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Archives for Youth

Making Education Safe for All

Classmates in the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrate their success after a performance at an event organized to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. Photo Credit: Julie Polumbo​

Would you want to participate in class if there was a chance your teacher might hit you if you made a mistake? Could you concentrate on the lesson if your classmates were making fun of your appearance?

For millions of children around the world, violence in schools is a daily reality.

While parents and communities expect schools to be safe and protective environments, research shows that students face high levels of violence, including corporal punishment, bullying, sexual harassment and assault, which is called “school-related gender-based violence.”

This abuse has negative impacts on girls’ and boys’ physical and mental well-being, and also hinders their ability to learn, stay in school and achieve their full potential.

Recent research [PDF, 1.6MB] commissioned by USAID reveals that students who experience bullying have lower test scores in reading, math and science. Additionally, we know that corporal punishment is linked with poor academic performance, low class participation and poor health and  well-being [PDF, 545K].

Adolescent girls are also especially at risk for sexual violence in schools, which can lead to dropping out, pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and early marriage—all factors we know to perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

Evidence also suggests that the cost of education, including school fees, uniforms and books, may stop some poor families from sending their girls to school. Too many schoolgirls, who are keen to continue their education, fall prey to sexual exploitation by older men, exchanging sex for money, food, mobile phones and school fees.

Ending violence in schools is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. We know that educated, employed and civically engaged youth drive economic growth, democracy and prosperity. We know that students who feel supported and safe in their schools learn best. Failing to protect our children can further perpetuate cycles of violence, instability and unrest

This is why USAID couples its investments in teaching children to read with strategies that will keep them safe—including in crisis and conflict environments. A lasting end to school violence requires collaboration with host-country governments and local communities spearheaded by  mothers, fathers, community leaders, teachers and school principals.

African-led institutions, such as the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, help foster policy dialogue between development agencies and local policymakers to share ideas, lessons learned and knowledge on educational reform. The association empowers African ministries of education to directly take on barriers to education, such as school violence.

USAID also partners with African governments to end school-related gender-based violence throughout the continent.

Ugandan children perform at a two-day conference on gender-based violence hosted with the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports. Photo Credit: RTI International/LARA

In Uganda, the Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity works with the Ministry of Education to train teachers, children and communities to recognize, prevent and respond to violence within schools. By creating positive and supportive school climates, Ugandan girls and boys are more likely to participate in class and stay in school, clearing their path to educational achievement and economic success.

With support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, USAID works in schools to help adolescent girls become Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS) young women. The DREAMS Initiative supports violence prevention programs in schools across 10 sub-Saharan countries where girls are at the highest risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

Across the continent, we see promising new approaches that help us understand what works to prevent and respond to violence within schools. We all must support more rigorous research and evaluations to build our global evidence base on violence prevention programming and policy.

Read more about this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign.

RELATED LINKS:

Cheryl L. Anderson is the senior deputy assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Africa. She previously served as mission director for USAID’s Southern Africa, Ghana and East Africa Regional missions.

Oley Dibba-Wadda is the director of Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development at the African Development Bank. Dibba-Wadda has also served as the executive secretary for the Association for the Development of Education in Africa and executive director of Forum for African Women Educationalists.

Helping Serbia Hold On To Its Future

When Uroš Mijalković, a top-35 global karate contender in the category of up to 185 pounds, is not busy training for the next Olympic Games as a member of the national karate team, he – with his team of seven – is busy expanding his global company that got off the ground with his mobile karate gaming application developed at the ICT Hub. His inspiration was his passion for karate that he started practicing at the age of 6.
/ Mirjana Vukša Zavišić, USAID

Serbia’s population is shrinking. Over the past 25 years, the small Balkan nation has lost a steady stream of talented young people to emigration—including a record 58,000 people in 2015 alone, 9,000 of whom left with advanced degrees.

It is hard to find a Serbian whose family hasn’t been affected by the emigration wave. My own family is no different—two of my siblings left Serbia in their early thirties and have no intention of coming back.

“We are exporting our own future,” Vladimir Kostić, the president of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, said recently. “And we have no illusions that these young people will return.”

The main driver pushing people to leave is the lack of employment opportunities. The situation is especially difficult for young people between the ages 15 and 30, who have grappled with a 44 percent average unemployment rate over the last eight years.  

Earlier this year, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce launched a Committee for Youth Entrepreneurship to help curb this trend.

Among the members of the committee is Belgrade’s ICT Hub, which is working hard to increase opportunities for Serbia’s homegrown talent to shine in Serbia.

ICT Hub was launched as part of a public private partnership with USAID in 2014 as a one-of-a-kind incubator for Serbia’s technology entrepreneurs. By providing a robust entrepreneurial infrastructure and mentoring, the Hub lowers both the risks and the costs entrepreneurs incur through bringing innovative ideas to life.

“Many of my friends left Serbia, but I believe one can succeed here just as anywhere else,” said Uroš Mijalković, the director of the startup Miracle Dojo. Mijalković invented the first authentic karate mobile gaming application, Karate DO, with top karate athletes as characters.

“I joined the ICT Hub with only an idea. Now my gaming application is being played by around 12,000 people in 162 countries. We already have a loyal fan base and the growth potential is great—100 million people worldwide are practicing karate. Plus, the gaming industry is generating greater profits than the film industry and mobile gaming is in the lead,” said Mijalković.

Mijalković joined the ICT Hub in early 2016 as a result of cooperation between the Serbian Ministry of Youth and Sports and the ICT Hub. Namely, to increase youth employment and help young people from various faculties start IT entrepreneurship initiatives, the ministry provides fees for Hub services while the Hub provides students with a tailor-made program and coaching assistance.

