USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Youth

Major League Soccer Envoys Bring Olympic-size Excitement to Camp in Eastern Ethiopia

Aug. 12 is International Youth Day, and this year’s theme is “Building a Better World by Partnering with Youth.” As an intern with USAID’s Outreach Program in Ethiopia, I recently spent a week working with 560 young people between ages 13 and 20 doing just that. I helped the U.S. Embassy’s Cultural Affairs Team run a weeklong soccer camp co-sponsored by Sports United and featuring two sports envoys from Major League Soccer: Tony Sanneh and Kate Markgraf.

The State Department’s sports diplomacy program sends American athletes around the world to transcend differences by engaging people with a shared passion for a sport. Forty-four percent of Ethiopia’s population is under the age of 15, so youth development is an integral part of Ethiopia’s development. When asked why he does sports diplomacy, Sanneh, a retired Los Angeles Galaxy player, said, “If kids can learn to stand in line, learn the rules of the game, it translates to the classroom and society.”

Growing up in the United States, I went to summer camp with that American notion of “roughing it.” At this camp however, the participants, coaches and volunteers came from Harar, Dire Dawa and Jijiga, areas of eastern Ethiopia that are susceptible to ethnic and religious tensions. Three hundred and fifty campers were Muslim, and 210 were Christian.

As world attention turns to the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Ethiopian girls were coached and inspired on a daily basis by Markgraf, a three-time Olympian with two gold medals and one silver.  Markgraf remarked on her experience at the camp, saying, “The great thing about soccer is that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what color you are, what gender you are, it brings us all together.”

After the soccer clinics, the Embassy’s cultural attaché, Jason Martin, and staff led daily discussions on social values, peer pressure, American history and good environmental practices. At night the kids would compete as much as they did on the field during the day, dancing to popular Ethiopian music.

On the last day, I asked a girl from Harar named Leyman Jirb Mume if she had had fun, and she said: “I am so happy that I was able to come to this camp and make friends from Jijiga and Dire Dawa. I would never have been able to do that without this program; it makes me so happy.”

For my part, I learned what “roughing it” really means. In addition to braving the scorching heat, many at this camp were very poor, but that didn’t dampen their enthusiastic participation: Some boys and girls even played in flip-flops or barefoot. Markgraf marveled at the level of excitement over soccer balls donated by USAID, saying:  “I think my most memorable experience has been seeing the excitement of the kids when they come off the bus and they each have a soccer ball to play with. We take that for granted in the U.S., but [here] it is something to have an inflated ball that is brand new; that excitement is something I have never seen.”

The Journey of Life for Children Living with HIV – From Diagnosis to Adulthood

Not long ago, it was expected that children living with HIV would not survive to adulthood.  Today, children living with HIV are thriving through adolescence into adulthood, and doing so in large numbers.

Though effective antiretroviral treatment is allowing many to live long and healthy lives, living with HIV remains a complex burden for these age groups. Treatment, care and support needs are challenging and ever-changing.  Focusing on clinical services alone is insufficient.  Children and adolescents living with HIV have a range of other essential needs that must be supported.  They require psychosocial support, sexual and reproductive health education, alcohol and substance use counseling, and information on voluntary and safe disclosure, loss, grief, and bereavement.   Children and adolescents are often confronted with a multitude of emotions, questions, and concerns regarding the complexities of disclosure, their health, and their future.

PEPFAR, WHO, UNICEF, national governments, NGOs, organizations of people living with HIV, and others are working to support children living with HIV as they transition from childhood to adolescence and adulthood.

One of USAID’s foremost concerns is how best to support and address the unique health, psychological, and social needs of adolescents living with HIV as they transition into adulthood and into adult care environments.  Only an estimated 15% of HIV-exposed infants are identified and in southern Africa less than 12% those between 15 and 24 years of age have been tested and know their HIV status results.   USAID acknowledges the urgent need for age-appropriate HIV testing and counseling for children and youth to identify those that remain undiagnosed. 

