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Archives for Youth

Let’s Talk About HIV: The Importance of Dialogue and Information in Adolescent HIV Care

In recognition of International Youth Day, AIDSTAR-One Senior Treatment Officer discusses the importance of dialogue and information in adolescent HIV care. 

Imagine you are 15. It is your first year at a new school. You have to make new friends, meet all new teachers, struggle through your classes, and find a date for weekend parties. You want freedom and independence from your parents and caregivers. You want to be like everyone else. You worry about having cool clothes and fitting in.  You want to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. You want your friends to like you. You worry about getting in to university and what your future will be like.

Now, imagine you are 15 and you are HIV-positive. You have the same thoughts and concerns that your peers have, but you also have to worry about your health. HIV only makes being an adolescent harder. You wonder if you will still fit in if you have HIV, so you hide this information from your friends. When you start dating someone, you wonder if your boyfriend or girlfriend will still like you if you tell him or her your status. The pressure of getting good grades and planning a successful future is heightened by having to miss school for medical appointments or not feeling well.

Teen Talk, a new tool from AIDSTAR-One and BIPAI, is a resource for young adults living with HIV. Photo credit: AIDSTAR-One

Teen Talk, a new tool from AIDSTAR-One and BIPAI, is a resource for young adults living with HIV. Photo credit: AIDSTAR-One

Through advances in antiretroviral therapy (ART), children born with HIV are growing up, living, and thriving. In addition, UNAIDS reports that youth between the ages of 15-24 account for almost half of all new HIV infections. These youth are in need of comprehensive, youth-specific education to empower them to make responsible and informed decisions regarding disclosure of their HIV status, sexual behavior, and their health.

So, how do we help youth living with HIV adjust to the growing pains of adolescence, while also maintaining their health? We talk to them. Just as with any teenager, it is important for youth living with HIV to learn how to be responsible young adults, realize how their actions affect those around them, and know who they can talk to when they need help. For teenagers who are HIV-positive, it is also important to help them manage their health. They need to know how to remain healthy by eating well and remembering to take their medicine, how and when to talk to peers and teachers about their status, and why drinking or taking drugs could be particularly harmful to them.

It is hard for youth living with HIV and those who care for them to know the answers to all of these questions. AIDSTAR-One in partnership with Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) created Teen Talk: A Guide for Positive Living, a resource written for teens to use on their own, or for use in consultation with medical providers or caregivers. Covering issues such as adherence, nutrition, and safe sex, Teen Talk helps youth living with HIV think through their concerns and make healthy decisions. Teen Talk offers specific tools such as a calendar to help adolescents remember to take their medicine, a list of common medication side effects and possible solutions, and a question and answer guide about sex and sexual health.

With such a large population of youth living with HIV, it is increasingly important to help adolescents address their HIV status, manage their own medical care, and live a healthy life.  Living with HIV will always be a challenge. However, with tools such as Teen Talk, youth living with HIV can thrive and remain healthy in their adolescent years, bringing us one step closer to reaching the global goal of an AIDS-free generation.

AIDSTAR-One is funded by PEPFAR through USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS. The project provides technical assistance to USAID and U.S. Government country teams to build effective, well-managed, and sustainable HIV and AIDS programs.

Learn more about youth programming at USAID. Join the conversation on Twitter using #IYD2013. 

International Youth Day: My Experience as a “Youthful” USAID Intern

In celebration of International Youth Day, an intern recounts her experience at USAID. 

When I first found out that I was going to be an intern for the federal government at USAID, I had no idea what to expect. The notions that had been swirling around in my head were a confused mix of expectations, most likely attributed to watching too many episodes of Parks and Recreation and The West Wing. Coming out of two previous internships, I expected to spend my summer in a dimly lit office cubicle filled with people in suits, much older than I am, sticking out like a sore thumb as a younger-looking Korean-American female. Knowing that I was the first undergraduate intern in the office, I felt daunted by the experience to come.

