians in several regions continue, including against women and children. Humanitarian access to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons remains a serious challenge and on-going crisis. The government and the ethnic nationalities need to work together urgently to find a path to lasting peace that addresses minority rights, deals with differences through dialogue not violence, heals the wounds of the past, and carries reforms forward. The situation in Rakhine State and the recent violence against the Rohingya and other Muslims last week only underscores the critical urgency of ensuring the safety and security of all individuals in the area, investigating all reports of violence and bringing those responsible to justice, according citizenship and full rights to the Rohingya, and bringing about economic opportunity for all local populations.

Ultimately, Burma’s reforms will succeed or fail based on the efforts of the Burmese people themselves. President Obama’s policy approach has been to support reform and those championing it – an investment in Burma’s future that the President will personally reinforce later this month in Rangoon. Behind this investment is a commitment to helping the Burmese people see the promise that lasting reform holds for their country. As they take charge of their destiny, the American people stand ready to help.

Samantha Power is the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council

Semper Fi USAID: Ooh-rah!

My seminal experience with USAID came in 2007 in Ramadi, Iraq. As a part of President George W. Bush’s surge efforts, I found myself leading a very young, inexperienced Marine civil affairs unit with the mission of conducting stabilization and reconstruction in a badly damaged city.

Lieutenant Colonel Lee Suttee, Marine Corps Fellow to USAID

Our USAID representative, in the first wave of the so called civilian surge, arrived about two months into our year-long tour and made an immediate impact on our way of thinking as well as our approach to the seemingly insurmountable problems the people of Ramadi faced. He and his implementing partners spent time educating us, helping us gain access to key city officials, and influencing our activities.

The partnership and collaboration between USAID and my small group of Marines was essential in making a difference for the people in what was once called “the most dangerous city in the world.” As the Marine Corps Fellow to USAID, I hope to strengthen this important relationship and to make an installment on a rather large debt of gratitude. Semper Fidelis!

 

 

Lessons on Youth Leadership from Garissa, Kenya

Many of us youth development practitioners have been eagerly anticipating the release of USAID’s youth policy with the hope that it will increase awareness of the importance of youth issues to development. I know from EDC’s work around the world how integral youth are to economic, social and political development.

Children around a laptop in school. Photo Credit: USAID

One of the main principles in the youth policy is youth participation and youth leadership. In my work with youth in Garissa, Kenya, I see how young people have jumped at the chance to get involved in their communities, when given channels to apply their ideas and energy. Young women and men producing and broadcasting their own radio stories throughout North Eastern Province about news that matters to them is a great example. Youth led programming‐with youth in real decision‐making roles is essential, but it is far from easy and quick; it takes time and involves lots of trial and error. So it’s important for us to understand this when designing programs—we need to be ambitious but also patient and target a range of outcomes, that include building the capacity of young people not just as leaders, but as team members that are able to work together to problem solve and make decisions. I’m hopeful that we, as practitioners, and our colleagues at USAID can design programs that reflect this complex process.

The Youth Policy’s emphasis on families and communities is another principle that the Garissa experience has demonstrated. As important as ‘youth‐led’ programming is, youth still need support and encouragement to take on new roles and responsibilities. In fact, I think parents are often the best partners we have in communities because they know first‐hand how much their children are frustrated or depressed when they do not have opportunities. We hear directly from parents in Garissa how much they want to help their children do something that stimulates them or gives them inspiration, such as access to training or scholarships. Programs need to include parents consistently therefore, and not just at the launch of the project or when problems arise.

I’m also hopeful that the Youth Policy will reinforce USAID’s gender policy to continue to highlight the importance of gender within youth programs and development programs more broadly. All too often, the different needs and considerations for reaching young women and young men are not part of youth program design. We see this particularly in workforce programs in which it is rare to see specific workforce strategies for young women vs. men. As youth employment receives more attention, we can’t forget that meaningful solutions for addressing youth employment must consider the unique constraints affecting young women’s and men’s employment and livelihoods opportunities.

About the Education Development Center, Inc.: EDC designs, delivers and evaluates innovative programs to address some of the world’s urgent challenges in education, health and economic opportunity. EDC has designed and managed youth and workforce development programs in over 25 developing countries. Our programs focus on changing the life trajectory of youth who have been left out and left behind. EDC offers an integrated package of education, supports and experiences to ensure young people transition to successful, productive adulthood. Our focus on earning, education, and engagement and three primary cross‐cutting strategies make EDC’s work unique.

