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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As featured in the White House Blog

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

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

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

Join us on and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unlocking the Potential of Moroccan Youth

I recently returned from a week-long trip to Morocco where USAID brought together the heads of our offices from across the Arab world to reflect on how we can and should adjust our work in response to the Arab Spring.

Among the many themes we discussed was the central role of youth in the recent demonstrations.  USAID has a strong record of engaging youth throughout the region, but we are always looking to doing more, and in creative ways.

Deputy Assistant Administrator, Hady Amr, discusses the future of Morocco with participants of the Morocco Civil Society and Advocacy project. Photo Credit: USAID/Morocco

While I was in Morocco, I took the opportunity to visit several USAID projects.  One of the most memorable visits was to the Morocco Civil Society and Advocacy project – also known as “SANAD” (meaning “support” in Arabic).  The purpose of this project is to help young Moroccans feel engaged with their government.  This is more important than ever because of political transformations that are under way in the country and throughout the Arab world.

Seeing the wave of protest spreading across the Arab world, on March 9th the King of Morocco announced the creation of a new commission called the Consultative Commission on Constitutional Reform (CCRC).  The CCRC has been tasked with proposing constitutional reforms to strengthen political participation and transparency by June.  A constitutional referendum is scheduled in early July and an elections in October.

USAID is supporting several youth groups by organizing regional and national debates with over 1000 participants from eight regions in Morocco.  The youth groups are also helping to produce two memorandums on reforms that will be officially submitted to the CCRC.

The Moroccan youth I met with talked about specific articles in the Moroccan constitution that they wanted to see changed, and how they wanted to see them changed. They spoke about the need for economic growth and had their own ideas about that. And they spoke about the future character of their nation.
What was clear to me through these meetings was that Moroccan youth, like their counterparts across the Arab world, can be tremendous resources to their own societies, if only their potential is unlocked.

Hady Amr is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East at USAID. Follow him on Twitter.

U.S. State Department and USAID Support Journalism Training in Southern Sudan

In southern Sudan, Voice of America (VOA) journalist Shaka Ssali hosted training sessions from May 13 to 16 for journalism students and practicing journalists through the U.S. Department of State International Information Program (IIP) speaker program. More than 60 participants attended the training sessions coordinated by the U.S. Consulate in Juba and USAID.

In southern Sudan, journalists, students, and staff from USAID and the U.S. Department of State attended a journalism training workshop in May, 2011 as part of the Dialogue with Young African Leaders. Photo credit: USAID

Shaka Ssali, an American journalist born in Uganda and host of VOA’s “Straight Talk Africa,” was the first IIP speaker to visit southern Sudan. His visit was part of the Dialogue with Young African Leaders—a series of events held throughout Africa during the month of May to showcase the efforts of young African leaders, to engage with them in discussions about current challenges on the continent, and to help them discover ways to bring about positive change.

During the trainings, Ssali stressed the importance of accurate reporting, professionalism in journalism, and the critical role of free media in southern Sudan, which will become an independent nation July 9.

Television Show Energizes Malagasy Youth

By: Natasha Burley, Development Outreach and Communications Specialist for USAID/Madagascar

During the month of May, the United States Government, led by the State Department, will host youth engagement programs throughout Africa to showcase the efforts of young African leaders, to engage with them in discussions about current challenges on the continent, and to help them discover ways to bring about positive change.

Youth debate during the taping of the show. Photo Credit: USAID/Madagascar

The month of Dialogue is part of an ongoing engagement with young Africans stemming from the August 2010 President’s Forum with Young African Leaders and follow-on events, with future high-level youth engagement activities and programs on the continent planned.

To learn more about the dialogue, visit the State Department of African Affairs’ Facebook page, Twitter, and other social media platforms that allow young Africans and Americans, entrepreneurs and business leaders, to exchange ideas on an array of topics.

The following is a blog post that highlights USAID’s work with youth in Madagascar.

“Kozy Liberty” (which means to “talk liberty” in Malagasy) is a monthly TV show aimed at encouraging youth civic engagement and open dialogue. It is produced by RTA, one of Madagascar’s largest private television channels and the most popular amongst youth. The show, aired on a monthly basis, has a subject that impacts youth and that encourages them to debate.