“So far 25 businesses with market potential have gotten off the ground at the ICT Hub,” said Kosta Andrić, director of the ICT Hub. “They employ 70 young and talented individuals. More and more young people believe that working for a start-up provides them a real and tangible opportunity for a higher-quality life.”

Proof of this is Vuk Nikolić. Inspired by his mom’s trucking company and a passion for programming, he created Truck Track, a software-as-a-service platform for managing a trucking company’s daily operations.

Seedcamp and Passion Capital, two London-based investors, invested in his business early on. With an eye on the U.S. market, the real turning point came in 2015 when he joined the ICT Hub and soon after became the first Serbian start-up to receive funding from 500 Startups, a famous accelerator from Silicon Valley.

Vuk Nikolić had a passion for programming since the age of 6 and grew up watching his mom manage her trucking company. He knew of all the challenges she faced and was eager to help her. He worked tirelessly to develop software for managing a trucking company’s daily operations. It turned out that he not only helped his mom, but is now conquering the large U.S. trucking industry with ‘Truck Track’, after having received investments from several global tech investors who recognized his business’s potential.
/ Mirjana Vukša Zavišić, USAID

“The time we spent in San Francisco was mind-boggling and made us realize what we needed to change in our approach to succeed in the U.S. market. Now we focus on the U.S. market only and the prospects are promising,” said Nikolić. Truck Truck already has over 500 U.S. clients.   

Many other aspiring startups haven’t been as lucky as Nikolić’s and often struggle to access the financial resources they need to get their businesses off the ground or fully utilize their growth potential. Traditional banking dominates in Serbia, but the terms and required collateral can be insurmountable obstacles for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

To help overcome this hurdle and create even more new businesses, in January 2017 the ICT Hub launched its private investment fund and venture capital arm, ICT Hub Venture.

“During the coming two to three years the fund will invest up to $35,000 into 20 to 30 early stage startups each for a 5 to 15 percent stake in their capital,” said Andrić, managing director of the fund.

To create the right environment for even greater innovations, the ICT Hub recently moved into new premises in downtown Belgrade, dubbed the ICT Hub Playground—a true innovation center for up-and-coming young people interested in venturing into the world of tech entrepreneurship.   

From all the talented, hard-working and enthusiastic young people I’ve met at the ICT Hub, none are planning to leave Serbia. I suspect most young people would rather stay close to home than wander into an uncertain future in faraway lands.  

The proof is at the ICT Hub. Here young people with ideas are given opportunity, encouragement and support. And, in turn, they show they can thrive in Serbia just as well as anywhere else.

Nemanja Janić (left) and Marko Kaličanin (right) launched their company Solargo in 2014 to help Serbia better manage its resources. Currently, Serbia recycles on 5 percent of its waste. In January 2016 Solargo joined the ICT Hub and a year and a half later they launched a ‘Smart Recycling System’ mobile application that points citizens to the nearest ‘Recycling Press’ that compacts recycling in Belgrade, educates them about the various benefits of recycling, and even provides awards to those who recycle most. / Mirjana Vukša Zavišić, USAID

RELATED LINKS:

Mirjana Vukša Zavišić is a Development and Outreach and Communications Assistant at USAID’s mission in Serbia.

Ghanaian Chef Works to End Hunger by Reducing Food Waste

In 2011, Elijah Amoo Addo was taking out the trash at a restaurant in Accra, Ghana where he worked as the head chef when he came across a homeless man scrounging through the dumpster for food. The man said he was collecting the leftovers to feed his friends on the street.

Founder of Food for All Africa, Chef Elijah donates bags of recovered rice to beneficiaries.

Founder of Food for All Africa, Chef Elijah donates bags of recovered rice to beneficiaries. / Paul Osafo Buabeng

Elijah was touched by the encounter and from then on, he vowed that no more food from the restaurant would go to waste. He started recovering surplus food from the kitchen to feed the vulnerable and mentally challenged in his community, but he envisioned something bigger.

Initially, it was difficult for Elijah to communicate his vision, as he had little knowledge of the problem of food waste and hunger in Ghana. He started an advocacy group to research these issues and create a social intervention program.  

Elijah came to learn that building a sustainable food system is a priority for the Ghanaian government and stakeholders within the food supply chain. About 95 percent of vulnerable communities across Ghana are not getting enough nutrition. One in five babies born in Ghana are stunted, which has been calculated to cost the economy $2.6 billion a year, about 6.4 percent of the country’s GDP.

Around this time, Elijah learned about the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), launched by the U.S. Government to invest in the next generation of African leaders. He applied to the West Africa Regional Leadership Center in Accra, but his restaurant supervisor was not supportive of taking time off to attend the training. In the end, Elijah decided to quit his job so he could fully immerse himself in the program.

The leadership and business skills he learned in the 2014 training helped him launch Food for All Africa.

 Food recovery and redistribution van of Food for All Africa. / Paul Osafo Buabeng

Food recovery and redistribution van of Food for All Africa. / Paul Osafo Buabeng


Elijah and his team operate the first community food bank in Ghana. The center creates efficient and sustainable nutrition streams for low income and vulnerable communities by redistributing surplus food from restaurants, working with rural smallholder farmers to connect their produce to urban hospitality companies.

The organizations also hold a forum for stakeholders to address the inefficiencies within our food supply chain and collaborate in building a more efficient and sustainable food supply chain across Africa.

Elijah said leaving his restaurant job enabled him to fulfill his passion for entrepreneurship and risk taking.

