Equipping forcibly displaced youth in settlements in East Africa with skills to be changemakers

A group of 60 young people from forcibly displaced and host communities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda are benefitting from a collaboration between the ILO, UNHCR and UNICEF, enabling them to find solutions improving access of youth to skills and employment.

News | 20 October 2022
Participants at the virtual youth leadership, advocacy and public speaking session

Every week, Boll, a 29-year-old South Sudanese refugee in Kenya, participates in a virtual youth leadership, advocacy and public speaking session that he describes as the most exciting event for him.

He is among 60 young people from forcibly displaced and host communities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda who are part of an initiative that seeks to bring together youth to discuss possible solutions to improve their access to skills and employment.

“I'm in the right place and I am learning what my heart desires. I feel that I am growing as a person and as a professional,” said Boll. “While it is inspiring to hear from my mentors at the session, it is empowering to be able to share my ideas with them,” he added, appreciating the content of the training sessions.

The weekly sessions are part of a six-month training programme put together by the UNHCR, the ILO and UNICEF in a joint programme entitled ‘Advancing Young People’s Engagement and Meaningful Participation’. The programme is nested under the wider PROSPECTS Partnership supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Netherlands, and in which the ILO, UNHCR and UNICEF work together, alongside the International Finance Corporation and World Bank.

Through the training, forcibly displaced youth, including from refugee and host communities, gain valuable knowledge and skills in leadership, effective job search and entrepreneurship, critical thinking and public speaking. They also learn more on age-gender-disability inclusion to help them address unconscious bias as leaders, as well as how they can lead on advocacy efforts as young people.

“Access to quality education, training opportunities and decent work are a few of the key challenges faced by the youth from host and forcibly displaced communities,” said ILO’s Youth Employment and Participation Officer, Ms Milagros Lazo Castro. “They are also offered little or no opportunities to participate in and influence the designing of policies and programmes affecting their lives,” she added.

“The training programme is thus designed to equip young people with the skills and competencies enabling them to realize their inherent potential for leadership,” Lazo Castro said.

To ensure that refugee youth are able to participate in the training, UNHCR has provided them with data bundles to facilitate their internet access.

“While for many, the digital revolution may have brought the world to their fingertips, the forcibly displaced still lag behind as areas in which they live, including settlements, often lack the basic amenities,” said Ms Josephine Ngebeh, UNHCR’s Senior Community-Based Protection Officer in the East, Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region. “Ensuring that refugees are included in education and training programmes also means that they are equipped with the necessary learning materials, including internet connectivity, equipment and resources,” she added.

“In our experience, with the right opportunities and guidance, youth will not only overcome the challenges they face, but will also achieve their potential as leaders, building solutions and taking action for their own communities in the settlements and with youth from host communities,” said Ms Kristine Sorgenfri Hansen, Gender and Adolescent Development Officer, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office.

To promote their participation, the youth themselves are given opportunities to facilitate the weekly sessions alongside other experts, as well as coordinate engagement with other youth in different countries and settlements through social media. Through regional youth networks, such as the Tertiary Refugee Student Network (TRSN) and the Global Refugee Youth Network (GRYN), the participants are encouraged to design their own initiatives and lead peers to bring about change in their communities.

Margaret, a young host community member in Nakivale, Uganda, shared her experience: “I am passionate about humanitarian issues and youth empowerment. As a teenager, I had visited a refugee camp in northern Uganda and became concerned about the challenges they faced. I then decided that I will work for the betterment of refugee settlements,” shared Margaret, a participant in the training. “This training has offered me a perfect opportunity to pursue my objective of working with refugee youth,” she said.

While the training sessions will end in November 2022, a network hub will be created to keep participants connected. At the end of the training, a youth-led event will be organized in each country to provide participants with a platform to use their learning and present their initiatives or ideas for addressing the challenges faced by the youth in their communities. Selected presentations will be given to a panel at a regional workshop planned in early 2023 organized by UNHCR and other partners in Nairobi. UNHCR will also provide coaching, mentorship and financial support to the youth based on their own community action proposals.