USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Youth

Harnessing the Power of Sport and Play for Development and Peace

As a former Olympic athlete, I have experienced the incredible impact that sport can have firsthand. But, it wasn’t until 1993, during a trip to Eritrea, as an ambassador for Olympic aid, that I began to truly understand the influence that sport can have on a variety of developmental issues, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Since then, I have become utterly convinced that participation in sport and play programs has the potential to significantly contribute to child and youth development, prevent the spread of non-communicable and communicable diseases and strengthen communities.

Former Olympic speedskater Johann Koss. Photo Credit: Johann Koss

The 2011 United Nations Summit’s focus on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is timely as global deaths from NCDs are predicted to continue to rise over the next 10 years, particularly in developing countries. Because physical inactivity is a primary risk factor driving the global increase in NCDs, participation in sport plays a critical role in slowing the spread of chronic diseases. Regular physical activity effectively prevents non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression, and osteoporosis.

Sport and play is a true catalyst for combating NCDs, as it generates benefits through direct participation. Research shows that children and youth who build physical activity into their daily lives will be more likely to grow into active adults with a lower risk for chronic illnesses. We also know that physical activity, including sport and play, can produce beneficial effects on mental health, including enhancing self esteem, alleviating depression and helping to manage stress and anxiety. When individuals suffering from various mental health issues integrate regular physical activity into their lives, research has shown that their clinical symptoms, particularly for depression, significantly diminish.

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Home Sweet Home: How my Youth Journey around the World Brought me to our Nation’s Capital

Last November when I was appointed the first ever UN Youth Champion I had no idea what to expect. Now, the International Year of Youth is coming to a close and I’m astonished at how far it’s taken me. I traveled to 24 different countries in 6 months, spoke with thousands of youth, met with numerous government officials, volunteered with tons of NGOs, and raised awareness of youth issues among millions through major multi media outlets.

But, all of my efforts were validated a week ago when Nicole Goldin, Senior Advisor of USAID invited me to share my experience with Agency staff (and especially the team that is currently working to create their first ever policy on youth development). I was thrilled to meet some of USAID’s biggest youth champions, including Administrator Shah himself! My home country became my 25th and final stop on the Gimme Mo global tour, and the beginning of a new journey to support and engage with Americans to promote the global youth agenda.

Monique Coleman, actress and singer and UN Youth Champion. Photo Credit:

In the afternoon, UN Foundation hosted a dynamic discussion led by Aaron Sherinian, VP for Communications and Public Relations at UNF.  I was joined by Dr. Nicole Goldin and Ashok Regmi, director of Youth Action Net, an initiative of the International Youth Foundation. Basically, I had geniuses on all sides! Nicole shared some her experiences with our first lady Michelle Obama in South Africa and gave us insight into many USAID projects. She also made an interesting case for empowering girls while not neglecting or excluding boys.  Ashok encouraged us to look at youth as assets and invest in them. He also challenged us to redefine the role of technology. He expressed that technology shouldn’t be the basis of our thought or the core of change. People are agents of change, technology is simply a tool. Aaron, our host, kept us honest and thinking. He posed great questions, formed interesting connections, and helped us to think about youth in a new way.

At one point, Aaron said “philanthroteen” and I almost fell out of my seat. All around it was an inspiring, enlightening, and lively panel. I hope everyone who attended was as impacted by the day as I was.

I’m excited to continue the conversations and support the efforts of UN Foundation and USAID, and of course young people themselves at home and abroad!

Happy International Youth Day! Remember, YOUth are our world’s present AND future.

Stay connected to USAID on our Youth Impact page, and using the hashtag #USAIDyouth on Twitter.

You can follow Monique on Twitter.

Inspiring Youth in Jordan

Like so many young people in Jordan and around the world, Murad Al Zaghal was in need of opportunities to express his creative voice in a positive, meaningful way that contributed to his personal growth. Through his participation in the USAID-sponsored International Youth Day 2011, 19-year-old Murad got a much-needed boost to his confidence in his abilities and the pursuit of his passion for design.

Murad standing beside the International Youth Day poster. Photo Credit: USAID/Jordan

As a young designer studying architecture at Hashemite University, Murad says that he had been feeling a little uncertain about his major and his design abilities. That changed earlier this summer. In keeping with this year’s theme of “Partnership and Participation,” USAID organized a design competition for the IYD 2011 theme with its local partner, educational and vocational training center, the Interclub House. Murad was encouraged to participate in the contest, and his modern, sophisticated poster went on to win.

“When I walked in and saw my design all over the place, on the backs of everyone’s t-shirts, and people taking pictures next to the posters I designed, it was really an amazing feeling,” Murad says about attending International Youth Day.  “I never saw my work displayed on such a large scale. It made me feel it was a good choice to pursue design, and I thought, ‘what if I had designed the whole building?’”

Along with the invaluable exposure he received, and the boost in his creative esteem, USAID awarded Murad with a graphics tablet that allows him to hand draw images and graphics on his computer. He is now far better equipped to continue pursuing his passion for design and architecture.