Elijah feels confident he made the right decision. Today, Food for All Africa recovers up to $5,700 worth of food each month from businesses within the food supply chain — including manufacturers, importers, farmers and hotels.

The organization aims to reach 1 million low-income people by 2020. To do so, Food for All Africa works with orphanages, schools and vulnerable communities.

 Food recovery and redistribution van of Food for All Africa. / Paul Osafo Buabeng

Food recovery and redistribution van of Food for All Africa. / Paul Osafo Buabeng


The most defining moment of Elijah’s career was in October 2015. “I envisioned feeding 5,000 beneficiaries on UN World Food Day and drawing global attention by attempting a Guinness World Record for the longest table on the day,” he said. “It was difficult work but we pulled it off even though we couldn’t break the record. To crown it up, it dawned on me when in July 2017 I did receive a Queen’s Young Leader award from Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace.”

Elijah hopes to scale his services to other parts of Africa in the next five years while building stronger partnerships with businesses.

“Every generation needs to sacrifice and build a better place for its children and future generations,” he said. “And Africa today falls on our shoulders to work in raising the aspirations of children and changing the African story. Africa needs you and me.”

RELATED LINKS:

Fridah Wanjiku is a Digital Communications Specialist based in Nairobi, Kenya. She serves as a Virtual Student Foreign Service intern with USAID on the Young African Leaders Initiative team.

What Does ‘Back to School’ Mean for Children in Crisis and Conflict?

Aisha Mohammed, who fled with her family when Boko Haram attacked her village in Northeast Nigeria was able to continue her education through a non-formal learning center funded by USAID. Erick Gibson/Creative Associates International for USAID

Aisha Mohammed, who fled with her family when Boko Haram attacked her village in Northeast Nigeria was able to continue her education through a non-formal learning center funded by USAID. Erick Gibson/Creative Associates International for USAID

As summer winds down here in the United States, “Back to School” displays with colorful arrays of supplies remind us that students and teachers are preparing for the coming year.

But for many children around the world, going back to school in the traditional sense is elusive.

Each year, conflicts and crises halt or delay the education of 80 million children worldwide. Schools, books and materials are destroyed. Children are forced to leave their homes and communities, often with only the clothes they’re wearing.

In many long-standing conflicts, children spend a significant amount of time out of school. Because the average duration of displacement is 20 years, many children will spend their entire childhood outside of the traditional classroom. The longer they’re out, the less likely they are to ever go back.

However, we know that school is necessary not only for their continued education, but also their emotional and physical protection—and this is critical when their worlds are in chaos.

What ‘Back To School’ Means for Children in South Sudan and Northeast Nigeria

When people are forced from their homes, schools and communities by conflict, USAID partners with development and local organizations to act quickly to help redefine what “school” looks like—ideally so that children are back learning as soon as possible. The conflict or crisis may be ever changing, but USAID seeks to keep learning a constant factor in children’s lives.

Aisha Mohammed (third from left), age 17, and her friends take a break after classes at a USAID-funded non-formal learning center in the capital of Borno State, in Nigeria. Erick Gibson/Creative Associates International for USAID

Aisha Mohammed (third from left), age 17, and her friends take a break after classes at a USAID-funded non-formal learning center in the capital of Borno State, in Nigeria. Erick Gibson/Creative Associates International for USAID

In South Sudan, Nyaradio Gatkuoth and her family fled to a safe haven at the United Nations compound in the capital city of Juba after civil war erupted in 2013—when she was 15 years old. Nearly four years later, conflict continues to disrupt millions of lives in South Sudan.

South Sudan has the world’s highest proportion of out-of-school children, with nearly 70 percent of primary school-aged children missing out on education. Since a political crisis erupted into civil war in 2013, more than 800 schools have closed, and an estimated 900,000 children have abandoned their studies. Today, the formal educational system is still in crisis.

Nyaradio said living in the UN Protection of Civilians site in South Sudan was “like a prison” because she was never able to leave the site. However, she says, attending the Hope Primary School at a site run by UNICEF, and supported by USAID, is a bright spot in her day.

As part of USAID’s Back to Learning initiative, we have supported UNICEF in enrolling more than 430,000 South Sudanese children and adolescents in school, including recently demobilized child soldiers. We have also helped establish more than 950 temporary learning spaces since the civil war began.


Seventeen-year-old Aisha Mohammed grew up in the town of Gwoza, in Northeast Nigeria, and was forced to flee with her family when Boko Haram attacked her village.  Eventually, they settled in the urban center of Maiduguri, which houses hundreds of thousands of Nigerians seeking refuge from the horrors of the ongoing insurgency. As a result, Aisha missed out on formal schooling for nearly two years.

The Boko Haram insurgency has had devastating effects on the education sector in Northeastern Nigeria. UNICEF estimates that nearly 1 million school-aged children have been forced to leave their homes and communities as a result of the ongoing violence.  At the same time, an estimated 3 million children have no access to education across the Northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe—those most acutely affected by the insurgency.

Through the Education Crisis Response program, USAID is providing non-formal education in the places where formal schools don’t exist, or where they are too overcrowded to accommodate the influx of children fleeing the insurgency. The curriculum includes basic math and literacy, but is also helping children deal with the emotional effects of what they have experienced. USAID has established more than 1,400 learning centers in Northeast Nigeria, helping 88,000 children like Aisha go back to school.

