Giving young Somalis a fresh start

Abdikarim, left, uses skills learned from UNDP’s youth rehabilitation training in his new life. © 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 to 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[1]. Many vulnerable young people are lured into conflict, radical groups like Al-Shabaab, or end up engaging in piracy as a means of survival.

Reducing risks for young people means ensuring improved security, greater access to jobs and increased educational opportunities for all Somalis. UNDP’s Youth for Change Joint Initiative focuses on holistic change in the lives of young people – this includes a change of attitude. Rehabilitation and reintegration support is necessary to help youth reengage with their communities, eventually re-enter the education system and looking for job opportunities.


  • “This programme changed my life, not because it provided me with money but because it changed the way I think about myself.”
 Through joint Youth for Change interventions, youth are provided with employable skills — such as welding, plumbing and artistry. © UNDP/Alistair Lyne




UNDP supports youth rehabilitation, which takes place through non-formal education tools and trainings on basic social skills, peace building, rule of law, civic education, and literacy and numeracy classes. This support and guidance helps young people explore their options: opening up their choices, changing their attitudes, and helping them realize their potential.

Through the youth rehabilitation project, Abdikarim was able to gain the confidence 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”.

Today, Abdikarim is making a living and giving back to his community. Applying the skills he learned from his rehabilitation, Abdikarim is now working for a solar electricity company that operates throughout Somalia’s Bari region.

The rehabilitation is part of the larger UNDP – ILO - UNICEF Youth for Change Joint Initiative, which supports youth empowerment and employment training. As part of the programme, vocational skills training – in fields such as artistry, welding, and plumbing – are provided to help youth secure viable livelihoods options. Students are also encouraged to participate in sports, arts and community volunteer activities.

UNDP works to strengthen Somali institutions and promote development. To this end, all social rehabilitation andreintegration 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.

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