In order to support the youth of Jordan and encourage their talents and creativity, USAID sponsored International Youth Day 2011 for 400 youth representing 10 universities and youth organizations. Projects funded by USAID were on hand at IYD to teach participants about the ways USAID is providing support to millions of Jordanians in the sectors of health, economic development, job creation, and sustainable natural resource management, among others, and to encourage participation of youth in issues affecting their future.

International Youth Day: Meeting the Reproductive Health Needs of Youth

I first came to D.C. in 1994, the year of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, which marked a milestone in the field of population and reproductive health.  The conference set a turning point as the world agreed that population is not about numbers but about people and their rights.  It also solidified my commitment to youth, health and development which began when I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer working with youth in Ghana.  Today I am the youth advisor for USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health.

Personal photo of Cate while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana circa 1994. Photo Credit: Cate Lane/USAID

More than half of the world’s population is under age 25.  I believe meeting the reproductive health needs for today’s young people is vital in ensuring future generations are able to lead healthy and dignified lives.  When girls are able to delay first pregnancy, they are more likely to obtain an education and end the cycle of poverty.  The United Nations proclaimed the past year commencing on August 12, 2010 as the International Year of Youth.  As the year comes to an end on International Youth Day, let us continue to stress the need for investment in programs that reach out to youth.

Listen to more of my thoughts on youth and development in this audio podcast by the Population Reference Bureau:

Involving Youth in Development Programming: Interview With Cate Lane, USAID by PopulationReferenceBureau

From the Field

In Uganda, we supported a youth festival to demonstrate the spirit of entrepreneurship.  USAID organized a national youth festival with 18 youth organizations and 26 youth clubs from local universities. More than 7,000 youth attended the event and three Members of Parliament who represent youth. The event was used to showcase entrepreneurial activities that youth are engaged in and link them with potential donors. Several young entrepreneurs shared their challenges and achievements, and encouraged their peers to learn skills that can enable them to create jobs. Training was held in social media, a skill that was highlighted by the entrepreneurs. Debates were also held on key factors affecting youth employment and the best ways to address the high unemployment rate among the youth in Uganda; the debate was facilitated by the youth MPs. There were even talent shows held in dance, drama and creative writing as tools for youth advocacy. USAID will continue to support youth advocacy on unemployment and follow up on promises by elected officials to create opportunities to reduce youth unemployment.

In Nicaragua, we are supporting access to public information. USAID’s Municipal Governance Program signed a grant with the municipality of Nueva Guinea to provide IT equipment and technical assistance that will improve the work of their public information office.  The grant includes a public awareness campaign component to educate citizens on the importance of requesting public information.  Democracy and Governance Office Chief, Jessica Zaman, remarked on the importance of access to public information as a basic human right.  Nueva Guinea Mayor, Obando Marín, thanked USAID for its support and emphasized that access to public information is not just intended to share information with everyone, but it should be considered a means to make concerted decisions that benefit the entire community.  More than 150 community leaders attended the event.  The Municipal Governance Program supports 20 Nicaraguan municipalities in the areas of governance, management, public services, transparency and citizenship.

Preview: UN High Level Meeting on Youth

At 1.5 billion, today’s global youth generation is the largest in history and USAID understands the important role youth play as partners and leaders in development.

On July 26-27, Government Officials, civil society organizations and Youth Delegates will come together in New York City at the United Nations General Assembly for a High Level Meeting on Youth.  As the flagship event of the International Year of the Youth which culminates on August 11, the overall theme is “Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”.

Under the overall lead of Ronan Farrow, State Department’s new Special Advisor on Global Youth Issues, USAID will play a prominent role at the meeting.  Nicole Goldin, Senior Advisor at USAID, will deliver a statement on behalf of the U.S. Government during the Development Roundtable.

At USAID we are inspired by the energy of youth in the developing world, and actively searching for ways to engage them in the development dialogue and process.   Alongside the formal events, USAID (Nicole Goldin and Erin Mazursky, Youth Advisor) will host a listening session on youth in development at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

While this is a culminating event, this important gathering of leaders, stakeholders, and a wide array of impressive young leaders from around the world will help to further the recognition of youth as important players in international development. This has been an important year of elevating the profile of youth, and USAID is happy to play a role in continuing the momentum.

You can tell us more about your interests in youth in development at; or visit us on Twitter and share your comments using the hashtag#USAIDyouth.

Talking with America’s Youth

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak with American youth from the White House about the importance of getting involved in international development. Kalpen Modi, the Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, invited me to answer questions from a room full of young innovators and the Twitter and Facebook online communities.

I found this experience especially meaningful because I believe that young people today have a deeper and more thoughtful understanding of global development and its ties to our nation’s prosperity, security and values than at any time in our history. Through the power of social media and political advocacy, as well their ground efforts, they have gained a profound appreciation of the difficulties developing countries face and the interests our nation has in alleviating them.