What ‘Back To School’ Means for USAID During a Conflict or Crisis

USAID is working around the world to expand equitable access to education for children and youth in crisis and conflict-affected environments. For us, “Back to School” during a conflict or crisis means:

  • Providing safe learning opportunities for students and teachers, especially the most vulnerable (such as girls and children with disabilities);
  • Rebuilding education systems, including support to teachers; and
  • Using conflict-sensitive education programs, community engagement and disaster-risk reduction activities to prevent and mitigate future conflict.

Today’s humanitarian crises are more complex and protracted—like the ones in Northeast Nigeria and South Sudan—and require programs that are responsive, flexible and tailored to the context. These programs help young people thrive despite their circumstances, and contribute to peacebuilding and economic growth in their communities.

Although conflict forced her and her family from their home, Nyaradio has completed grade 8 and is waiting to join secondary school this year. “I want to study up to university. I want to be a journalist one day,” she says.

She also says school makes her happy: “We study, sing, dance and forget about our problems.”

Helping Salvadorans Build a Better Life at Home

USAID job training programs provide Salvadoran youth the skills they need for greater employment and economic opportunities as a deterrent to migration. /USAID Bridges to Employment Project

USAID job training programs provide Salvadoran youth the skills they need for greater employment and economic opportunities as a deterrent to migration. /USAID Bridges to Employment Project

In 1999, as a graduate student doing a research project in El Salvador, I was held up at gunpoint.  With a .45 pistol thrust into my chest, I had never felt such fear in my life. I know that my brush with violence was something that many Salvadorans are threatened with every day.

Faced with unimaginable violence at the hands of ruthless gang members, debilitating poverty and hopelessness, nearly 70,000 children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala embarked upon a treacherous journey in the summer of 2014, with a goal of reaching the United States.

Yet, a baseline survey in El Salvador, taken after the migration surge, indicated that 70 percent of citizens in high crime municipalities would prefer to remain in their communities than migrate, presuming improved security, education and economic opportunities. The data indicate that while the factors that attract people to migrate are strong, most Salvadorans would prefer to build a prosperous life closer to home.

Low-cost community outreach centers help reduce crime and violence, a leading cause of illegal migration, by providing youth in high-crime communities a place to learn computer skills or to play a musical instrument, engage in sports activities, or receive tutoring as alternatives to gang involvement. /USAID

Low-cost community outreach centers help reduce crime and violence, a leading cause of illegal migration, by providing youth in high-crime communities a place to learn computer skills or to play a musical instrument, engage in sports activities, or receive tutoring as alternatives to gang involvement. /USAID

In 2013, I returned to El Salvador as USAID’s Mission Director. In my time there, I found so many people working to do just that—people who care and love their country, people who are working together to make their communities safer and more prosperous. It is this El Salvador that people hear less about. Building this El Salvador contributes to our own safety and prosperity.

At the recent Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America that was held in Miami, Florida, Vice President Pence emphasized the U.S. Government’s commitment to continue to partner with the countries of Central America to root out crime and corruption, and to provide greater education and economic opportunities that will “give the citizens of Central America a better path and a brighter future.”

A secure and flourishing Central America will help to stop the flow of illegal migration and drugs and create new economic opportunities for all, including the United States. As Vice President Pence said, “We are in this together.”

The Northern Triangle presidents have created their own plan, the Alliance for Prosperity, which provides a framework for addressing the major obstacles to economic growth and demonstrates the political will of the governments in the region to advance prosperity, security and democracy. The plan integrates security, economic and good governance initiatives to build a safe, democratic and prosperous region where people can build a better life at home without having to leave.

As we stand together with the countries of Central America, USAID programs help to tackle the problems driving illegal migration, namely insecurity, lack of economic and educational opportunities, and weak governance. I believe that our support for El Salvador and Central America is making a difference that not only helps Central Americans build a better, safer life for themselves in their own countries but helps ensure our own security and prosperity as well.

In El Salvador, our education programs in high crime communities help keep over 100,000 vulnerable youth in school and out of gangs through quality education and extracurricular activities in a safe environment. Over 20,000 youth have received job training to increase employment opportunities. At the same time, USAID is helping to reduce corruption and impunity and increase citizen trust in the government through support for criminal justice reform and judicial transparency.

I have seen the impact of our programs when we have worked together with the government, with community and church organizations and with private businesses. Where we have integrated our efforts with better policing, improved education, safe parks and playgrounds, and increased job and economic opportunities, crime rates go down. People in these communities feel safer—their children play in new sports fields and parks, and businesses stay open later.

I have personally spoken to youth who have told me they were ready to leave the country but found new opportunities at a USAID youth outreach center or a job training program or as a student at a university. They tell me they now have hope for the future, and many are committed to making their communities and their country a better place.

That spirit and determination is what I will now remember the most about El Salvador. And through our continued collaboration, I can now envision a day when all Salvadorans will be able to build a secure, prosperous life at home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Larry Sacks is the former USAID/El Salvador Mission Director   (Larry Sacks was sworn in as USAID/Colombia Mission Director on Aug. 4.)

Tanzania’s Young Leaders Bring Innovation to Development Challenges

Abella Paul Bateyunga. /Young Business Leaders of Tanzania

Abella Paul Bateyunga. /Young Business Leaders of Tanzania

In Kiswahili, “bora” means better. Two years ago, Abella Bateyunga, 29, founded the Tanzania Bora Initiative to give y oung Tanzanians a voice, a sense of belonging, and a connection to other youth who want to change their country for the better.

The initiative empowers young Tanzanians through data-driven projects, youth-led television shows on political participation, and training for young girls in computer coding.

