Improving Life in El Salvador
Why would a parent ever voluntarily give up their child? In El Salvador, perilous circumstances pressure some parents to do just that for the sake of the child. Other children find themselves in orphanages because of an abusive or impoverished family. Amid economic malaise and violence, NGO Sus Hijos is improving life in El Salvador by helping Salvadoran youth find hope.

Poverty in El Salvador

In the United States, the poverty line is around $26,000 for a family of four. The same family of four in El Salvador would be making around $8,000 according to the World Bank. That is $5.50 per person daily. In 2017, the poverty rate among Salvadorans was 29%, with 8.5% of Salvadorans surviving in extreme poverty. If one compares this to 2007, these statistics are a win: that year, 39% lived in poverty and 15% in extreme poverty.

Still, the current situation presents a challenge to El Salvador’s government, other countries and private organizations as they try to reduce the poverty rate. El Salvador’s economy has grown slowly since 2000, at an average of 2.3% GDP annually, but the World Bank predicts COVID-19 will contribute to a -4.3% growth rate in 2020. Even if 2021 brings an economic rebound, growth will have stagnated and recovery will be arduous absent additional action. Gangs and corruption both present endemic barriers to anti-poverty reform. In fact, gangs have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic, as police have split their focus between law enforcement and containing the virus.

National efforts to fight corruption and violence can do good if implemented correctly but small-scale efforts should accompany them. These on-the-ground efforts can attain acceptance from the community, and help construct a bottom-up fight against poverty. One such charitable organization improving life in El Salvador is Sus Hijos.

Sus Hijos

Sus Hijos (His Children) is a faith-based NGO that has been serving in El Salvador since 2008. Its mission has expanded as its support has grown, and it now pursues a variety of poverty-reducing initiatives, such as a community feeding program, a home construction campaign and culinary and cosmetics training programs. It also uses its transition program to help Salvadoran youth stay out of gang violence and off the streets.

The Borgen Project interviewed Dave Sheppard about his work with Sus Hijos, where he served as the transition program director for more than three years, between 2013 and 2016. As the director, he helped 38 young adults through the program, 20 of whom successfully completed the two-year transition. He also observed the sights and way of life around him, in a country that hopelessness often plagues.

Transitioning from Tragedy

The situation Salvadoran youth face is especially saddening. In 2010, parents abandoned 66% of children, often because their parents were simply too poor to care for them. Abandonment is still high today, and for many, the orphanage is safer than home.

Gang violence contributes to this problem. Gangs in El Salvador may outnumber the security forces, and operate by dealing drugs, extorting business owners and human trafficking. As they often control entire neighborhoods, dividing San Salvador into regions of influence, gangsters frequently impress children as young as 10 into their network. Those who do not join experience threats, harassment and assault. Sheppard told The Borgen Project that many families willingly turn their children over to the government so that they can escape gang influence and danger.

Once children turn 18, however, they are no longer eligible to live in government care. As a result, they go back to their families as government employees cannot legally leave them on the street. With unstable family situations, many of these young adults end up on the street or in gangs.

This is where Sus Hijos and other charities step in. It picks up the children on their 18th birthdays and offers them a room, food and support for up to two years. Sheppard told The Borgen Project that Sus Hijos’ transition program targets “the worst of the worst cases” to help—often those who experienced sexual abuse as children or had to work for long hours in sugarcane fields.

Transitioning to Hope

Sus Hijos’ transition program aims to provide young adults with support while fostering work ethic and faith-based values. To enter the program, the children must agree to avoid drugs and alcohol and follow other rules that help promote their personal growth. They also had to pay $1 a day in rent—money that they would receive as a gift from Sus Hijos once they left or completed the program, Sheppard said.

While in the program, the young adults also continued their education, completed chores and worked a job to make money. A ninth-grade education is a requirement to work at certain food establishments, like McDonald’s or Super Selectos. Most children complete only a sixth-grade education in El Salvador, so moving through additional grades can translate into greater pay. Sus Hijos’ training programs in its restaurant and salon also offers the young adults real-world job skills.

 In his role as director, Sheppard purchased a bus to ferry the youth between the residence and their jobs. He said that the gangs occasionally harassed him on his routes, but such harassment became “very, very rare” once they discovered who he was. “Once they knew who I was, they would leave me alone,” he stated.