Youth Bunges (swahili word for parliament) are helping improve their community through a variety of charitable and economically empowering activities. The Bunge is a part of USAID’s Yes Youth Can, a nationwide program that empowers Kenyan youth to improve their lives and communities. Photo credit: Nichole Sobecki, USAID

Youth Bunges (swahili word for parliament) are helping improve their community through a variety of charitable and economically empowering activities. The Bunge is a part of USAID’s Yes Youth Can, a nationwide program that empowers Kenyan youth to improve their lives and communities. Photo credit: Nichole Sobecki, USAID

Working on policy in the Policy, Planning, and Learning Bureau however, was the exact opposite of what I thought I was walking into. On my first day, I was given my own desk at a nice “touchdown” space unconfined by the limitations of a cubicle. Not only was I greeted by a plethora of fluorescent lighting, but there was even a sky window by my desk- no dim lighting here. Not everyone around me wore formal attire in just black and white. I was not the only Asian-American. I certainly was not the only female, and, to my greatest surprise, I was not much younger than most of the people there.

The last of these observations was the most eye-opening. Upon initial office introductions, I gathered that at least four of my co-workers are or once were Presidential Management Fellows, meaning that they are fresh out of graduate school or in continuing education. Among these individuals were the Office Director and the Acting Deputy Director. I was actually surrounded by people just a few years older than me.

It took me just a few days to realize that I was in the company of some very intelligent and qualified individuals. The defining characteristic uniting these people however was not just their age, but their brilliance and hard work. Although they were young and still working to evolve in their career paths, all of them consistently demonstrated their competence and ability to take development issues head-on.

In addition, because they too could freshly sympathize with my experience as an intern, I was shown incredible hospitality and patience. I asked as many questions as I wanted without being shown a hint of annoyance. I asked to attend important meetings and was never denied attendance. I even asked for high-priority work and was entrusted as an equal to complete my given tasks.

What I realized over my summer internship at USAID is that the future for young professionals in government is as bright as it is because young professionals are willing to help each other. I saw first-hand that when people are able to actively engage, encourage and support each other through new endeavors and experiences, productivity soars through the roof. For the kind of impactful work that USAID conducts, this is great news.

The UN estimates that 85% of the world’s youth live in developing countries. It is becoming lucidly apparent that the need for youth voices in policy is not only fair but fundamental in creating a sustainable future for the developing world. In the same way that I personally witnessed a group of talented and compassionate young professionals willing to go out of their way to help each other, I believe that empowering youth globally in developing countries to do the same for their peers will create a better world for everyone.

Inclusive development is at the very core of democracy and can move us toward a world that, by its very nature, facilitates and critically engages the next generation.

Learn more about youth programming at USAID. Join the conversation on Twitter using #IYD2013. 

Youth, Urbanization and Health

In celebration of International Youth Day, Global Health Youth Advisor discusses U.S. Government and USAID’s health programs impacting urban youth. 

In 2010 I took a bike tour of Dar es Salaam’s slums. Over tea and chapattis my young guide told me he had lost both parents to AIDS. As the eldest, he had to ensure the education of his younger siblings. He dropped out of high school and migrated to Dar to work. Now at 24 with a good job, his siblings had finished school, and he was ready to return to school himself.

This glimpse of the vibrant yet chaotic life in Dar’s slums is one that we rarely see. I was struck by the large numbers of school-age youth in the streets working as petty traders: selling bananas, phone cards, sunglasses and pirated DVDs.

The HealthyActions program in Liberia, under the Advancing Youth Project and in partnership with EDC delivers an HIV and family planning curriculum in alternative high schools for youth that have left the formal education system. Photo credit: USAID

The HealthyActions program in Liberia, under the Advancing Youth Project and in partnership with EDC delivers an HIV and family planning curriculum in alternative high schools for youth that have left the formal education system. Photo credit: USAID

Dar is not unique. Rural to urban migration is accelerating, yet governments are ill-prepared to deal with it. In Timor L’este, I heard that that the capital’s population was growing by 10,000 people every year. Poorly serviced squatter settlements, slums, and camps are the norm in many cities, which are increasingly populated by youth seeking opportunities.