The Tanzania Bora Initiative leadership team. / Tanzania Bora Initiative

The Tanzania Bora Initiative leadership team. / Tanzania Bora Initiative

Abella founded the initiative after she returned from two months in the United States on a fellowship with the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI). Funded by the U.S. State Department and USAID, the fellowship is a huge honor; only 1,000 youth across Africa are chosen each year. YALI fellows get to meet other young rising African leaders in their cohort and are offered opportunities for leadership training at U.S. universities.

Abella Bateyunga with the Tanzania Bora Initiative team. / Michael McCabe, USAID

Abella Bateyunga with the Tanzania Bora Initiative team. / Michael McCabe, USAID

As the 2015 national elections in Tanzania approached, Abella thought about new ways to engage Tanzanian youth to both vote and mobilize peacefully. She also thought of ways to empower youth to use data-based evidence and advocacy to engage local and national leaders on social issues.

Abella’s background as a lawyer and former radio reporter for the BBC in Tanzania positioned her to develop a strategy to engage youth in the election and in data-driven development efforts for employment and youth voice.

Girls in the “She Codes for Change” course. / Tanzania Bora Initiative

Girls in the “She Codes for Change” course. / Tanzania Bora Initiative

Creating Youth Dialogue in Tanzania

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa  are facing a “ youth bulge ” due to high fertility rates; in Tanzania, over 73 percent of the population is under 30.

“She Codes for Change” provides a safe space for girls to learn coding. /Theirworld, Mticka Almas

“She Codes for Change” provides a safe space for girls to learn coding. /Theirworld, Mticka Almas

In Tanzania and other countries, the government and key civil society partners have developed national plans of action to reduce violence against children and youth that stems from domestic violence and other community violence. In other countries, governments are restricting the ability of civil society organizations to speak out on the rights of minority or excluded groups, including youth who are underrepresented in decision-making.

With support from USAID’s Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening and implementing partner the International Republican Institute, Abella started the Tanzania Bora Initiative with a small budget and a core team of five savvy young social media leaders.

Participants of the Kijana Wajibika (Youth Be Responsible) consortium, which demands youth accountability and participation in civic issues. /Kijana Wajikia and Restless Development Tanzania

Participants of the Kijana Wajibika (Youth Be Responsible) consortium, which demands youth accountability and participation in civic issues. /Kijana Wajikia and Restless Development Tanzania

In just two years, Abella and her team have brought innovation to Tanzanian media and civil society with initiatives like Data Zetu, funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief (PEPFAR) in partnership with the Millennium Challenge Corporation to promote data-driven advocacy by youth.

Working with artists and young journalists, Abella helps create dialogue in communities based on evidence and data about what is happening and what works through community solutions. Data Zetu empowers youth to gather data from the local government on services and analyzes it to determine areas in need of improvement.

Participants of the Kijana Wajibika (Youth Be Responsible) consortium, which demands youth accountability and participation in civic issues. /Kijana Wajikia and Restless Development Tanzania

Participants of the Kijana Wajibika (Youth Be Responsible) consortium, which demands youth accountability and participation in civic issues. /Kijana Wajikia and Restless Development Tanzania

Other activities have included engaging pop music groups in Temeke District — one of the largest and poorest areas in southern Dar es Salaam — through its Arts for Change project. Abella and her team work with these musicians to write songs that champion their issues.

Given the rise in violence in Tanzania, Abella partnered with USAID-supported partner Search for Common Ground and others to counter violence in the home and community, as well as violent extremist messaging, through television shows, youth peace festivals and media campaigns.

Kijana Wajibika recognizes youth as an asset who can contribute and lead change. /Kijana Wajikia and Restless Development Tanzania

Kijana Wajibika recognizes youth as an asset who can contribute and lead change. /Kijana Wajikia and Restless Development Tanzania

Abella and the Tanzania Bora Initiative also supported the Kijana Wajibika (Youth Be Responsible) consortium funded along with the Restless Development movement   – for youth to demand accountability and participate in civic issues and learn to use data for decisions. Abella’s TV program creates data ambassadors and trains journalists, particularly young women, to collect data and empower youth on topics related to the national youth agenda: employment, sexual health and education.

Recognizing that youth often don’t know their rights, Abella created the “Know the Constitution” campaign — an online portal which is complemented by a television show called “One Voice” (Sauti Moja) serving as a college competition on rights and the constitution.

Amplifying citizens’ voices through data. /Data Zetu

Amplifying citizens’ voices through data. /Data Zetu

Tanzania Bora Initiative-led activities under Data Zetu. TBI/Data Zetu

Tanzania Bora Initiative-led activities under Data Zetu. TBI/Data Zetu

Abella also recognizes the importance of skills-based opportunities for youth who want to make a difference. That was the impetus behind starting She Codes for Change in partnership with Apps and Girls . The program trains girls from each region on digital literacy and computer  coding.

“Creating mobile apps on issues that concern girls has a transformative effect on their opportunities,” said Abella. “The girls have developed apps on female genital mutilation prevention, bus fares, fashion and rights.”

Abella Paul Bateyunga was chosen by USAID partner IREX as a Young African Leadership Initiative fellow in 2014. / Courtesy of Abella Bateyunga

Abella Paul Bateyunga was chosen by USAID partner IREX as a Young African Leadership Initiative fellow in 2014. / Courtesy of Abella Bateyunga

Abella describes her vision for how international development organizations such as USAID can best approach engaging youth as partners in development:

“Youth bring three key tools to the development field: Innovative ideas, a wicked broad knowledge of how to mobilize networks via media (especially new media) and record numbers of youth in Tanzania and around the world. We aren’t the hope of tomorrow, we are changing things today.”

