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It's the holiday season back in Canada and I'm trying my best to be present and thankful in my current circumstances here in Ethiopia. While I could compare and wish that I was back at home, there are so many things to be thankful for! I am part of a really great project (E-FACE) and am loving the work that I get to do. Here's a little snippet of what I did a few weeks ago:

Ib2ap3_thumbnail_Selfie-with-Aynalem.png went on a field visit in the South for a few days with Lauren Good from MEDA's DC office and an E-FACE colleague, Wondwossen. It was a really eye-opening trip. I learned so much from working and traveling with Lauren, Wondwossen and the field staff. And of course our wonderful clients always teach me so much. After a 7-hour car ride, we finally arrived in Wolaita. We then drove to Sibaye Korke kebele (kebele = municipality) in Damot Gale woreda (woreda = district) to meet with a potato producer cooperative and a group of youth sales agents. We were warmly welcomed by one of our female clients, a member of the potato producer cooperative, who had prepared tasty potatoes for us! Lauren and Wondwossen facilitated a focus group discussion, verifying information and data for our project's potato intervention. I couldn't help but notice all the kids in the area sneaking up around us to see what was going on.

After this discussion, we met with six youth sales agents who participated in the Building Skills for Life program. They each shared about their businesses (used clothing, sugar cane, butter, coffee, cereals and seed, teff) and what their future aspirations are. It was refreshing to hear about their dreams and how the training they received changed their mindsets. I interviewed one client named Aynalem and I was so encouraged by her story. Despite a difficult life growing up, she has worked hard to provide for herself and support her mother. As we were leaving, I encouraged her to study hard and chase after her dreams.

Tb2ap3_thumbnail_Youth-sales-agents-in-Humbo-Woreda.pnghe next day we visited more youth in Humbo Woreda. In this group, two youth stood out to me. They were on time and one brought his record book to show how he keeps track of his expenses, sales and savings. I could tell they were very serious about their future dreams: one wants to become an engineer and the other wants to become a doctor. This really amazed me. Through their current businesses, they know if they work hard, continue to save and maximize their profits, they can attain their dreams.

Another theme I noticed among the youth was a sense of empowerment. They felt empowered because they were no longer burdening their families. They were earning their own income through their respective businesses and can now pay for their own expenses. I have no doubt in my mind that these youth will go on to be successful and influential leaders in Ethiopia. I have a few months left of my internship, so I'm eager to meet more clients, hear their stories, and document how the project facilitated positive change in their lives.
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Posted by on in Youth in Development
MEDA’s Youth team are learning from their past work and applying it to MEDA’s new youth projects. Director of Youth Economic Opportunities, Jennifer Denomy, and senior project manager, Farah Chandani, presented at MEDA’s annual convention, held Nov 6-9 in Winnipeg, MB. Jen-and-Farah-present-convention-seminar

The term “youth” can encompass many different ages depending on who’s defining it, though MEDA typically works with those 15-24 years old. Youth are also labelled the “demographic dividend” – so many are coming of age simultaneously and with this increase of youth entering the workforce, access to employment becomes a problem.

Over 1.3B youth in developing countries are struggling to find a job and build a career. With limited opportunities, youth are vulnerable to exploitation, have no confidence in themselves or their future, and are unable to contribute to society. The many social, physiological and psychological changes happening during adolescence only complicate matters.

Youth also struggle to receive relevant and affordable training, entrepreneurship support and access to basic financial services such as savings, bank accounts and loans. Three-quarters of the world’s poor have no bank account, and youth are 33% less likely to have an account. Only 16.8% of youth in Sub-Saharan Africa and 12.3% in the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region have a bank account, the lowest in the world.

It should be no surprise that youth unemployment is significantly higher than that of adults – 14.3% of youth compared to 6% of adults in 2012. This is magnified in situations of political instability, such as the Arab Spring, as a country’s instability negatively influences youth employment and vice versa. Underemployment and vulnerable employment are also causes for concern.

While these statistics may look a bit grim, the youth team shared inspiring stories of how MEDA unleashes entrepreneurship and builds the skills of youth around the world.

E-FACE-youth-weaverE-FACE (Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation) aims to reduce exploitative child labor and improve working conditions by concentrating on families and youth at risk in the textile value chain. By the end of the project in 2015, 3,250 young workers will have received workplace safety training, 750 business owners will have created codes of conduct for their workplaces and 250 youth (ages 14-17) will have bridged the gap between small farmers and suppliers as agriculture sales agents.

MEDA’s YouthInvest project in Morocco and Egypt (2008-2014) trained 43,300 youth in life skills, business preparation and financial education. As a result, 22,000 youth opened a Nigeria-youthsavings account and 2,500 youth accessed a loan to start a business.

Leaning forward, MEDA and Cuso International’s YouLead (Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Access and Development) project in Nigeria will reach 5,000 young entrepreneurs and 2,000 youth employed in natural resources. By drawing on the lessons learned from YouthInvest, MEDA will provide technical support to local financial service providers to increase financial inclusion for youth in Cross River State.

By learning from past projects, we can ensure that MEDA is learning and using the best approach for today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders to grow and thrive in a world full of opportunity.
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Empowering Youth: Building Skills For Life for Youth in Ethiopa

Building Skills for Life is a training prograyouth twitter banner 1m tailored for young workers (ages 14 -17) in Ethiopia. It is one aspect of a multi-pronged approach to supporting youth in the E-FACE project (Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation). 

