Spotlight on Somali Youth!

Youth Eid 2015

Youth at Lido beach in Mogadishu, Somalia to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr which marked the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on July 17 2015. Credit: UN Photo/ Ilyas Ahmed

12 August marks the International Youth Day, a day reserved to celebrate the role of young people in development and peacebuilding. The engagement and participation of youth is essential to achieve sustainable human development, yet often the opportunities for youth to engage politically, economically and socially are low or non-existent. This is why the theme of this year’s edition is “Youth Civic Engagement”.

The civic engagement of youth is particularly important in a country like Somalia, with unique political, social, economic and cultural elements and with the majority of population aged under 35 (approximately 81,5% of the population according to the population Estimation Survey 2014, UNFPA Somalia).

Decades of unrests, conflicts and instability left many in the current generation with deep psychological wounds, making them continuously miss out on education, employment and knowing what a stable life without fear is. Participation of young people in decision-making has been challenging due to prominence of elders in the political system. Such conditions force many young people to embark on an often dangerous journey across borders searching for better lives. Those that stay behind are endangered by crime and drugs and are subject to recruitment for radicalism, piracy and armed groups. Young women are particularly disadvantaged, having even less opportunities due to cultural biases and social stigma. Focusing on improving lives of the Somali youth is thus crucial for peace and stability.

Although the situation may sound bleak, Somali youth is not idle, and a lot of positive changes are already undergoing throughout the country.

The Somali youth is aware of their right to be educated and right to decent work and show a great level of optimism and drive to get more education and jobs. They want to actively participate in politics and help to rebuild the nation. All they need is a chance to become drivers for peace and stability. The need for change in policies and attitudes, especially in regards to young people, is thus clear. Sustainable and innovative solutions are required in order to include youth in all spheres of the country’s recovery and reconstruction.

The Federal Government of Somalia, through its Ministry of Youth and Sports, is at the forefront of various efforts being undertaken to dramatically improve the lives of the Somali Youth. Creating a comprehensive multisector response in the form of a National Youth Policy will guide youth-focused interventions and help young men and women contribute to peace and stability in the country. 

The Federal Government, together with the United Nations and local partners, commit to work for and with young people on new policies and strategies, putting them into leadership roles while empowering them to play active role in shaping their own futures. The nation-wide process uses innovative multidisciplinary approaches to provide youth with vocational skills and decent jobs, offer psychological support and rehabilitation to youth in conflict with law and provide them with quality education and health services. The partnership between the Federal Government and the UN system ensures that young people are meaningfully involved in current peace and state-building processes.

However, more efforts are still needed to raise awareness about the importance of youth civic engagement and its benefits to the individual and to society in Somalia, including for sustainable development as well as resilience, peacebuilding and wellbeing.

The UN in Somalia decided to celebrate the International Youth Day 2015 by promoting its different efforts to foster civic engagement and participation of youth in politics and public life, so that young people can be empowered and bring a full contribution to society, development and peace.  Throughout the week, we will give the spotlight to different aspects of Somali Youth exploring issues around gender, sexual and reproductive health, education, capacity building, employment, culture, sports and the role of youth in governance.

Stay tuned to learn about inspiring success stories of the change young people are bringing to Somalia. Follow us through the hashtag #SomaliYouth and #YouthDay.