A Welcome Call to Action: Working with Youth in Development

As an active member of the Alliance for International Youth Development (AIYD), Plan International USA applauds USAID on the launch of the Youth in Development Policy! Along with many others in the development community, Plan has been anxiously awaiting the Policy’s launch. Plan’s work focuses on empowering children and youth in 50 developing countries, and this Policy offers an important reinforcement of the need to engage this population for lasting impact. We also congratulate Maame Yankah, a Youth Ambassador for Plan, for her participation in the Policy Launch Event, but more importantly for her many contributions to communities in Ghana and the US.

Student Nana Kweku Boateng in Junior High School in Koforidua, Ghana. Photo Credit: USAID

The launch of the Youth in Development Policy marks an important shift in our conversation. Many of us as youth champions are well‐versed in answering the question, “Why work with youth?” The reasons to involve youth as partners are many, and their talents, determination, and influence on the world stage is unprecedented. Yet today, with the heightened status of youth engagement within our own government, we can now embrace youth participation as an assumed component of our programming, and focus on responding to the more difficult question, “How should we work with youth?” Plan looks forward to collaborating with USAID, peer organizations, colleagues in the field, and of course the youth themselves, to collect viable answers to this question.

Now with USAID’s new Youth in Development Policy in our hands, how do we turn it into practice? For many organizations, working with youth may require a departure from current ways of operating and a renewed reliance on the youth community. Plan has made youth a heightened priority for several years, and to truly consider them partners, we will continue working with youth through these 3 steps:

1.Put Youth in the Driver’s Seat
It’s not enough to consult youth; they must be active participants and leaders in development. Because youth have unique needs and perspectives, only they possess the information to make youth programming relevant. Plan will continue to incorporate youth in the design and implementation process by calling on their experience and technical knowledge in such fields as economic empowerment, education, transparency and governance, and health. Not only will this channel youth energy into community‐building and their own personal growth, it will also breathe new life into the work that we do by dispelling old assumptions and continually driving new approaches. From a youth‐run television station in Malawi, to a performance group raising awareness about sexual abuse in India, youth are leaders in Plan’s global programming. We will look to these and other programs to track effective ways that youth can drive the development process.

2.Review and Revamp Internal Policies
USAID’s Youth in Development Policy encourages organizations to embrace youth in development as a cross‐cutting issue. As such, Plan International USA will take the Policy to heart in our own internal operations. Plan will continue to involve our domestically‐based Youth Advisory Board in organizational decisions. We will rely more heavily on our Youth United for Global Action and Awareness (YUGA) members to inspire awareness raising efforts on global issues among their peers here in the US.
Through the Because I am a Girl Campaign, Plan will continue to highlight the need for gender equality, as young women and girls face additional societal barriers. Plan will also increase efforts to measure youth involvement and youth‐led impact, involving youth in the monitoring and evaluation processes and in improving the evidence base.

3.Engage in Sharing and Learning
With the Youth in Development Policy, Plan is challenged to both share and learn from examples of what works to engage youth. In order to assure the greatest return on investment with limited resources, the youth community must be committed to communicating best practices and forming a community of learning. With this new focus on youth, we are accountable to not only our donors and partners, but especially to youth around the world. We need to work together to deliver the most responsible, impactful, innovative, and youth‐led programming possible. Only together as a united force can we adequately reach the scale necessary to meet the demands of the global youth population.

As a community, we won’t have the answers on how best to engage youth overnight. But with the launch of the Youth in Development Policy, we now have a call to action on behalf of the world’s youth. Plan International USA and the AIYD members are honored to have USAID’s support with our ongoing youth programming. Going forward, we will delegate more trust and authority to our youth partners. We also hope to engage with new youth champions, inspired by youth’s heightened profile within USAID. Congratulations to USAID on this momentous occasion‐ now it’s time for development actors and youth around the world to put the policy into motion!

About Plan International USA: Plan International works in more than 50 developing countries to end the cycle of poverty for children by developing long‐term sustainable solutions. Founded in 1937, Plan’s vision is of a world in which all children realize their full potential in societies that respect people’s rights and dignity. In addition, Plan International USA engages youth at an individual level through its Youth Engagement and Action (YEA) program, which involves a network of students and youth, as well as teachers and adult allies, in taking action on global issues. YEA’s mission is to build a global, youth‐led grassroots movement to help end the cycle of poverty for children and communities. YEA facilitates engagement through group meetings, school curriculum development, and advocacy reinforcing Plan’s global community development work. Within the United States, programs include educational outreach initiatives, organized retreats, and other special events and activities for youth participation, designed to help young people develop an understanding of the challenges faced by youth in the developing world.

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