With the participation of children and adolescents living with HIV in USAID programs, we continue to better understand how best to reach adolescents with the services they need.   For one, HIV remains highly stigmatized.  Children and adolescents living with HIV are confronted with complex challenges regarding disclosure with their peers and even family members.   They are in need of support to practice voluntary and safe disclosure, maintain treatment literacy and adherence, and have healthy relationships.

This is a historic moment in human history. We know what works in the effort to combat major killers of children and we are in a unique position to further reduce childhood all-cause mortality and virtually eliminate new pediatric HIV infections while keeping mothers healthy.

The focus on adolescents living with HIV is important to USAID and part of a greater initiative to meet the health needs of children.  For fifty years, USAID has been committed to improving child health.

In June, the Child Survival Call to Action challenged the world to reduce child mortality to 20 or fewer child deaths per 1,000 live births in every country by 2035.  Reaching this historic target will save an additional 45 million children’s lives by 2035.

Fifty-six governments and over 100 civil society partners committed to sharpening national plans for child survival, monitoring results, and focusing greater attention on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children.

For children and adolescents living with HIV, we must manage their care with the desire and actions that show their self-worth including treatment and clinic adherence.  And let’s continue to prioritize meeting essential needs so children and adolescents can make a healthy transition into adulthood and a fruitful, productive life thereafter.

Join the USAID-sponsored International AIDS Society satellite:  Journey of Life for Children Living with HIV – From Diagnosis to Adulthood Sunday, July 22, 2012 from 9:00-11:00.

Ask the Celebrity: PSI Ambassador Mandy Moore on International Development Efforts

At the Frontiers in Development forum we had the opportunity to sit down back-stage with PSI Healthy Lives Ambassador and singer Mandy Moore and get her thoughts on international development. Below are our questions and her video answers. 

Q:”What would you tell young people that want to get involved in international development?” 

Singer Mandy Moore

 

Q: As a non-traditional figure in development, Mandy shares her insights on the best way to gain credibility from the broader international community.  We asked her, “How would you recommend other outside actors prepare themselves to engage development issues in an appropriate and responsible manner?” 

Mandy Moore

 

Q: How did you personally get involved with development, coming from a non-traditional background?

Mandy Moore

To see more questions and answers from our Frontiers in Development panelists, visit USAID’s Crowdhall page.

From the Field: Developing Kenya’s Leaders

At the end of May in Garissa, Kenya, 2,000 energetic youth gathered to celebrate their role as change agents in their communities. They came a long way since 2008, when high unemployment and frustration fueled some of the worst post-election violence in Kenya’s history. For three years, USAID has invested in developing the leadership skills of vulnerable youth in Garissa and fostering linkages to the work place, through the Garissa Youth Project (G-Youth).

With help from USAID, Ifra has become a leader in her community. She now manages a radio station that educates and empowers youth. Photo Credit: Joan Lewa, USAID

I have come to get an interview with one of the youth. They all look so confident and enthusiastic. Where do I begin?

Just then a young lady approaches me and confidently says, “I need to tell you my story – to let people know how my life was transformed through the G-Youth project,” she tells me with a smile.

Her name is Ifra. She told me that after her mother died, her older sisters supported her through high school. Now 20-years-old, she lives on her own.

In 2010, Ifra joined USAID’s G-Youth Work Readiness Program, where she learned leadership, interpersonal and communication skills. While in the program, she participated in radio production training and received a certificate in journalism.

Since 2009, USAID has also provided 1,100 scholarships to Garissa youth like Ifra to attend university or technical skills training courses. Ifra received a G-Youth scholarship, and she is now pursuing an associate’s degree at the East African Media Institute.

USAID convened 2,000 young leaders in May to celebrate how their new skills are opening employment opportunities. Photo credit: Joan Lewa, USAID

Today, more than 2,500 youth are better positioned to pursue employment and livelihoods opportunities following the successful completion of the work readiness training. This program is part of USAID’s larger commitment to engaging African youth in development, which was most recently highlighted at the Young African Leaders Innovation Summit.