This month’s debate was on volunteering and what it means to be a volunteer and to give of your time in today’s society. Peace Corps Volunteers came to speak in Malagasy about their work, and why they have volunteered to come for two years to Madagascar. In addition, community health volunteers from USAID-funded PSI health program came to discuss the importance of volunteering. PSI sent six experienced peer educators youth to participate in the debate. The filming was a huge success, with vibrant, animated debates.

Young people take a side to the argument and then debate the issue on the show, using creative methods to make their points:  incorporating music, dance, interviewing experts or people on the streets, etc. The show has a SMS component for youth to participate in the debate by texting in their opinions/arguments with the most impressive argument sent in via text winning a prize.

The debate highlighted what involved, committed and energetic Malagasy youth are doing through USAID programs. It was a great opportunity for Malagasy youth to discuss the issue of volunteerism – a concept quite foreign for most.

This is the first youth debate program to air on Malagasy television and the production costs are being entirely covered by the station.  Underlining the importance the station gave to the program, it was slotted into the most popular time slot on Malagasy TV, Saturday evenings.

Watch Kozy Liberty on YouTube.

Development, Diaspora and the Universal Language of Sports

For diaspora communities across the globe, sport continues to be an integral connection to their native countries.  Sport is tightly woven into the lives and cultures of people globally and has an inherent and unique ability to connect people and provides the ability to transform some of the world’s least developed countries. While sport has historically played an important role in virtually every society globally, sport is still seen as an emerging, yet powerful tool to advance development globally.

Mori Taheripour is senior advisor for Sports for Development at USAID with Minnesota Vikings player Madieu Williams.

At this week’s Global Diaspora Forum, I had the privilege to lead a panel of notable players in the field of sport for development to discuss how sport plays an integral role in diaspora communities as a platform to better the lives of youth, families and communities.

The panelists included:

Madieu Williams, Safety with the Minnesota Vikings, who immigrated to the United States from Sierra Leone at the age of 9.  While he had never heard of American football until he came to the US, the sense of community and belonging to a team that it provided him proved a winning path that led him to his career in the NFL.  But never forgetting where he came from, Madieu created his own foundation as an vehicle to give back to Sierra Leone, providing teacher training, uniforms and school supplies for the kids,  He has also partnered with Healing Hands, a US-based NGO, to travel to Sierra Leone and perform surgeries free of charge for many of the children, men and women too poor to have those services.  His efforts earned him the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2011, recognizing his contributions both on and off the field.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Feierstein Visits School in Rio de Janeiro

During his trip to Rio de Janeiro to participate in the World Economic Forum, USAID’s Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mark Feierstein, visited a school participating in the Enter Jovem Plus Program. Feierstein went to State School Tim Lopes, to closely observe the youth employability project. The school is located in Complexo do Alemão, one of the slum areas in Rio recently pacified by the police. USAID/Brazil‘s Mission Director, Lawrence Hardy, and HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator, Nena Lentini, also participated in the visit.

Mark Feierstein surrounded by students in Rio de Janeiro Photo Credit: Instituto Empreender

The Enter Jovem Plus program is conducted in Rio de Janeiro by Instituto Empreender, in partnership with Chevron, Rio’s State Government, and USAID. In his conversation with the students participating in the program, Feierstein stressed the importance of offering young people finishing high school professional training with a focus on employability, information technology, and English language. “We work in various parts of the world to foster development. You are very lucky to be here at this school. Enjoy every moment, work hard and have fun,” he said.

The goal of Enter Jovem Plus for Rio de Janeiro in 2011 is to provide professional training for 1,000 students. So far, approximately 700 students from 23 schools are enrolled. In Rio de Janeiro, the program started in 2010 in 16 public schools, and certified 310 students with ages between 16 and 29 years. This year, the priority is the inclusion of schools located in pacified areas. Students receive training to develop social and professional skills, including notions of tourism, quality of service and entrepreneurship. The program also helps students finding job opportunities.

Chevron’s manager for institutional relations, Lia Blower, U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro’s Public Affairs Officer, Mark Pannell, and representatives of State Government accompanied Mark Feierstein’s visit.

To find out more about our programs in Brazil.

Youth Academy Empowers Tomorrow’s Political Leaders in Rwanda

Appeared in The National Democratic Institute

By: Andrew Farrand, Program Officer, Central and West Africa, NDI

While young people under 25 comprise approximately two-thirds of Rwanda’s population, historically they have lacked meaningful opportunities to engage in politics. An older elite has traditionally made the country’s political decisions, and during the 1994 genocide, political leaders mobilized disaffected youth for violent ends. But today, many young Rwandans hope to channel their untapped power into productive and peaceful political expression.