The Power of Radio in the Fight for Girls’ Education in Malawi

Marshall Dyton, the editor-in-chief of Malawi's first online Muslim publication during a live broadcast on Kumakomo Radio. / IREX

Marshall Dyton, the editor-in-chief of Malawi’s first online Muslim publication during a live broadcast on Kumakomo Radio. / IREX

Most people in Malawi  rely on radio as their primary source of news and information, as 85 percent of the population do not have access to television or newspapers.


Marshall Dyton
 is no stranger to this fact — he recognizes radio’s power and its critical role in educating and informing rural communities across the country, including his own in Mangochi District in eastern Malawi.

As a Mandela Washington Fellow
— chosen as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) program in 2015 — and editor-in-chief of Malawi’s first online Muslim publication, Marshall first produced radio broadcasts during an internship at the Kumakomo Community Radio Station in Zimbabwe, which he secured with support from USAID. There, he led a team of a dozen volunteers to produce content.

After completing the internship, Marshall decided to put his newfound skills to use to engage communities about a plight sweeping Malawi — the negative impact of child marriage on education for women and girls.

This is an issue that Marshall understood personally — his mother was one of the few women who went to school in his community, despite a culture that prioritizes the education of men and boys.

Marriam Larry (left), from Wumi Wumo Foundation and part of the second cohort of USAID's Regional Leadership Centers, and Halima Twabi (right), from Malawi Girls and a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow. / IREX

Marriam Larry (left), from Wumi Wumo Foundation and part of the second cohort of USAID’s Regional Leadership Centers, and Halima Twabi (right), from Malawi Girls and a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow. / IREX

Shedding Light on a Dark Subject

According to UNICEF, Malawi has the 11th-highest child marriage rate in the world, with nearly one in two girls married before the age of 18. Human rights activists have long argued that child marriage is a barrier to education particularly for girls, making them vulnerable to cycles of poverty and violence.

Bashir Amin, of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, the state-owned radio station. / IREX

Bashir Amin, of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, the state-owned radio station. / IREX

Early this year, the Malawian government voted to amend the constitution to remove a provision that allowed children to marry at 15. Now, marriage before the age of 18 is illegal, but challenges remain.

To join the fight against child marriage and other issues that affect women and girls in marginalized communities, Marshall wanted to engage directly with communities to create change. Inspired by his time at the Kumakomo Radio, he organized a radio talk show that brought together chiefs, religious leaders, girls, women and men to confront child marriage and discuss the importance of education for girls.

Florence Mwitha, a recent graduate, representing girls during a live broadcast of Kumakomo Radio (left) and Twaina Sanudi, an activist advocate of Muslim girls’ rights (right). / IREX

Florence Mwitha, a recent graduate, representing girls during a live broadcaston Radio Islam (left) and Twaina Sanudi, an activist advocate of Muslim girls’ rights (right). / IREX

The show was a collaboration across the YALI and Mandela Washington Fellows networks, and with Regional Leadership Center participants — young leaders between 18 and 35 enrolled in USAID-supported leadership training programs in sub-Saharan Africa — who took turns at the microphone during the live show.

Previously, issues around child marriage, women’s education and the status of women were rarely discussed, and they remain largely taboo. Marshall’s goal was to take the discussion to the national stage.

A Malawian schoolgirl reads out loud to her class. USAID is working to improve reading skills in primary school students and create safe spaces for girls to learn. / Amos Gumulira, Feed the Children

A Malawian schoolgirl reads out loud to her class. USAID is working to improve reading skills in primary school students and create safe spaces for girls to learn. / Amos Gumulira, Feed the Children

“With radio we spent less but achieved more,” Marshall said.

The show was broadcast live for two hours and reached an estimated 3 million listeners on national radio. The aim was to increase awareness within Muslim communities in Malawi about education, the misinterpretation of religious text, and why communities must confront embedded cultural values that lead to child marriage.

Marshall Dyton during the Mandela Washington Fellowship Presidential Summit in 2015 in Washington, D.C. / IREX

Marshall Dyton during the Mandela Washington Fellowship Presidential Summit in 2015 in Washington, D.C. / IREX

“Radio allows for debates and discussions to be open and transparent, and can be a critical tool for building consensus among communities and citizens,” Marshall said.

The talk show was organized under the Girl Child Education Movement, an initiative that Marshall founded to help girls in his community access education in rural Malawi. Broadcast on Malawi’s only Islamic radio station, Radio Islam, the event was designed to reach Malawi’s Muslim communities, who are vulnerable to discrimination given their religious and cultural background, Marshall said.

Creating Change Through Community Inclusion

As a result of the talk show, the Muslim Association of Malawi, who attended the event, agreed to open new offices in rural areas where communities can access up-to-date information about education and scholarship opportunities for girls.

Girl power in Chipoka, Malawi. /Amber Lucero-Dwyer

Girl power in Chipoka, Malawi. /Amber Lucero-Dwyer

Inspired by the success of his radio show, Marshall’s dream is to start a community radio station that is run by youth from diverse religious backgrounds. He believes that one way to tackle challenges facing marginalized communities and women in Malawi is to discuss these issues in an open forum.

Like in Malawi, USAID supports programs in over 30 countries to strengthen journalistic professionalism for individuals such as Marshall, establish media management skills and promote free media.

About the Author

Neetha Tangirala is a Senior Program Officer at IREX.