The Ifra I met today is now the studio manager of the G-Youth radio program. She and her colleagues produce 30 interactive life skills and civic education radio programs for STAR FM and Warsan FM. More than 644,318 youth have been reached through these radio programs. “Thanks to USAID, I am living my dream. My voice is heard on radio all over North Eastern Region, educating fellow Garissa youth on how to improve opportunities for themselves and their communities.” 

“May I conclude here Joan? I need to go back to the studio.” “Of course yes,” I replied. After all, she has work to do.

  • Learn more about USAID in Kenya
  • Partner with us: Concept papers currently being accepted to elevate youth leaders and partnership for development in Africa

Title IX creates Opportunities for Women in Sports and Development

Susan Reichle is the Assistant to the Administrator for USAID’s Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning. Credit: USAID

When Title IX was enacted, I was just six years old and had no idea how this one piece of legislation ensuring equal rights for women in sport and education would impact me and millions of girls over the next four decades.

Having equal access to participate in athletics did far more than just pay my way through college on a field hockey/lacrosse scholarship. More importantly, sports taught me and millions of girls critical life skills such as leadership, teamwork and perseverance. Sports empowered my generation to believe we could do anything if we just worked hard enough. No longer were we limited to playing only half court basketball, the barrier that my grandmother had faced because girls were still viewed as the weaker sex.

Because of Title IX and Billy Jean King’s iconic victory over Bobby Riggs in 1973, my generation was raised to believe we were just as strong as men and deserved the same rights to the playing field. When our team was given access to the turf only at 5 a.m. so that the boy’s football team could practice during prime hours, our coaches began to push back.

Eventually we were taught to demand the same opportunities and equal access as men, and this is reflected today in our drive to compete with men in the workforce, seeking to rise to the highest levels in the workforce.

Has the empowerment that came with Title IX been an easy road for women?

No, there is still debate as to whether women and girls can really “have it all” and achieve full equality. Clearly, there is still work to be done. But as I travel around the world, I see the impact when women and girls are not provided equal rights. When a country leaves 50 percent of its population behind – whether it’s denying access to education, sports or healthcare – development suffers.

At USAID, we aim to ensure women are more often seated at the decision-making table to realize their rights and to influence outcomes at all levels. The evidence is clear: investment in women and girls delivers a disproportionate dividend in a country’s development.

As many have said during this 40th anniversary, Title IX was more about social change than sports.   But sports taught us the importance of competing and never taking ourselves out of the game. Sports also taught us that while we may be able to go faster alone, teamwork is the key to winning.

As we celebrate all that has been accomplished these past 40 years, I am reminded of the words of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, member of the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and three-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field: “Girls playing sports is not about winning gold medals. It’s about self-esteem, learning to compete and learning how hard you have to work in order to achieve your goals.”

Youth Call to Action

“We have to develop today the leaders for tomorrow,” said President Jahjaga of Kosovo during the USAID Frontiers In Development forum opening plenary entitled Development, Democracy, and Global Security in the 21stCentury. This statement resonated with the delegation of young people from across the globe participating in the event.

Administrator Raj Shah speaking with youth that attended the Frontiers in Development Conference at Georgetown University last week. Photo Credit: MCN

These students comprised young African innovators, Delegates from the G8 & G20 Youth Summit, young activists with Americans for Informed Democracy, youth leaders like Alex Wirth, Georgetown University students, and our team from The Millennium Campus Network. And while our backgrounds and interests differed, President Jahjaga’s message was clear to all of us: we’re up next.

President Jahjaga was not the only leader who mentioned the next generation; the power of young people was a theme that permeated the entire conference, mentioned by everyone from President Mary Robinson to actress and philanthropist Mandy Moore. It was hard to ignore the realization that the questions, discussions, and debates regarding global development will soon be our responsibility. But the inspirational leaders we heard from were done with excuses; they were setting an agenda for immediate change. In this way, the message of the Frontiers in Development forum was optimistic, which was encouraging, given the multitude of challenges we face moving into the future.

