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Archives for Youth

Equal Futures Partnership Advances Global Women’s Opportunities

Sarah Mendelson is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. Credit: USAID

I am excited to have just returned from the kick-off of the Equal Futures Partnership to expand women’s opportunities around the world. The event was held in New York City and part of a number of events USAID is participating in during the United Nations General Assembly this week.

The world has made significant strides in expanding opportunity for women and girls; in the U.S., we just celebrated 40 years of Title IX, an act of Congress that changed the lives of many in my generation by enabling girls to have equal access to education playing sports. Equal access to sports in schools, particularly, taught many of us how to be fierce competitors and learn valuable lessons in team building.

Yet more work is needed to tackle the global gender inequality. Last week, I met in London with donors on this very topic where researchers discussed a number of startlingly facts:

  • In 2011, women held only 19 percent of parliamentary seats worldwide, while less than five percent of heads of state and government were women.
  • While in the past 25 years, women have increasingly joined the labor market, the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report describes “pervasive and persistent gender differences” in productivity and earnings across sectors and jobs.
  • Though women are 43 percent of the agriculture labor force and undertake many unpaid activities, they own just a tiny fraction of land worldwide.

These realities demand an urgent response.

Building on President Obama’s challenge a year ago at UNGA, the United States government has partnered in a new international effort to break down barriers to women’s political participation and economic empowerment. The goal of the Equal Futures Partnership is to realize women’s human rights by expanding opportunity for women and girls to fully participate in public life and drive inclusive economic growth in our countries.

Through this partnership, the countries of Senegal, Benin, Jordan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Peru, Denmark, Finland, Australia and the European Union are all making new commitments to action, and will consult with national stakeholders inside and outside government, including civil society, multilateral organizations including UN Women and the World Bank, and the private sector, to identify and overcome key barriers to women’s political and economic participation.  This partnership promises to be groundbreaking not only for the countries involved but also for those who are watching its implementation.

USAID and its Center for Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance stands by to provide assistance to these countries as well as many others throughout the world as they work to advance women’s political participation and economic empowerment.

This is thrilling work that helps make the promise of development real for everyone–not just a privileged few.

New Issue of Frontlines: Youth and Technology

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Read the latest edition of USAID’s FrontLines to learn more about how the Agency is engaging youth around the world and how it is embracing mobile technology. Some highlights:

  • Looking to young minds for new ideas to old development challenges is producing fresh solutions. Just ask the young woman who is helping save newborns in Malawi with a jerry-rigged aquarium pump.
  • They’re opening small businesses, building environmental awareness and learning the ins and outs of politics from the village council to Parliament. Through youth-led community groups, more than 700,000 of Kenya’s young people are preparing to become their country’s next generation of savvy citizens and influential leaders.
  • SaysChris Locke: “The last two or three billion people in the world to access the Internet will do it via mobile phone.” Locke is the managing director of GSMA Development Fund, the development arm of the world’s largest mobile industry association. Read what else he has to say about the evolution of mobile technology in the developing world.
  • Before mobile banking came to rural areas of the Philippines, customers might take as long as six hours to journey to a bank branch to conduct business. Now it takes minutes and only their fingers do the traveling.

If you want an e-mail reminder in your inbox when the latest issue of FrontLines has been posted online, subscribe here.

Q & A: Youth Movement to Fight Violence in Honduras

Members of Jovenes Contra la Violencia. Photo: MJCV

We interviewed Jorge Santiago Avila Corrales, a 25-yr old honor roll student at the National University of Honduras, about security concerns and the role of youth in Honduras.  He is the country coordinator of the Movimiento Jovenes Contra la Violencia (the Youth Movement Against Violence).

Jorge Santiago Avila Corrales is the country coordinator of the Movimiento Jovenes Contra la Violencia. Photo: MJCV

1.     Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. How has it affected you?

I am saddened by the fact that my brother is one of these statistics, since I lost him due to violence, and to know that the situation in Honduras is as it is. On the one hand, it makes me worry that future generations will have a very short life expectancy; on the other hand, I know that we young people are talented and have lots of good ideas, so we can effect change and highlight the good things about our country.

2.     You have chosen not to become a perpetrator of violence. Who or what helped you make good decisions as a youth?

My parents have played a fundamental role; with their examples and guidance I have moved forward. Although we had scarce economic resources, they always instilled in me good values and principles.  As the oldest of five siblings, I always had to be an example. Even living in the “hot spot” of Comayagüela, my desire for self-improvementkept me away from troubled groups and towards making decisions that brought me to where I am today.

3.     What led you to get involved in the Movimiento Jovenes Contra la Violencia?

I joined the Movement in order to implement a methodology to develop youth dialogues. I really liked the Movement’s inclusion of young people from different social strata, religions, and ideologies, and I liked that I, a simple youth from a marginal neighborhood, could coordinate an activity like that.  This shows that a youth fighting against violence can be anyone who wants to change his or her life and country, regardless of his or her background.

4.     With approximately half of Honduras’ population under 25 years old, how does the Movimiento make a difference in Honduras?

A young person makes the difference when he or she begins to dream and to fight to bring those dreams to reality. As young people, we have a lot of things to propose and we are intelligent.  In the Youth Movement against Violence, different talents come together and we channel them toward a common objective; our differences are secondary when the problem of violence is the main concern.