Transitioning to Success

Sheppard told The Borgen Project about two individuals whose success was above average. The first was a young woman in government care through most of her teens due to domestic abuse. She completed Sus Hijos’ two-year program and graduated high school, which ends after 11th grade in El Salvador. Unlike many Salvadorans, she managed to get into a college and complete her associate’s degree. The college was the product of a U.S. doctor who had repaired a derelict hospital. The college paid full tuition while Sus Hijos and others helped out with living costs. Sheppard keeps in touch with the young lady, who now works at a call center where she makes about $600 per month.

The other success story Sheppard mentioned was of a young man whose parents had been killed when he was only four months old. He lived in a government facility until 18, at which point he entered the Sus Hijos program. He completed his seventh, eighth and ninth-grade education while at Sus Hijos, and then left the program to work at a local grocer, where he still has employment.

Even though Sheppard’s volunteer work ended in 2016, he keeps in touch with several of the youth from the program and its administrators. Today, the transition house is assisting nine kids through the program and Sus Hijos is continuing its other works. Its contributions are part of a small-scale, non-governmental initiative with a focus on improving life in El Salvador. If Sus Hijos’ efforts are a barometer of success, the country is bound to continue improving.

Jonathan Helton
Photo: Flickr

Young South African Artists
Since the Disney animated film debut in 1997, “The Lion King” franchise has grown to over 24 on-stage productions worldwide, grossing almost $9 billion and being experienced by over 100 million audience members. Today, the KwaMashu Community Advancement Projects (K-CAP) has provided support to young South African artists and helped them make their way to global stages in productions of “The Lion King.”

About “The Lion King”

Having won six Tony Awards, including for best musical, many have hailed “The Lion King” as one of the most daring and impressive musicals of all time. The success of the performance owes to the innovation of director Julie Taymor, whose experimental theatre and puppeteering experience brought the story to life through signature costume designs. All the characters of the story are animals, which headdresses, masks and puppetry represent. However, the actors are just as visible to the audience as their animal costuming with the “duality” of the characters foregrounding the talent of the actors, who are the heart of the show.

The acclaim of The Lion King also lies in its soundtrack, which the South African choral style inspired. When casting for the musical, Taymor and her producers wanted to retain the inspiration by returning to its source; in most productions of “The Lion King,” at least eight cast members are South African. In South Africa, one of “The Lion King’s” casting partners is Edmund Mhlongo, who shared in a recent interview with The Borgen Project that for South African performers, “It’s job creation for them that is permanent. As long as they are alive and healthy, they are employed by The Lion King.”

K-CAP Empowers Youth through Arts Education and Employment Opportunities

Edmund Mhlongo is the Artistic Director and founder of KwaMashu Community Advancement Projects (K-CAP), a nonprofit organization that aims to use the creative arts as a tool for youth empowerment, sustainable employment opportunity and community development. Founded in 1993, K-CAP centers around KwaMashu, a township 20 kilometers from the eastern seacoast that has historically experienced high crime and poverty rates. Mhlongo explained his focus on the youth of the community saying that, “I realized that most people who are involved in crime are youth. The majority of youth are very talented, and if you don’t keep them busy with something positive, they end up using that energy negatively.”

In 2003, Mholongo opened his own education center with K-CAP, the Ekhaya Multi Arts Center (K-CAP EMAC) to support young South African artists. Auditions for the school occur annually to find the most talented of the local youth, and since its founding, the center has expanded to cultivate 156 primary and secondary students, 32 of whom are full-time residents. While a full-time program director, Mhlongo himself also teaches script writing, directing and acting courses. Meanwhile, other teachers develop students’ dancing, music, drama, film or visual arts skills. Mhlongo expressed, “They are very creative. Each day I learn a lot from them. I enjoy arts education, especially for kids, I wish every school could have an arts education.”

K-CAP has prepared its students for employment in entertainment outlets such as music recording and South African TV. In fact, 23 of its alumni have gone on to perform for “The Lion King” at different international venues, including the Broadway stage in New York City.