A few weeks ago in Southern Sudan, I met a group of kids who are learning English and math in a USAID-supported primary education program.  The students ranged in ages from four to fourteen years old. Many of the older students have lived through a period of violence and suffering and have not yet had the opportunity for even a basic education. When you see American taxpayer money being effectively used to provide education in a way that improves the lives of these children and contributes to the peaceful founding of a new nation—the 196th country in the world—you get a genuine sense for the significance of this work.

More than ever before, young people recognize the importance of sustainable, long-term development and are getting directly involved in issues like education, hunger, climate change, and global health. They understand that a world in which hunger is beaten, diseases are eradicated, the planet is protected, markets are free and people are equal is a world that makes us safer, enhances our prosperity and reflects our values as Americans.

Today, the opportunities exist for young people to steer their talents towards serving those in greatest need, no matter what professions or degrees they choose. Whether you’re a teacher, investment banker, or engineer, you have valuable skills that can help drive meaningful change around the world. Visit our website to learn more, stay connected and tell us about the global development issues that concern you.

Stay tuned for more blog posts with additional answers to your specific development questions.

Join the Conversation with Administrator Raj Shah: “How to Make Change: Youth and International Development”

Young Americans across the country are the first generation of Americans to truly grow up in an ever-connected, global community.  I am humbled by the innovation and passion young people bring to their work that is changing lives every day.  So many youth are engaged in exceptional work in their communities as well as in our more global community.  At USAID, we want to make sure this work is acknowledged and that this experience is heard.

This is why I am excited to invite all of you to a conversation with Administrator Rajiv Shah on “How to Make Change: Youth and International Development.”  He will join Kalpen Modi from the White House for a live web chat with young Americans about international development.

This event will be a fantastic opportunity  to participate in a conversation with the Administrator about how young people are changing the game when it comes to poverty in the United States and around the world.

We want to know what you think about the role of USAID and the Obama Administration should be playing to tackle challenges related to global poverty and international development.

You can send in your questions for Administrator Shah and Kalpen Modi.

Be sure to tune in on Thursday, July 7th at 1:30 pm EST on and

How to Make Change: Open for Questions – Youth and International Development

As featured in the White House Blog

Poverty affects young people here in America, and in developing countries around the world. Political instability, and conflict pose threats to our national security.  The global economy can provide opportunities for young Americans to earn a living while advancing development objectives.  The United States has a long history of extending a helping hand to those struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or striving to live in a free and democratic country.

How are young people changing the game in alleviating poverty and improving the health and well-being of people around the world?

Join us for an interactive chat with Young Americans and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Raj Shah moderated by me. on July 7, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

Join us on and

You can also submit your question in advance by clicking here.

The Young African Women Leaders, the First Lady, and Me

Nicole Goldin is Senior Advisor in USAID’s Policy, Planning and Learning Bureau

I made my way to Johannesburg along with 76 bright and dynamic young women – 44 from across South Africa and 32 from other countries in sub-Saharan Africa – for the U.S. Government-sponsored Forum for Young African Women Leaders.  Ranging in age from 16 to 30, they were nominated and selected by U.S. Embassies, USAID missions and NGOs for their accomplishments in media, education, philanthropy and service, business, and promotion of democracy and human rights.  Among them were a number of USAID program participants and beneficiaries like Sarah from Tanzania who has gone from student to teacher as part of Maasai Women Development Organization (MWEDO), Wilkista of Kenya who serves as a leader in the Global Give Back Circle to educate, empower, and mentor girls, and Raharison from Madagascar who has worked on a USAID-funded malaria project distributing long lasting insecticide treated nets

For two days these women would discuss issues around youth and female leadership and empowerment among themselves, with six prestigious women of African society (Forum ‘Anchors’), with the U.S. Government, and perhaps most importantly with first lady Michelle Obama.

First Lady Michelle Obama shares a laugh with the Young African Women Leaders. Photo Credit: Nicole Goldin USAID

My role was to lead and moderate the opening and closing group discussions – to spark and facilitate intent and substantive conversation around our key themes.  But beyond that, I was there to listen. To bring back the thoughts, ideas, insights and shared experience of the young women to our Youth Policy Team currently writing the Agency’s first-ever policy on youth in development, and to our Africa Bureau to continue to inspire and inform our programming.  As our State Department colleague reiterated, this is the continuation of a conversation with the youth of Africa, strengthening our dialogue and partnership with these leaders of today and tomorrow.

This is their continent.  These are their challenges and opportunities.  This was their Forum.

I was fortunate, however, to be welcomed as part of their emerging sisterhood. Although we shared just two days together, bonds were formed that I have no doubt will last for years.

Together as participants, anchors, facilitators and organizers, we were inspired by each other and by Michelle Obama – not just by her uplifting speech at Regina Mundi church (nearly everyone in the 1500 person audience left chanting “Yes we can”), but by the off-camera interaction while taking the class photo, in programmatic breakout conversations around mentoring and social business, and during community service gardening at an HIV/AIDS clinic. We connected with her on a level that none of us – especially not the participants – could have expected.

As we wrapped up, we told the women that our expectations were high.  We anticipate great things from them, for as the women said of themselves from the very beginning “We have a voice…We are ready now…We are the agents of change.”

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