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Ask the Expert: Enrique Roig, Coordinator for Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) at USAID

We interviewed Enrique Roig from our Latin America and Caribbean Bureau to discuss his work on citizen security in Central America.

Enrique Roig, Coordinator for CARSI at USAID Photo Credit: La Prensa

Can you describe the security situation in Central America? Violence levels in Central America are among the highest in the world – there are an estimated 900 gangs with a total of 70,000 members in the region. The region is marked by surges in murder rates, transnational gangs and narcotics traffickers, and rising levels of crime. Citizens are most concerned about security, even ahead of economic issues. Despite efforts to focus on social inclusion and anti-poverty programs, income inequalities remain some of the most extreme in the world. A great part of the region’s population lacks access to healthcare, social services, and educational opportunities. The burgeoning youth bulge is also of grave concern since unemployment is extremely high.

We often hear the term, CARSI. What is that? The  U.S. government’s Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), launched by President Obama, is the interagency approach to combat citizen insecurity and violence in the region. In particular, USAID supports community-based approaches to crime and violence prevention, as well as rule of law programs.

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Advancing Food and Nutrition Security – A Student Perspective

Written by Brendan Rice, Student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Originally posted at the Universities Fighting Global Hunger Blog

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual symposium, Advancing Food and Nutrition Security at the 2012 G8 Summit, brought together G8 and African leaders, international organizations, businesses, and civil society to emphasize the importance of agricultural development and nutrition security.

As a student and a member of the growing Universities Fighting World Hunger movement, this event was incredibly powerful and motivating. As students, we frame hunger as a structural issue. Food price volatility and under-investment in agricultural sectors of developing countries are structural issues that continue the crisis of hunger. These underlying causes of hunger can seem infinitely enormous and complex, but the symposium leading up to the G8 Summit at Camp David gives context and invigorates the work that we all do towards making hunger a distant memory. At the symposium, leaders including President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and the rock star, Bono, showed that advancing food security is a priority. The work that we do on our campuses is not done in isolation. Instead, we are tapping into an energy that is now emanating from the highest levels of power.

At the symposium, President Obama laid out the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which builds off of the commitments made at L’Aquila. The new phase of this shared initiative towards global food security focuses on empowering agricultural growth through country plans, private sector involvement, and G8 commitments.

Framing hunger as a solvable problem is central to the work that we do as students. As a human family, we have the tools, resources, and knowledge to end hunger in our world of plenty. This issue is not necessarily about coming up with a solution. Instead, it is about advancing the steps we already know work to end hunger through creating the public and political will to do so. The symposium and Obama’s announcement set up a framework of global imperatives.

Despite the diverse ideas and sectors represented, there were a number of themes that emerged throughout the symposium, many of which were clearly outlined in Secretary Clinton’s closing speech. These included a focus on smallholder farmers, nutrition with a focus on the first 1000 days of life, and the importance of women in food security. The heads of state of Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania all made clear the importance of investing in the agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers, many of whom are women.

The framework is in place, and now it is time to move towards action. During his speech at the symposium, President Obama called for “all hands on deck.” Students and future leaders are central to maintaining the commitments made and continuing to demand a food-secure world. Secretary Clinton laid out the challenge succinctly in her speech at the symposium. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on the planet, and agricultural productivity must increase by 70 percent in order to keep pace. Bono stated that this challenge can and will be met, but not without Africa. Bono reminded us that the issue of hunger sears our collective conscience, so as a collective soul, this challenge is one that we must confront.

Representing students from around the world, Universities Fighting World Hunger is moving through strong conviction and grounded motivation to end hunger. To borrow a thought from Secretary Clinton, what can hold us back can be as simple as “plain old inertia.” In this we find hope because as part of the next generation of leaders, the inertia of the morally outrageous status quo of 1 billion people going hungry will be replaced by the exhilarating possibility of a fair and just global food system.