Cambodia’s Youth Debate Champion Helps Young People Find Their Voice

Linda Eang won first prize in the International Republican Institute’s televised debate series Next Generation in 2014. / IRI

Linda Eang won first prize in the International Republican Institute’s televised debate series Next Generation in 2014. / IRI

Linda Eang was once known among her family and friends to be shy, so it was quite the surprise when she won a televised debate competition called Next Generation in Cambodia three years ago.

The 24-year-old’s path to victory wasn’t straightforward.

Growing up, Linda was told by her family to stay away from politics. They feared her involvement after seeing so many people killed under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia from 1975-1979. Even now, she says, they can see on the news that people who get involved in politics are sometimes imprisoned or shot.

While Linda is not old enough to remember the darkest days of Pol Pot’s communist dictatorship, her growing awareness of the current challenges facing Cambodia is what inspired her to become involved in student government and debate at her university.

Once she had the opportunity to go to school, Linda learned about the scale of poverty in her country and its under-resourced health care system. “Living in that kind of environment made me want to become part of the solution,” she said.

Linda and her teammates from the Next Generation debate competition. / IRI

Linda and her teammates from the Next Generation debate competition. / IRI

This inspired Linda to get involved with Next Generation, a project of the International Republican Institute (IRI) supported by USAID.

The initiative was Cambodia’s first televised youth debate competition aired on the most popular television network. Each weekly 30-minute episode brought together 24 selected contestants to debate pressing social and political issues such as poverty, and the electoral system, Facebook censorship and gender quotas in politics. Participants built skills in public speaking and engaged on questions of national importance.

Linda, who was 21 at the time, won first place, and the prize was a study trip to the United States.

“Winning the competition was a turning point in my life,” Linda said. “I never imagined myself standing on stage with the confidence and arguments to convince an audience to vote for my team.”

That experience built up her confidence to amplify the issues she cares about and opened possibilities for future careers that she hadn’t contemplated, such as a job in politics or as a debate coach.

It also helped to expose her to the wider world.

In 2015, Linda traveled to the United States a second time as a youth leader to participate in the State Department’s prestigious International Visitor Leadership program. During the trip, she traveled to Texas, Iowa, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and New York City to learn more about the U.S.

Linda is interviewed by Men Kimseng at Voice of America during her 2014 visit to the United States as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership program. / IRI

Linda is interviewed by Men Kimseng at Voice of America during her 2014 visit to the United States as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership program. / IRI

She has also won five additional national debate competitions and a regional public speaking contest in China, and served as president of the Pannasastra University Student Senate from 2015 to 2016.

Linda is passionately committed to empowering young people through her debate coaching.

Linda has become a true political buff. Her inspiration comes from watching others, who previously never cared about a particular issue, start to have discussions based on her debates. “After my friends and family watched the debate about whether provincial governors should be appointed or elected, they started discussing that issue, and people in my community who never cared about that issue before started to talk about it,” she said.

She has also become passionate about empowering young people through her debate coaching and as a trainer at her university’s debate club for the last three years.

“The greatest barriers for young people in Cambodia are the lack of trust and motivation from the environment around us,” she said. “We are taught to be followers — and in some cases, it makes young people lose their creativity and stunts their full potential. But I think that’s starting to change as more young people become educated. If we study hard and work hard, I believe a better future is possible for us.”

After deciding she wanted to start an initiative that everyone could join, Linda also launched a new public debate club in January of this year. She coaches members in “expressing their point of view and, most importantly, building their self-confidence.”

Now that she has become something of a celebrity in her country, Linda is determined to use her position to help young Cambodians recognize that they have the capacity to not only change their own lives, but change their country for the better.

“As I explore different areas of work, I find myself that I want to help other people as much as I can,” she said. “Being able to make an impact on other people through debating and life coaching are my biggest passion. I see a lot of potential in young Cambodians. My life purpose is to empower and mentor them to reach their full potential and help to shape the future of this country.”

Celebrating Women and Girls during Women’s History Month

Since 2000, USAID has constructed nearly 3,000 classrooms and renovated 2,700 more allowing many schools to cut class size and eliminate the need for students to learn in shifts. / Bobby Neptune for USAID

Since 2000, USAID has constructed nearly 3,000 classrooms and renovated 2,700 more allowing many schools to cut class size and eliminate the need for students to learn in shifts. / Bobby Neptune for USAID

To eliminate poverty and reduce reliance on development dollars, we need to empower women and girls.  Gender equality isn’t just a women’s issue—it’s everyone’s issue.  By educating girls and ensuring women have economic opportunities, USAID works toward better future outcomes for all people.

Investing in girls’ education

Ensuring that a nation’s girls are educated unlocks human potential, translating into a more productive workforce for that country. A recent study found that every year of secondary school education is correlated with a 10 percent increase in a girl’s future earning power.  If 10 percent more adolescent girls attend school, a country’s GDP increases by an average of 3 percent .

As laid out in the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, USAID, the State Department, the Peace Corps, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation are working together to use adolescence as a point to leverage development and diplomacy efforts. Positive interventions during adolescence can disrupt the cycle of poverty, and instead prepare entire country populations for future GDP growth and thriving economies.

Solita Melus, 33, holds her baby Orelus after he receives immunizations and is weighed by Ketcia Orilius, a community health worker in Haiti. At 3 months old, Orelus weighs 5 kilos, a weight that Ketcia tracks on her tablet. / David Rochkind, USAID

Solita Melus, 33, holds her baby Orelus after he receives immunizations and is weighed by Ketcia Orilius, a community health worker in Haiti. At 3 months old, Orelus weighs 5 kilos, a weight that Ketcia tracks on her tablet. / David Rochkind, USAID

Helping Women Open Businesses

Worldwide, women own or operate up to 33 percent of all private businesses, and women-owned enterprises grow faster than those owned by men and faster than businesses overall. And yet, only half of all women of working age, compared to three-quarters of men, are in the workforce. If the same number of women participated in the global economy as men, the world could grow in GDP by $12 trillion.