K-CAP Festivals and Celebration of South African Culture

While training students for professional artistic careers, K-CAP EMAC also hosts annual festivals that celebrate different aspects of performance and South African culture. For example, in April, the organization hosts a Freedom Month festival, commemorating the liberation of South Africa by Nelson Mandela and the birth of constitutional democracy in 1994. In December, the annual programs conclude with K-CAP’s African Film Festival, a whole week of films that concludes with a weekend of workshops that South African artistic celebrities lead.

These festivals and partnerships serve to both inspire and enrich youth’s understanding of their craft and culture, as Mhlongo detailed, “I view arts as development and a basis of life, it starts with culture. I regard a person who doesn’t know his or her own culture like a tree without roots. For me, culture is the starting point, then arts. Arts makes you connect with the world. It speaks all languages. It has no boundaries. And during these times, I have seen arts comforting people when they are in bad situations. Arts is a critical component of society. That’s why we have TVs. People, when they’re stressed, they go and watch TV, and that is art. Or they listen to music, and that is art. Art is part of life, a way of life. The most active communities in arts are the communities with less social problems.”

A Global Arts Education: Virtual Learning and Travel

Mhlongo also sits on the National Arts Council Board of South Africa, where he acts as a development counsel and lobbies to ensure that the arts have the necessary funds and resources to continue supporting developing young artists or create the dance studios, recording studio and computer lab at K-CAP EMAC. Adjusting artistic programs to virtual platforms has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Mhlongo shared, “We’ve learned a lot through the pandemic. We never saw technology as a part of arts. But now we’ve learned. We know that technology is important, it can be easy for us to use in the arts, which opens the world for us because they can be accessible, even internationally.”

As K-CAP continues to grow in popularity and impact by helping young South African artists, Mhlongo envisions greater global opportunities for his students. He explained that “My biggest dream is that these kids can maybe annually go international. I’ve seen the kids I have taken overseas. When they come back, they come back different people. They change. They see the world differently. They learn to admire their own country, their own world, in a different way.” For these young artists, a global and artistic education prepares them for a world of creative opportunities.

– Tricia Lim Castro
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Updates on SDG Goal 8 in Spain
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 objectives that the United Nations created to measure a country’s progress in the journey towards sustainability. The focus of SDG Goal 8 is economic growth and quality jobs. By creating decent jobs, a country can significantly improve the living standards of its citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the positive progression of this goal for many countries. Meanwhile, the countries that were falling behind in economic growth before COVID-19 hit are even farther from their objectives now. This article will focus on providing updates on SDG goal 8 in Spain.

6 Indicators of How a Country has Progressed Toward SDG Goal 8

These are the six indicators of a country’s progress toward SDG Goal 8:

  1. Adjusted GDP Growth
  2. Victims of modern slavery
  3. Adults with a bank account
  4. Work-related accidents associated with imports
  5. Employment-to-population ratio
  6. Youth not in employment, education or training”

SDG Goal 8 in Spain

Currently, Spain has achieved the SDG for adjusted GDP growth, victims of modern slavery, adults with a bank account and employment-to-population ratio. “Significant challenges” remain in the work-related accidents category, but Spain is currently on track to reach the SDG. “Major challenges” remain for the youth in employments or education indicator. Though Spain has made significant progress towards a sustainable economy, it continues to face these challenges. The Mediterranean country has specifically struggled to create opportunities for its youth. With about one in five people between the ages of 15-29 unemployed and not in any type of education or training, Spain still has some ways to go before it can achieve economic sustainability. However, the country is on track to achieving the SDG.

The Reasons Spanish Youth Struggle to Find Employment

The two largest contributors to the lack of opportunities for young people are overqualification and a high dropout rate (relative to other E.U. countries). In 2010, the school dropout rate in Spain was 31.6%. For comparison, the rate for both Finland and Germany was about 12%. Meanwhile, young people who have obtained a formal education tend to lack an understanding of how to find a job and market themselves. Unfortunately, Spain’s methods of preparing young people to enter the labor force do not appear to be as effective as some of its surrounding European countries.