U.S. Ambassador W. Stuart Symington greets a YPLA student at a reception following the Kigali academy's launch. Photo Credit: NDI

Since September 2008, NDI has helped Rwandan political parties organize and communicate with supporters. This includes training young activists who are joining parties in increasing numbers and who are often receptive to new ideas about party organizing, democracy and technology that can help parties reach new voters and win more support.

To provide Rwandan youth with practical political skills, NDI partnered with the Rwandan Consultative Forum of Political Organisations to create the Youth Party Leadership Academy (YPLA) in Kigali last year. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the academy included three months of intensive political training, as well as a study mission to Accra, Ghana, for the top-performing students. There participants learned firsthand from their Ghanaian counterparts how young people can participate actively in political parties — and support peaceful, democratic politics in the process.

This month, the Institute launched an expanded academy in two locations: the capital, Kigali, and the southern city of Butare. The academy brought together 80 under-35 activists from all 10 of Rwanda’s registered political parties for three seminars a week over 10 weeks. Sessions are led by international and local practitioners and academics, and address political party organizing, political communication, good governance, building a political career, ethical leadership, negotiation and conflict prevention, and using technology for political organizing, among numerous other topics.

NDI Resident Director Amy Pritchard has high hopes for the students. “They’re an incredibly dynamic and engaged group,” she said. “We are focusing on the role political parties play in Rwanda’s government, elections and civic life, and are working on teaching skills that will improve the students’ and their parties’ leadership abilities.”

Meanwhile, the 34 graduates from the first academy are putting their new skills to good use. Last year, the Social Democratic Party nominated YPLA graduate Theodomir Niyonsenga to serve as its second deputy general secretary. During last year’s presidential elections, graduates Claudette Mukabaseyba, Pie Nizeyimana, Telesphore Hakorimana and Sada Uwase were invited to join the forum’s national election observation mission, while others served as political party agents at polling stations, trained fellow party members in campaign skills, or helped to organize campaign rallies and get-out-the-vote efforts. Two YPLA graduates ran in last month’s local elections and one, Angélique Mukunde, was elected vice mayor for economic affairs in the capital’s Kicukiro district.

Presidential Trip to El Salvador Highlights Youth

On his trip to Latin America, President Obama highlighted the theme of partnership and echoed President Kennedy’s challenge “to build a hemisphere where all people can hope for a sustainable, suitable standard of living, and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom.”

Students from a US public school in San Salvador, wait for the arrival of US President Barack Obama at the airport in the Salvadorean capital on March 22, 2011. US President Barack Obama arrived in El Salvador Tuesday on the last leg of a three-nation tour of Latin America. Photo Credit: Salvador Melendez

One of the modern challenges for Latin American countries like El Salvador is addressing the grip of gangs and criminal organization on local communities, especially on young people.  One of the ways that USAID works to address youth issues in Central America is by partnering with local organizations and governments to invest in crime and drug prevention programs.

To highlight the need to engage youth and harness their potential for positive development, First Lady Michelle Obama visited the site of a USAID project called ¡Supérate! in San Salvador.

Accompanied by USAID Administrator Raj Shah, the first lady helped 30 enthusiastic ¡Supérate! students complete their community service project by painting a mural to decorate the center’s health clinic, which is scheduled to open next month.

¡Supérate! (which means improve yourself!) is a three-year after-school program that provides English, computer and life skills training to underprivileged youth-at risk (ages 13-18) who have demonstrated high academic performance and a desire for self-improvement.  Students train two hours, six days a week before or after their regular school day.

Students involved in this enriching program develop the skills necessary for a successful transition to higher education and or future jobs. With the help of Microsoft, youth involved in iSupérate! have access to computers and other technologies that allow them to further their education and compete in the modern job market.  More than 300 ¡Supérate! graduates have obtained university scholarships and/or permanent employment.

The program was launched in 2004 by the Sagrera Palomo Family Foundation, a local organization. Encouraged by the earlier success of ¡Supérate!, USAID teamed up with the foundation and Microsoft to open six new education centers in El Salvador. The partnership expects to benefit an additional 1,000 youths through the next 3 years.

At the event today, the first lady congratulated the students and the community of teachers and mentors who support them for their achievements and emphasized how important it is for students to give back to their communities through action.

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