In Latin America and Asia, young female urban migrants outnumber young males. Many migrate to escape forced marriage or abusive relationships. UNICEF data from 12 countries show one in five migrant children aged 12–14 and half of those aged 15–17 move without a parent. Young urban migrants often find themselves in violent, stressful and unhealthy environments.

Migration displaces and separate youth from their homes and the protective structure and guidance of families and communities. Separation from sources of learning, recreation, and support; alteration of community routine, normalcy; and lack of positive alternatives contribute to the exploitation and abuse of young people. Young people also engage in risky behaviors, including sexual ones with dire consequences.

Developmentally appropriate reproductive health and family planning information and youth friendly services can prevent poor health outcomes, and can ensure young people receive adequate care and  support for pregnancy, unsafe abortion, STIs/HIV, and violence.

Youth face many challenges to obtaining reproductive health services. Youth migrants are doubly challenged, since slums have limited health services. Urban programs must address and involve youth. Collaboration across sectors is essential to improving the health and opportunities of urban youth migrants.

U.S. Government and USAID’s health programs impacting urban youth:

  • Young Tanzanian women who migrate to the city are susceptible to the lure of a “sugar daddy.” The Fataki radio campaign (PDF) uses humor and familiar stories to foster dialogue around the dangers of intergenerational sex, empowering community members to intervene.

  • Fourteen years of civil war in Liberia displaced much of the population. Population Services International provides HIV and FP education in alternative high schools for youth now returning to Monrovia, with increased uptake of HIV testing and contraceptives.

  • One third of the 6 billion mobile subscribers are under the age of 30. Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH) is an on-demand SMS system with information about contraception and nearby clinics. Young Kenyans liked the simple language and confidentiality of the service. Tanzanian and Kenyan users reported increased contraceptive knowledge and use. FHI 360 and the Rwandan Ministry of Health are adapting m4RH with additional information for young people.

Globally, young people under 18 are considered children, and younger migrants are at especially high risk. The U.S. Government’s Action Plan for Children in Adversity recommends that U.S. Government assistance support and enable families to care for their children; prevent unnecessary family-child separation; and promote appropriate, protective, and permanent family care.

Learn more about youth programming at USAID. Join the conversation on Twitter using #IYD2013. 

From the Field in Zimbabwe: Unexpectedly HIV-Free

For a pregnant woman, it takes courage to visit Epworth Clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe. Many must travel long distances to get there, but that is not the only reason. They come to the clinic to learn their HIV status or to receive antiretroviral (ARV) medication, and when they first arrive, many of the women have little hope of giving birth to a healthy child. Once they get there, however, they learn that although they have HIV, they do not need to pass it to their children.

I visited the clinic to learn how USAID is supporting the delivery of high-quality HIV/AIDS services in Zimbabwe.

Rosemary proudly holds her HIV-free baby after receiving prenatal treatment from a USAID-sponsored clinic outside Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo credit: Zoe Halpert, USAID intern

In the waiting room, I spoke with Rosemary, a 40-year-old, HIV-positive mother who was holding an 8-month-old baby. Rosemary came to the clinic for the first time several years ago when her husband’s health began to deteriorate and she suspected that they might both be HIV-positive. She was right; she tested positive for HIV and began ARV treatment several weeks later. While I was talking with Rosemary, her baby sleepily opened her eyes and chewed her blanket. She was born healthy and HIV-free.

The prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV-AIDS program at Epworth clinic started in 2001. USAID provides infant HIV test kits and ARVs to many clinics throughout Zimbabwe, including Epworth. USAID’s partner, the Organisation for Public Health Interventions and Development (OPHID), provides training and supervision to the health-care workers in the clinic.  With support from USAID, this local organization is quickly increasing its ability to better address the HIV-AIDS epidemic in Zimbabwe.

