Young Somalis find Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy
Youth walk on the beach in Eyl, Somalia, where an "Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy" project is providing better economic opportunities for young people. Credit: UN Photo.
Like many young men in his village, Mohmed Deer didn’t have many plans for his future. Life in the Somali town of Eyl offered limited opportunities for the 23 year old, which left him disillusioned, disempowered and in a precarious situation.
In Somalia, 70 per cent of the population is under the age of thirty, and the unemployment rate for youth is 67 per cent - one of the highest rates in the world. Unemployment, plus a lack of positive social and recreational activities, lead many vulnerable young Somalis into conflict, participation in radical groups like Al-Shabaab, or engaging in piracy as a means of survival.
UNDP’s Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy (ALtP) project helps young people find solutions to fight back against some of the causes of piracy, including a lack of infrastructure and employment opportunities. Started in 2012, the project seeks to empower young people and reintegrate them into their communities through vocational trainings, rehabilitation of basic social and productive infrastructure, and small grants and start-up kits to establish businesses or trades.
Investing in the future
Mohmed is one of 100 youth in his community taking part in this project, investing in himself and planning for his future. "Before the programme, I was doing nothing - this is a small village. I wanted to learn new skills,” Mohmed explains. When he joined UNDP’s social rehabilitation training, Mohmed’s life began to change. The project encourages holistic change in the lives of young people – this includes changing their attitudes, introducing new choices, and helping them realize their potential.
In partnership with UNDP local authorities, the Ministry of Labor, Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Education, the local community identified priorities for employment and reintegration based on labour market surveys and needs assessments. This included the UNDP-supported construction of a youth center in Eyl. Young people can visit the center and participate in non-formal education tools and trainings on basic social skills, peacebuilding, rule of law, civic education, and literacy and numeracy classes. Participation in the project helps build confidence and empowers young people to take control of their lives.
Empowered by the tools learned through UNDP’s social rehabilitation training, Mohmed is hoping to turn his life around. “My life has really changed. I want to learn to become an electrician.”
Another youth, Abdirizak Abdirahman Said, attended a five month electrical wiring course, which inspired him to put his new skills into practice. Using the grant he received upon graduation, he purchased electrical wiring tools to get started on his new profession and now works as a self-employed electrician in Eyl.
Creating a space for empowerment
Participating in the ALtP project helps build confidence and empowers young people to take control of their lives. The community in Eyl have also noticed a tangible change in the attitude and mindset of participating youth, who see the programme as an avenue to broadened prospects.
Musa Osman Yussof, the mayor of Eyl District, was closely involved with the establishment of the youth center. He is eager to expand the opportunities for youth in Somalia’s coastal towns. “Our youth needed a center where they could come together and learn new skills. This is one of the ways that we will fight back against the effects of piracy. We must make our communities strong, and give our youth hope.”
Currently the ALtP Project, funded in part by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, is part of UNDP’s Local Economic Development (LED) Project and works in conjunction with the Youth for Change/Community Security Project. In 2014, there were 500 youth (including 204 women) receiving skills and business training and small grants.The microgrants, up to $250, went to such things as starting small shops and restaurants or purchasing tailoring or other trade equipment. Overall, US$ 150,000 in grants were given out in 2014.
Socio-economic programming in Somalia has brought benefits on many levels; vulnerable youth have gained access to skills and employment opportunities, communities have experienced an increase in social cohesion, and local authorities have experienced a decrease in criminal activity.