5.     The Movimiento has had many accomplishments. What are one or two of your favorites?

Bringing together Honduran youth to show that we are capable of great things when we fight together; we can reach

Screenshot of video. Click to view on YouTube

Jovenes Contra la Violencia recently held a video contest to help spread their message. In this winning video, Ewin raps about how peace can be transformative for Honduran youth.

great achievements. But definitely the greatest success is being able to give a voice to Honduran youth, bringing their proposals in front of decision makers and having credibility in society as a youth organization that is truly achieving a change in peoples’ attitudes nationwide. However, each of the activities that we have realized has been my “favorite”: the television program; the human chain in which hundreds of youth participated; our recent participation in the SICA [Central American Integration System] Presidents’ Summit this past June; and the concert “Singing No to Violence”; in sum, all of our activities are very appealing in that they have been planned by us, ourselves, with concrete goals and objectives.

6.     Honduras has a lot of challenges, especially in economic growth, democracy, and security. With the help of the Movimiento, what do you hope to see change in the next few years?

First, I would like to see a personal change in the lives of all Hondurans, where they accept that changing from a negative direction to a positive one is the responsibility of all and that youth are not the problem, we are a part of the solution. I also hope that more and better opportunities arise for work, education, health, living conditions, social and human security, and occupation of free time for youth, and that in this way we will focus on the prevention of violence. With prevention, economic improvement for Honduran families, and true democracy, violence will diminish considerably.

Celebrating International Youth Day

Today, August 12, we join the world in celebrating International Youth Day and honoring young people everywhere who act for progress, peace and prosperity.  In his video message commemorating IYD 2012, Administrator Raj Shah reminds us all that “with vision and passion, youth serve as vital change-agents in their communities and countries.”

As a global community, we face great shared challenges – poverty and unemployment, conflict, disease, climate change. With more than half the world’s population under the age of thirty, we know young people must be part of the solution.  This year, the UN themed this day “Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth.”  At USAID, we recognize that our success will come only if we harness the energy, talent, and opportunity in youth through innovation, participation and partnership.  In fact our forthcoming first-ever policy on youth issues is deliberately entitled “Youth In Development” to signal our commitment to young people as our partners and leaders.  Through our Development Innovation Ventures platform, we recently created a dedicated window for young innovators at home and abroad to bring us their ideas.

In addition to their ongoing activities to engage, support, and prepare young people, USAID Missions in all corners are marking International Youth Day with special events and activities.  In Jordan for example, youth gathered with USAID staff in Zai National Park for community service, learning, arts, and citizenship activities. In Kosovo, USAID officials joined the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports for a round table discussion with Kosovar youth that will inform the national government’s Youth Strategy, as well as our own Young Entrepreneurs Program.

While the sun will set on this IYD 2012, the spirit of partnership with and for youth will endure in our ongoing programs, policies, and dialogue.  Follow and engage with us at Youth Impact, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #USAIDYouth.

Dr. Nicole Goldin is Senior Advisor for Policy and Chairs the Agency’s Youth Policy Task Team

Meeting the Reproductive Health Needs of Young People

I first became interested in family planning and reproductive health during a class on health and developing countries in college. It was fascinating to me to learn how access to reproductive health has far-reaching health, economic, and societal impacts. However, I didn’t start focusing on the particular reproductive health needs and rights of young people until I studied abroad in northern Nigeria.  There, I met young women and men who had frighteningly incorrect information about sexuality, pregnancy, and HIV.  In the market, I saw 12- and 13-year-old girls who were dressed to advertise their eligibility for marriage, and I was told they would begin childbearing within the next year or two.  When I graduated from college and started in my position as a Policy Fellow in USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health, I brought these lessons with me.

We young people are often accused of focusing too much on ourselves.  But as the world’s largest ever generation of young people begin to enter their reproductive years, a focus on meeting the reproductive needs and rights of young people is well deserved. This Sunday, International Youth Day, gives us the opportunity to celebrate young people and reflect on their  diverse needs around the world.  Approximately 16 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year, and complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for this age group in developing countries.  Girls who become pregnant often face discrimination within their communities, drop out of school, and are sometimes forced into early marriage. Girls who become pregnant are more likely to have a lower income and have more children at shorter intervals throughout their lifetime. In contrast, young women who avoid unintended pregnancy are more likely to stay in school; participate in the work force; and have healthier, better-educated children.

In April, I had the opportunity to serve as a youth delegate on the US delegation to the UN Commission on Population and Development.  This year’s theme was adolescents and youth, and I’m proud of the bold outcome document adopted by member states.  It addresses the real needs of young people for comprehensive education about human sexuality; gender equality; and removal of legal, regulatory and social barriers to reproductive health information and care for adolescents.  The resolution also urges governments to protect, “the human rights of adolescents and youth to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health.”

Choices made about health-related behaviors and habits adopted during the transition years between childhood and adulthood can have either a positive or negative impact on future health and social well-being. Reproductive health constitute a key component of a healthy transition to adulthood, which is why USAID works across the globe to help improve education and access to youth reproductive health information and services. We are working  to harness the energies of young people as we  help them realize their full potential.  We see them as the future and want their valued  contributions  to and participation in the social, economic, political, and cultural life of their communities.

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.”

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