Epworth clinic sees about 80 pregnant women and nursing mothers each day. When they first arrive at the clinic, they are tested for HIV and educated about family planning. As a result of the support the clinic has received from USAID, through OPHID, the number of HIV-positive babies has gone down significantly. Today, 98 percent of babies that are part of the program test negative.

When I talked with the clinic’s nurses, they told me, “If we didn’t have the USAID program, 98 percent of our patient’s babies would be HIV positive.” They also acknowledged that there would be a significant population decline.

As my visit came to a close, I asked Rosemary what advice she would give to other pregnant women. “Every woman should know her HIV status,” she said. She has found the courage to tell some of her friends her status, and strongly encourages them to get tested for their entire family’s benefit.

Visit OPHID for more information about OPHID.

Learn more about USAID’s work in Zimbabwe

Curbing Open Defecation in Liberia to Save Children Under Five

In Liberia, open defection is the most common sanitation practice. This fact, coupled with a lack of access to safe drinking water results in high levels of fecal-oral diseases and related child deaths. The USAID-funded Improved Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene (IWASH) program is addressing this problem, conducting behavior change activities in order to convince Liberians to change their sanitation practices and take responsibility for making improvement necessary in their communities to become open defecation-free.

WASH program beneficiary. Photo Credit: Bendu Doman-Nimley/USAID

WASH beneficiary. Photo Credit: Bendu Doman-Nimley/USAID

Since February 2013, Global Communities (IWASH Implementer) has engaged 120 communities in an aggressive campaign to end open defecation. By July more than half were certified by the Government of Liberia (GOL) as Open Defecation-free and an additional 40% are on track to reach this status by August. This has been achieved without providing the communities any material or financial support to dig latrines or build the dish racks and clothes lines required for the designation. All the work is done by community members and all the materials come from the local area. Global Communities and the GOL are co-implementing the program, which is considered “community-led” as all decisions about what actions will improve the community’s sanitation practice are made by the community members.  Through the process of community monitoring, natural leaders emerge, who become a key point-of-contact for monitoring the communities’ progress.

Once the communities’ become open defecation-free, the Natural Leaders are encouraged to form networks to provide mutual support to each other. These networks are also invited to participate in engaging with new communities to change their sanitation practices. The Natural Leaders understand the challenges innate in changing the personal habits of Liberian’s, as well as the work involved in becoming open defecation-free. They are the perfect advocates.

At a recent health fair held to celebrate the launch of A Promise Renewed, IWASH Natural Leaders were present to talk about their experiences with the program. The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, stopped by the WASH booth and talked with Esther Moye, a Natural Leader from a rural county.  Esther located her village on one of the GIS monitoring maps and described the work that had been done to transform the community’s sanitation practices.  President Johnson-Sirleaf was impressed by the activities and encouraging toward the program’s expansion, “Liberia needs more sanitation development and I am happy to hear people are stepping forward to take responsibility to meet these needs.”

The IWASH program is also training WASH Entrepreneurs to repair hand pumps and manage small businesses supplying WASH related products and services. The entrepreneurs will be sustainable through their own profitable businesses in pump repair as well as supplying soap and WaterGuard (water chlorination) in rural communities. These WASH Entrepreneurs are drawn from Natural Leaders and provided with initial contracts to repair hand pumps in school and health clinics to launch their businesses.

The IWASH program is addressing sustainable change in sanitation practices and safe water supply in Liberia. Through these activities the exposure of children to fecal-oral disease will be reduced and the promise of a healthier life for children under-5 will be renewed.

Learn more about the WASH partnership.

Study Highlights Way Forward for African Higher Education Institutions

What do leadership, governance and management have in common? According to a recently released study by the Association of African Universities (AAU) commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development through the Higher Education for Development (HED) program they are three main obstacles to growth and sustainability in African Higher Education Institutions.

