Giving Somali Youth a fresh Start

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Abdikarim, left, uses skills learned from UNDP’s youth employment training at his new job. Over 2175 young Somalis like Abdikarim have benefitted from this training. Credit: UNDP Photo 2013.

“I grew up as an orphan in Bossaso. Being an orphan meant that you were doomed from the start. You had no one that would stand up for you or take care for you,” Abdikarim Ibrahim, 21, said. “I had to do whatever I could to survive.”

Extreme poverty and lack of employment opportunities leave many young Somalis, like Abdikarim, with few prospects for the future.  Over 70 percent of Somalia’s population is under the age of thirty. However, the unemployment rate for youth in Somalia is 67% - one of the highest rates in the world. Many vulnerable young people turn to piracy, militias, or radical groups like al-Shabaab for income and a sense of purpose.

Reducing risks for young people means ensuring improved security, greater access to jobs and increased educational opportunities for all Somalis. To address the high rates of unemployment, UNDP’s Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy and Youth for Change programmes include vocational and business skills training to help equip young Somalis to enter the job market. These alternative livelihoods and vocational trainings introduce concepts of peacebuilding, leadership, development, and community security through engaging classes and in a welcoming environment.

Today, Abdikarim is making a living and giving back to his community. Applying the skills he learned from his vocational training, Abdikarim is now working for a solar electricity company that operates throughout Somalia’s Bari region. UNDP’s social rehabilitation programme focuses on holistic change in the lives of young people – this includes a change of attitude. Through non-formal education tools and trainings on basic social skills, peacebuilding, rule of law, civic education, and literacy and numeracy classes, participants are enabled to explore their options. Students are also encouraged to participate in sports, arts and community volunteer activities. Participating in the programme helps build confidence and empowers young people to take control of their lives.

Abdikarim Y4CThrough UNDP’s interventions, youth are provided with employable skills — such as welding, plumbing and artistry. Credit: UN Photo/A. Lyne.

Abdikarim is excited about his future. Through the youth empowerment project, he was able to gain the confidence and skills he needed to make a change. “This programme changed my life, not because it provided me with money but because it changed the way I think about myself.  I am not some helpless person who things just happen to. I matter and have control over my life,” Abdikarim said. “I am not a voiceless orphan – I am a contributing member of society”. 

UNDP works to strengthen Somali institutions and promote development. To this end, all social rehabilitation and reintegration activities are in line with the local government’s priorities towards poverty reduction and increased security. By the end of 2013, over 2175 people (including 329 women) benefitted from UNDP’s social rehabilitation and integration programmes.