In developing economies, women are 20 percent less likely to have a formal bank account than men, and are substantially less likely to use savings and lending instruments. These means it is more difficult for women to start a businesses. USAID saw this challenge as an opportunity, and now e-payments are the default payment method for our programming and development assistance. Since switching from cash to e-payments, providers estimate that Bangladesh alone has saved 40,000 hours in staff time and $60,000 per year, while bringing thousands of previously unbanked women into the financial system.

Caring for Mom and Baby

In developing countries, a mother’s death in childbirth means her newborn is about eight times more likely to die in the first year of life than one whose mother was alive. USAID is working in 25 countries around the world to end preventable child and maternal deaths.  By focusing on cost-effective, high impact interventions, we have helped reduce maternal deaths globally by nearly 50 percent since 1990. And in the past ten years, U.S. Agency for International

Development (USAID) efforts have contributed to saving the lives of more than 4.6 million children and 200,000 women.

These development objectives are interrelated: Researchers estimate that over 50 percent of the decline in child deaths between 1970 and 2009 can be attributed to increased educational attainment by mothers. This research brought together USAID’s education, health, and economic empowerment development strategies: Each piece of development impacts another. By investing in women and girls, and providing them with education and economic opportunities, we are able to ensure that their children and families are safe and healthy – thereby impacting households and communities.

I just returned from New York where I attended the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and we discussed women’s empowerment in many forms. At USAID, our programs provide opportunities for education, economic empowerment, and better health for women to determine their life outcomes, and influence decision-making in households, communities, and societies.

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we hope you continue to honor the women who have overcome barriers, pioneered the paths that all of us walk—women and girls, men and boys—and continue to contribute to a better future. We will continue to work for increased opportunity and prosperity for women and girls—leading to a more stable and secure world for everyone, everywhere.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marita Eibl is the Acting Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at USAID.

How Vocational Training Is Changing the Destinies of Morocco’s Youth

Youth participate in a morning sewing class at the Chifae Association, a USAID-supported NGO providing vocational training to local youth in an impoverished urban neighborhood in Tangiers. /USAID

Youth participate in a morning sewing class at the Chifae Association, a USAID-supported NGO providing vocational training to local youth in an impoverished urban neighborhood in Tangiers. /USAID

Moroccan youth, who make up a third of their country’s population, represent a massive pool of untapped talent and potential. However, with 40 percent of Morocco’s youth out of school or out of work, many feel lost and unsupported by their communities. These youth can become susceptible to the world of crime, drugs and radicalization.

To help provide them with an alternative, USAID and its partners in Morocco are working together to provide sustainable opportunities for youth. I recently had the chance to visit USAID activities in Morocco that provide young people with the skills they need to enter the workforce, and connect them to jobs in high-demand sectors.

USAID’s Favorable Opportunities to Reinforce Self-Advancement for Today’s Youth activity works with at-risk youth in underprivileged neighborhoods in the north of Morocco. Since 2012, the activity has improved the lives of over 12,000 at-risk youth in the cities of Tangiers and Tetouan by increasing confidence and community engagement, and providing professional skills training, academic support and tutoring.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Maria Longi witnesses the signing of a partnership agreement between the Nova Moda 2 clothing company and the Chifae Association to increase youth employability. / USAID Morocco

Deputy Assistant Administrator Maria Longi witnesses the signing of a partnership agreement between the Nova Moda 2 clothing company and the Chifae Association to increase youth employability. /USAID

Working with local civil society organizations, this USAID project addresses the challenges that push young Moroccans down hazardous paths. It improves their access to quality education and job opportunities and increases their community involvement through vocational training and career services—giving young people more positive options for their future.

I saw this firsthand when I visited the Chifae Association, a USAID-supported NGO providing vocational training to local youth in an impoverished urban neighborhood in Tangiers. I had the opportunity to observe a morning sewing class, where young men and women sat at rows of sewing machines testing stitches on colorful fabric scraps.

The students I spoke to at the Chifae Association told me how the USAID project is helping them find themselves. I was moved by their sense of ambition as we talked about their personal challenges and aspirations. They are learning new skills that will help them get a job and become excited about their future. One student told me that if it wasn’t for this program, he would most certainly be on the street selling drugs.

From the Chifae Association, we headed straight to Nova Moda 2, a clothing factory where many of the graduates from USAID-supported vocational training centers like the Chifae Association become interns or employees. Nova Moda 2 provides these graduates with good salaries that allow them to support themselves and their families. With this new sense of purpose, Moroccan youth gain self-esteem and feel more respected in their neighborhoods.

Nova Moda 2, a clothing factory where many graduates from USAID-supported vocational training centers like the Chifae Association become interns or employees. /USAID

Nova Moda 2, a clothing factory where many graduates from USAID-supported vocational training centers like the Chifae Association become interns or employees. /USAID

I also attended the signing of a partnership agreement between the Nova Moda 2 clothing company and the Chifae Association. This agreement made official what was already apparent: Everyone participating in this program—students, teachers and company managers—is committed to working toward a common goal of youth employability.

Through dedicated partnerships like this, students who complete the vocational training program have a clear vision of how their newly acquired skills can be applied in a viable profession, and with that, a hope for their future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maria Longi is the deputy assistant administrator for USAID’s Middle East Bureau.


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