The Sub-Saharan Africa Higher Education Leadership Development (SAHEL) Study maps a strategy for institutional capacity building in senior- and middle-level management and leadership. The study identified the following challenges:

  • Lack of clear strategy for leadership development
  • Differences across countries and institutions regarding government appointments versus merit-based appointments
  • Poor or lack of succession plans
  • Lack of policies and/or commitment to implementing gender policies that support the advancement of women in leadership roles

Students in the Tabia Debre Abay community at an Alternative Basic Education Center in Tigray, Ethiopia. The community is now actively involved in the education of their youngsters. Photo by Nena Terrell, USAID

“Leadership and administration capacity are the most critical challenges in the effort to make higher education in sub-Saharan Africa more effective and responsive to development, while ensuring its quality and relevance,” stated Teshome Alemneh, Africa program officer at HED. “Access to higher education in sub-Saharan Africa is expanding. This study has reaffirmed the importance of leadership and administration capacity and proposes several mechanisms of developing such capacities in Africa.”

The SAHEL study offers an analysis of AAU’s Leadership and Management Development programs and recommends strategies to build upon achievements by designing new elements that draw from the experiences of regional and international leadership training organizations.

AAU and HED presented the findings during AAU’s 13th General Conference held in Libreville, Gabon in May 2013. USAID and HED commissioned the study in an effort to gain a better understanding of the causes and current climate of leadership and management inefficiencies in tertiary education.

Read the complete Sub-Saharan Africa Higher Education Leadership Development (SAHEL) Study Report.

Demographic and Health Survey Show Positive Results in Haiti

A newly released nationwide health survey of Haiti shows continuing positive trends on key health-care indicators in particular those of Haitian women and children. The latest survey, undertaken by the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, was conducted in 2012 and compares with the prior survey done in 2006. It shows steady improvements among key indicators despite significant health challenges in Haiti due to the 2010 earthquake and cholera outbreak. Of note were improved indicators for child vaccination and malnutrition, infant and child mortality, women’s health and contraception use. The report indicated no increase in HIV prevalence, which remained steady.

Patients get laboratory work done at a USAID-supported health clinic in Ouanaminthe, Haiti on May 15, 2013. Photo credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

The Morbidity, Mortality, and Service Utilization Survey measures progress and setbacks in health outcomes over the years. The results were announced July 9 by Dr. Florence Guillaume Duperval, Haiti’s Minister of Public Health and Population. The survey has been administered in Haiti five times since 1994.

The previous survey was administered in Haiti between 2005 and 2006; this latest survey was conducted from January 2012 to June 2012. Over 13,000 households participated in the current survey, representing rural and urban areas in all of Haiti’s 10 departments, including camps for people displaced by the January 2010 earthquake. The results were eagerly anticipated by health experts concerned of possible setbacks brought on by the devastating quake, which killed more than 230,000 people and displaced more than 1.5 million.

However, the survey results show that many health outcomes have improved in Haiti. The data collected in the survey show improvements in women’s health, improved nutritional status among the population, and an increase in use of contraceptive methods. Currently, more than two-thirds of pregnant Haitians have made the recommended number of antenatal visits, an increase from 50 percent in 2006; the prevalence of anemia among women has declined from 55 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2012; and the use of modern contraceptive methods among married women has increased from 22 percent to 31 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Health data for children also showed positive results. Childhood vaccinations increased from 53 percent in 2006 to 62.5 percent in 2012. With regard to nutrition, the survey showed that 22 percent of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, a decrease from 29 percent in 2006. The survey also revealed a decrease in acute malnutrition from 10 percent in 2006 to 5 percent in 2012 and a decrease in percent of children underweight from 18 percent to 11 percent.

Childhood mortality has decreased in Haiti over the last 15 years. Survey results show that infant mortality has decreased from 79 to 59 deaths for 1,000 live births. In addition, mortality for children under 5 has also decreased from 112 deaths to 88 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Among other results, the survey revealed that the HIV prevalence among those ages 15-59 have remained the same:  2.7 percent among women and 1.7 percent among men.