USAID Acts for Global Youth Service Day

Imagine how much progress we could make in the world if the over 1 billion young people aged 15-24 got engaged in leading positive improvements in their country. From April 20-22, millions of youth and children, their families, schools, and communities around the globe came together to celebrate youth volunteerism and to take action as part of the world’s largest service event – Global Youth Service Day (GYSD). This year, in the spirit of youth power for positive change, USAID partnered with Youth Service America – the organization that convenes GYSD – to mobilize even more young people in even more places.

Numerous USAID Missions participated and many Washington-based staff volunteered in the DC area, below is a short spotlight on just some of the inspiring activities.

A youth day activity. Photo Credit: USAID

In Somalia for example, 50 Somali youth who had undergone a leadership training earlier this year participated in a community service action event to mobilze their colleagues and raise funds and other support for patients in the Hargesia Mental Hospital in Somaliland, and visited the hospital to distribute food to the patients. The event/ceremony was presided over by the Somaliland Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture and the Director General of the Ministry of Health and reported in one of the daily newspaper in Somaliland. In Kenya, GYSD was celebrated by the Yes Youth Can! project and marked with the announcement in local press (The Daily Nation) of the Kenya National Youth Bunge Association; and in Katutura, Namibia, USAID officers joined the Young Achievers Empowerment Project’s Day of Hope activities. Participants in USAID Liberia’s Advancing Youth Education project took their voices aloud for a national radio broadcast panel about service learning experiences and the importance of public/community service in the context of the GYSD.

USAID Mission Director Rick Scott presents to Ms. Zevonia Viera. Photo Credit: USAID

USAID Timor-Leste participated in the Global Youth Service Day on April 20 by hosting a ‘recognition ceremony’ and awarding certificates to youth volunteers who have dedicated their time, energy, skill and thought to promote youth participation in reconciliation and peace building process through innovative use of the media under a USAID supported, youth-led radio program project.

Youth leaders and volunteers across the West Bank and Gaza participated in clean up campaigns at the grounds of their local Ministry of Health Primary Health Care Clinics as part of the “Champion Community Approach” to enhance health awareness and to promote community engagement in health promotion and health services. In Nablus, staff and volunteers at the Ruwwad Youth Development Resource Center held an open day for children with special needs aged from 7 – 12 years, in cooperation with Care for Children with Special Needs Association; and at the Hebron Center, there was a workshop on volunteerism and life skills for youth leading to an landscaping and beautification activities so everyone had a chance to “get their hands dirty”.

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Youth Shine at 5th Annual Clinton Global Initiative University

This past weekend I joined over 1,000 college students from 80 countries, and over 75 youth organizations, at the 5th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) held this year at George Washington University. For many, the highlight might have been Usher summing up his sentiment about why his foundation focuses on youth empowerment by singing Whitney Houston’s “I believe the Children are our Future” (while sharing the stage with President Clinton and Secretary Albright); or the closing conversation between Jon Stewart and President Clinton.

Dr. Nicole Goldin of USAID with youth at George Washington University while attending the 5th Annual Clinton Global Initiative University this weekend. Photo Credit: USAID

For me however, it was connecting and interacting with the participants – some I learned already have a USAID connection.   Like the members of the CGI annual meeting in New York every September, all participants must make a commitment to action in order to attend – and many of these student personal stories and commitments are extraordinary.

During the opening plenary panel, along with President Clinton, Secretary Albright, and Usher, an amazing young Afghan woman named Sadiqa Saleem inspired the crowd with her personal journey from refugee camps, to the US and back  home to educate the girls and young women of Afghanistan.  “We need a coalition of fathers [like hers] to fight for the education of their daughters….”  Along with her follow-women founder, they went from educating 36 girls in an abandoned building, to creating and running  the Oruj Learning Center which teaches nearly 3400 girls in 6 primary schools, as well as executes other womens’ education and youth leadership programs.

After the panel, I spoke with Sadiqa and she told me she worked as Manager of the professional development center under the USAID Afghanistan Higher Education Program  – and that’s where she got the ideas and increased skills to enable her to establish her colleges.

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