According to the United Nations, 89% of the world’s youth live in developing countries. At the same time, youth unemployment is on the rise. And work alone does not mean prosperity: nearly 40% of working youth live in poverty. Together, these challenges pose an enormous threat to our global economic and political stability—unless we seize the opportunity.
At The Global Fund for Children, we empower thousands of vulnerable youth and equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to lead lives of dignity, purpose, and economic stability. Our approach involves engaging the most marginalized young people—girls, refugees, young people with disabilities, youth engaged in hazardous work—who are also the least likely to have access to mainstream education and training.
But economic opportunity is only part of the picture. We prioritize programs that advance young people’s political and civil participation and rights; that amplify youth voices, increase their decision-making powers, and raise awareness of their rights and needs; and that empower young people to educate and inspire their peers to act.
Young Generation of Tajikistan / Dushanbe, Tajikistan
The poorest country in Central Asia, Tajikistan is still recovering from political and economic instability caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the country’s subsequent civil war. Unemployment remains very high, and without economic opportunities, many young people end up on the streets, where they are at high risk for exploitation and drug abuse.
Young Generation of Tajikistan (YGT) sees children and youth as invaluable assets that are key to the growth and development of the nation. The organization’s mission is to teach young people life skills, leadership skills, civic responsibilities, and knowledge of their rights and opportunities so they can make a major contribution to community development and poverty reduction.
Through its extensive outreach program, YGT bridges the gap between at-risk young people and available social services, linking youth to health centers that provide them with medical services and information on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. YGT also educates young people about healthy lifestyles, and leads numerous health and sanitation initiatives, including increasing access to clean water and improving road safety for children and youth. The result: youth are safer, healthier, and better prepared to shape their futures.
Advanced Centre for Empowerment / Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Thirty years ago, the Khmer Rouge systematically exterminated Cambodia’s educated class in order to prevent an uprising against their regime. Today, Cambodia’s educational system still struggles to compensate for the loss of this generation—and to recover from the damage done to the culture of education.
Advanced Centre for Empowerment (ACE) believes that the best hope for Cambodia lies in empowering a new generation of local leaders, and that the poorest children and youth have great potential to contribute to the country’s future.
Serving children and youth from remote provinces and urban slums, ACE provides them with education, community development training, and leadership training to help them reach their potential and become change agents in their communities. At ACE’s education center, children from slum communities attend daily academic classes, along with weekly computer classes, and participate in sports activities. Supplemental nutrition and monthly checkups help the children stay healthy, and they also have access to regular workshops on leadership skills, child rights, and career options.
ACE’s Leadership Training Centre takes youth development to the next level, providing impoverished young people (ages 18–24) with housing, scholarships, life skills training, leadership training, and internships so they can attend university and break the cycle of poverty.
Kito International / Nairobi, Kenya
In Nairobi’s Kawangware slum, most people live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than one dollar a day. Even the most basic services—electricity, clean water, and waste management—are nonexistent, not to mention quality schools. Many children and youth live and work on the streets, with little hope of getting an education or a decent job. In some cases, they are the heads of their households and have neither the time nor the resources to attend school.
Kito International gives young people living in the Kawangware slum a lifeline out of poverty, helping them to realize their potential and build skills for a successful future. First, Kito connects with young people living on the streets and enrolls them in an intensive training course where they learn financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills. Then the youth gain hands-on experience by working for Kito’s environmentally friendly social enterprise, EcoSafi, where they use recycled materials to produce sandals, greeting cards, and reusable bags, which are distributed to local businesses.
Finally, Kito supports program graduates with job placement, scholarships for continuing their education, or assistance with starting their own microenterprises. For the most vulnerable children in its care—those who have been orphaned, abused, or separated from their families—Kito provides counseling and, when appropriate, helps them reunite with their families.
Chantiik Taj Tajinkutik / San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico
For the last several decades in Chiapas, one of the poorest states in Mexico, migrants have been moving from rural to urban areas in search of better opportunities. Many families settle in makeshift communities, where services are extremely limited. Furthermore, the majority of migrants are of indigenous descent, lack a birth certificate, and are illiterate, making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation and unable to access public services.
Migrant children face pressure to economically contribute to their families, and in the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, thousands of children work on the streets, selling goods to earn a meager two dollars per day.
Chantiik Taj Tajinkutik is dedicated to improving the lives of children who work on the streets of San Cristóbal de las Casas, with the goal of helping them to break out of poverty and earn a fair wage as adults. A six-month intensive training program—during which stipends are provided in exchange for full-time participation—equips young people with skills in baking, cooking, waitressing, and computers. At the same time, students attend workshops on human rights, literacy, and gender-based violence. And thanks to a partnership with the Mexican Indigenous Institute, Chantiik helps children take accelerated literacy courses so they can earn their primary- and secondary-school certificates.
Whether they choose to continue their education or secure a job with a living wage, Chantiik’s youth are on the path to a brighter future for themselves and their families.
The Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.
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