USAID is working closely with the Government of Haiti to continue to improve health outcomes for all Haitians. “The information in this survey forces us to continue to work together, to strengthen our interventions and our methods so that progress in the health sector in Haiti is sustained,” said Marc Desjardins, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, during the July 9 event.

USAID’s goal is to improve access to health care services and build the Government of Haiti’s capacity to manage and oversee its health programs. Currently, about 50 percent of the population has access to a vast network of USAID-sponsored health facilities throughout the country that provide core health services such as maternal and child health, family planning, and nutrition. In addition, diagnostic and treatment services for tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS services can be accessed at these health facilities. HIV and AIDS services include access to antiretroviral therapy, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, palliative care, and voluntary testing and counseling. USAID programs aim to reduce risky behaviors and maintaining people living with HIV and AIDS on treatment.

Much remains to be done in Haiti. For example, despite high levels of knowledge of family planning, only 35 percent of married women are using any method and 31 percent are using a modern method. However, the positive health trends revealed by this data shows that Haiti continues to move forward despite the earthquake, the ongoing cholera epidemic, and many other challenges that threaten health outcomes. These results are a testament to the hard work and strong commitment of all of those who work to build a better Haiti.

This survey was funded by USAID, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Global Fund the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria through the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The fifth Morbidity, Mortality, and Service Utilization Survey combined with the Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey (MICS) was conducted by the Haitian Childhood Institute [l’Institut Haïtien de l’Enfance (IHE)] in collaboration with the Haitian Statistical and Information Technology Institute [l’Institut Haïtien de Statistiques et d’Informatique (IHSI)]. This survey was supported by the Ministry of Public Health and Population [Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population (MSPP)], benefited from the technical assistance of the Demographic and Health Surveys program (MEASURE DHS), which is implemented by ICF International.

Resources:

  • Read the full DHS report.
  • See photos of USAID’s health-related programs in Haiti.

Creating Opportunity in Nepal through Education for Income Generation Project

For eighteen-year-old Sitara Bano Bagban, living in the rural village of Karamohana, Banke District in Mid-Western Nepal, educational opportunities were very limited. Extreme poverty along with conservative cultural beliefs, that require male family members accompany females outside the home, as well as extreme poverty had prevented her from getting a formal education. This is not uncommon in rural Nepal where families often depend on their children to stay at home and work to augment income. Since married women are sent to live in their in-laws’ homes, parents traditionally give priority to educating boys who will stay in their parents’ house.

Those without an education in Nepal have few options. Without the ability to read and write they  are less likely to use government services or send their children to school. Also, their ability to find gainful employment or own and operate successful businesses is hampered by the fact that they are not able to do basic mathematics, leaving them vulnerable to being cheated in the market because they are unable to count money.

During EIG’s entrepreneurial literacy course, Sitara learned how to read and write, and how to use a calculator. She also learned about proper nutrition, peace-building, and how to access loans, credits, and other government services. Photo credit: Winrock International

Everything changed for Sitara when her parents allowed her to enroll in USAID’s Education for Income Generation (EIG) project, which provides income generation training as well as basic literacy training to underserved groups. Because her brother also began to attend EIG’s entrepreneurial literacy class and agricultural training, her parents agreed that she could participate because she would have someone to accompany her.

The EIG Project, which is implemented by Winrock International, has trained 74,000 disadvantaged youth (78% of whom are women) to increase their income through employment and agricultural production. EIG uses a market-driven approach consisting of four basic activities: a nine-month entrepreneurial literacy course; demand-driven vocational training tied to job placement; high-value agricultural training linked to markets; and scholarships for people from low castes (dalits) for professional certificates that lead to employment.

