Helping young people realize their potential in Somalia

Mohmed Deer, 23, is one of 100 youth benefitting from UNDP’s Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy project in Eyl. © UNDP / Lindsey Peterson

Like many young men in his village, Mohmed Deer didn’t have many plans for his future. Life in the small Somali town of Eyl didn’t offer many opportunities for the 23 year old - and he wasn’t seeking them out.

High unemployment, coupled with lack of positive social and recreational activities lead many young Somalis like Mohmed to engage in criminal activities like piracy. Limited prospects left Mohmed disillusioned, disempowered and in a precarious situation.

Extreme poverty and lack of employment opportunities leave many young Somalis 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 are lured into conflict, radical groups like Al-Shabaab, or end up engaging in piracy as a means of survival.

UNDP’s Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy project helps young people like Mohmed find solutions to fight back against some of the causes of piracy – including a lack of employment opportunities and need for reintegration into the community. Mohmed is one of 100 youth in his community taking part in this project, and after just a few short months, he is 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 construction of a youth center in Eyl, which UNDP supported. 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.

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.”

Highlights

  • Over 70 percent of Somalia’s population is under the age of thirty.
  • The unemployment rate for youth in Somalia is 67% - one of the highest rates in the world.
  • Many vulnerable young people are lured into conflict, radical groups like Al-Shabaab, or end up engaging in piracy as a means of survival.

The social rehabilitation is just the first component of a broader empowerment programme. The youth will also receive vocational training and skills for income generating opportunities which will help them find meaningful and sustainable employment.

Abdirizal Mahed, another youth from Eyl said, “‘I was in the illiterate class. We appreciate UNDP and the good work they are doing in the community. Before we were nothing, only living day to day and never had any goals.”

Participating in the 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. The youth themselves 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 and supports reintegration activities. 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.”

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