The program is based on MEDA’s previous experiences with providing life skills and financial literacytraining for youth in Morocco and Egypt through the YouthInvest project. The training encourages young people to understand themselves, to develop decision-making capacity, and improve their communication skills – in order to develop the required business skills to become entrepreneurs.It is designed to empower youth and to help them create further opportunities for their lives. In Ethiopia, the training is focussed on young weavers in the textile industry; hence a practical aspect that provides technical training and know-how on weaving techniques is also included. The diagram below illustrates the six core areas covered by the 100-hour training program.

MEDA has developed an integrated and tailored program for youth in Ethiopia’s traditionBuilding Skills for Life Diagramal weaving sector.

  1. LIFE SKILLS: This includes understanding self-awareness, goal setting and communication skills, including financial literacy. Research and programming both in developed and developing countries has shown that young people today require particular support in developing life skills. Some even argue that these are even more important than specific job-related technical skills. Life skills can be defined as the skills that a person must possess in order to successfully work at a job and be part of a team, manage money, manage time, and live as part of a family or community.

  2. BUSINESS SKILLS: This includes managing money, budgeting and borrowing wisely, as well as market-driven solutions to employment and entrepreneurship.

  3. PRACTICAL TRAINING: This includes technical training and access to tools/workspaces in a particular sector or industry, which in this case was traditional weaving so that the youth can acquire productive skills for their livelihood.

In Ethiopia, MEDA has been delivering this program since 2011; accomplishments to-date include:

    • 212 youth graduates;

    • 5 village saving associations of youth groups to practice financial management, sound decision making, good leadership, and effective communication;

    • 100 youth have received access to hybrid looms to strengthen their livelihoods as self-providers/ entrepreneurs.

The numbers may seem small but the Building Skills for Life program was one small component of the larger EFACE program, which targets 7,000 families and 3,250 youth through various other programs. The lessons learned from the Ethiopian context will be used to improve training programs for youth in other projects.

The discussion on life skills training is an interesting one and one that will be further explored in a future blog entry. Many youth programs include some aspect of life skills programming. Do these work? What are the best models out there of life skills programming for youth in Ethiopia? If we accept that life skills are somewhat dictated by cultural norms as well, how do we best adapt life skills training for different communities and countries?

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The MEDA Youth Economic Opportunities (YEO) team is pleased to be launching our blog, where we will be sharing our experiences working with young people around the world and our thoughts on current issues in youth development.    

What do we do?  

For over a decade, MEDA has been developing targeted solutions that support youth in accessing appropriate financial services, securing safe and meaningful employment and becoming entrepreneurs. These youth experience reduced vulnerability, increased economic activity, and enhanced hope for their future.   

We combine our expertise in technologies, value chains, agribusiness, financial services and gender to bring catalytic assistance to our clients - those marginalized youth populations in poor and fragile states.  

Where do we work?  

MEDA’s YEO team has provided long-term support to young people around the world. Countries include: 

      • Moroccob2ap3 thumbnail YEO-map-2
      • Egypt
      • Afghanistan
      • El Salvador
      • Uganda
      • Mongolia
      • Sri Lanka
      • Ethiopia
      • Jordan
      • Nigeria
      • Yemen

To date, MEDA has impacted over 600,000 youth in the MENA, sub-Saharan African, and south-east Asian regions.  

Read about our work  

On this blog, we will share experiences and ideas in an informal manner.  

We also prioritize more formal research and documentation of our work, and invite you to explore our publications, which you can find here and here.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Mary-sitting-on-her-keyhole-garden-with-her-womens-group-in-the-background.jpgI'm nearing the end of my third month in Ghana, and am still learning and doing something new every day. Overall, I absolutely love my life and work here. Whether I'm learning how to build keyhole gardens in the villages for the dry season, or documenting our semi-annual Project Advisory Committee meeting to get insights into the GROW strategies, I'm constantly growing professionally and personally as well as getting my daily dose of inspiration.

Recently I had one of these moments of absolute admiration and inspiration in Maase village. Jalal, my GROW team member, and I had an early morning and a bumpy ride to this village in Upper West District. I was taking pictures, videos and interviewing Mary, the proud new owner of a keyhole garden. Her GROW group of women farmers had come to help with the construction and to learn how to build the gardens for themselves from Jalal's demonstration.

Several layers into the construction, the garden was starting to come together, but needed more top soil. The women had to gather additional soil from outside of Mary's fenced in property. So, the women and some men formed an assembly line to pass bucket of top soil to the construction site of the keyhole garden. A true testament to teamwork and support, but more than that, despite the fact they had been working in the heat all morning to build this garden for b2ap3_thumbnail_The-women-assembly-line.jpgtheir group member, they started singing songs, laughing and smiling as they were passing buckets of soil along the assembly line. I was so touched and impressed by this beautiful display of community. The women showed so much strength, unity and joy- with access to opportunities their potential to change their communities, Ghana and the world is endless.

My time here in Ghana hasn't been without its challenges, but getting to work in this area of my passion, women's empowerment, is really all I need to relight my motivation. I'm truly inspired every day being surrounded by strong women. Whether it's through these incredible moments with the women in the villages, or by the strong female leaders on our MEDA team- it serves as a constant reminder as to why this work is so important.
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