After attending EIG’s entrepreneurial literacy class and agriculture training, Sitara and her family increased their productivity and income by producing higher quality vegetables in their family farm. Photo credit: Winrock International

During the class, Sitara learned how to read and write and how to use a calculator. She learned proper health and nutrition practices, peacebuilding skills, and how to access loans and other government services. In addition to literacy, Sitara enrolled in EIG’s agriculture production training where she learned how to produce off-season, high-value vegetables including nursery development, integrated pest management (IPM), micro-irrigation technology (MIT), and post-harvest handling. As a result, Sitara convinced her parents that MIT could increase their farm’s productivity. Because she was able to attend this training her family decided to install a small well and pump and which have allowed them to grow fresh vegetables for their home and to sell in the market. Sitara’s income has increased significantly and Sitara has even been able to save  a little money at the local saving and credit cooperative.

Sitara’s story is just one example of the impact this type of training has had on thousands of disadvantaged youths. These programs prepare young people to be more involved in their governments in a positive way, to get jobs that improve their country’s economy, and to ensure a better and brighter for future youth.

Photo of the Week: Learning How to Read

 

In the second grade, students learn to read through new learning techniques at USAID-supported Kakila Primary School in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo is from Alain Mukeba USAID/DRC.

 

Youth Empowerment is Key to President Obama’s Vision for Africa’s Future

Throughout his recent trip to Africa, President Obama returned again and again to the theme of economic opportunity and empowerment: building the capacity of people and institutions to lead their countries forward. Central to his vision is the critical role that African youth must play in the region’s social and economic transformation. The USAID-funded Youth:Work program is already at work to make this a reality.

In partnership with the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the Youth:Work project is working in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to assess the needs and aspirations of young people, the hurdles they face in seeking employment, and the opportunities that can help them improve their lives and prospects. This holistic mapping exercise, called Youth:Map, is developed through interviews with business, community, government, and youth leaders. The resulting assessments consolidate critical evidence and expand our knowledge about youth issues in Africa that will help the private sector and governments alike to make smart, targeted investments in the years ahead.

Group of African young adults. Photo credit: USAID

In fact, this comprehensive information gathering has already become the basis for designing and implementing innovative pilot programs to specifically address the issues raised through the studies. One consistent theme from all Youth:Map studies is that Africa’s young people do not have access to the life skills and vocational training they need to get good jobs or start their own businesses. USAID and IYF are addressing this deficit in a number of ways.

In Uganda, for example, a 6-month internship program has been launched to help young people join the labor market and contribute to the country’s broader economic development. “This is the kind of program that we need to ensure that Uganda’s youth have real opportunities to achieve their dreams and build their futures,” said Commissioner Kyateka F. Mondo of Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, at the program’s launch.

In Tanzania, orphans and vulnerable youth are gaining access to education and job training opportunities through the Tanzania Youth Scholars program, which offers educational scholarships and livelihood training.

Passport to Success®, a global life and employability skills curricula that has been translated into 18 different languages, is improving the employment prospects of young people in Senegal, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Build Your Business, an entry-level curricula for young people interested in starting their own micro-businesses, developed by IYF in collaboration with Microsoft, is being used to teach entrepreneurship and life skills to young people in Liberia and Uganda.

USAID and IYF are also joining forces to respond to another significant assessment finding – that young people feel marginalized and seek a greater voice in society. Two regional youth leadership institutes are opening in Senegal and Uganda to ensure more African youth become strong, innovative, and confident leaders in their communities.

In his speech in Johannesburg, President Obama declared that Africa’s young people “are going to determine the future” of their countries. While significant challenges lie ahead, USAID is working with IYF and many others to help build the kind of infrastructure and enabling environment needed to ensure Africa’s youth can fully realize this vision of hope.

About the International Youth Foundation
The International Youth Foundation (IYF) invests in the extraordinary potential of young people. Founded in 1990, IYF builds and maintains a worldwide community of businesses, governments, and civil-society organizations committed to empowering youth to be healthy, productive, and engaged citizens. IYF programs are catalysts of change that help young people obtain a quality education, gain employability skills, make healthy choices, and improve their communities. To learn more visit www.iyfnet.org

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