Plan of Action

Spain’s labor ministry has developed a plan of action to combat youth unemployment. By 2021, Spain hopes to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Develop a new economic model with an emphasis on productivity and workplace dignity
  2. Support public employment services in offering individualized assistance to those seeking work
  3. Create more skill-building opportunities
  4. Assist young people in becoming more self-sufficient employment seekers
  5. Fight gender biases and the gender wage gap through equal opportunity training
  6. Encourage young people not to give up on seeking employment
  7. Pay special attention to more at-risk groups such as migrants and school dropouts

Youth Business Spain

Some organizations are on the ground working to create employment opportunities for Spanish youth. One of those organizations is Youth Business Spain, a branch of Youth Business International (YBI). YBI helps young people begin or further their careers. The organization does this by providing training, mentorship and financial support to young entrepreneurs. Through this program, young Spanish entrepreneurs have received over 28,400 hours of mentorship dedicated to improving skills in business management. From 2013 to 2017, over 1,000 people benefitted from Youth Business Spain. The program has a multitude of inspiring success stories, but it hopes to reach out to even more young entrepreneurs in the future.

Looking Ahead

While significant challenges remain, the country is on track to achieve SDG Goal 8 in Spain. After the Spanish financial crisis of 2008, Spain’s economy was struggling to stay afloat. However, the Spanish government and many non-governmental organizations have gradually improved economic opportunities for young people in the country. Though COVID-19 has caused a bit of a setback in most countries, Spain continues to work on improving employment situations for Spanish youth.

– Jillian Reese
Photo: Flickr

Youth Hunger in the PhilippinesHunger in the Philippines is a rampant issue. Food insecurity affects 64.1% of total Filipino households. Further, an estimated 5.2 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger, hunger due to lack of food to eat, at least once in the past three months. One issue in particular is the increasing rate of youth hunger in the Philippines. Two in every 10 (19.1 %) Filipino children aged 0-59 months old are underweight. Additionally, three in every 10 (30.3%) of children the same age are stunted in growth. All of this is due to food insecurity. Due to these numbers, many organizations have stepped up to reduce youth hunger in the Philippines. Here are two organizations included in this fight against food insecurity in the Philippines.

Youth Hunger in the Philippines

One of the organizations making a tangible impact on youth hunger in the Philippines is Destiny Ministries International. One of its pastors, Ariel Tenorios, based in the City of Calamba, Laguna, has spearheaded a campaign to feed homeless youth on the streets. He also raises money to give aid packages to these malnourished children. His work has spread throughout the provinces to the General Santos City/Mindanao areas. Tenorios has helped children during the COVID-19 pandemic by provisioning meals to college-aged students and families struggling with food insecurity. To distribute these resources, his team goes from family to family in the poorer areas and gives out bags of food to those in need.

Another way in which Destiny Ministry International helps youth hunger in the Philippines is through social media. So far, the organization has been able to help hundreds of children and families struggling on the streets. One big issue during this time is mental health, with a lot of the youth on the streets struggling with anxiety and depression. Through its work, the organization has helped rehabilitate those in need. For example, it can help people work through suicidal thoughts by providing for their needs.

A Personal Touch

Norita Metcalf knows what is like to help out in these areas. Metcalf was born in the Philippines, living in the province of Cavite from birth to the age of 21. While she currently lives in the United States, she still works with various churches and organizations that focus on youth homelessness and food insecurity in the Philippines. Metcalf takes frequent trips back to the Philippines to help in both tangible and remote ways.

On her most recent trip to the Philippines, aiding Destiny Ministries International, she saw another level of poverty. She described cardboard houses, multiple stories high, that people made to give families some form of a roof above their heads, even if it is as thin as cardboard. This showed Metcalf a new level of poverty than what she personally experienced as a child in the Philippines. While there, she helped fundraise and pass out food to address this problem.

Destiny Ministries International

However, the work of Destiny Ministries International has helped make a tangible difference. Metcalf describes the ways in which people struggled not only with food insecurity but also mental health issues resulting from malnourishment and poverty. The provision of funds and food go a long way for these people. Many college-aged youths on the streets told Metcalf about the feeling of hopelessness associated with the lack of food. Even a small glimmer of hope resulted in the subsiding of suicidal thoughts and depression, thanks to the aid of Destiny Ministries International. Overall, its work has helped hundreds and reduced food insecurity for families struggling during the pandemic.

Children International

Another organization that has aided with youth hunger in the Philippines is Children International. This organization has sponsored over 43,000 kids and 14 community members for over 37 years. It helps tackle malnutrition through screening every child and identifying those who need intervention. Additionally, monitored supplemental feeding in community centers help these children regain their strength and correct their weight-height ratio. Children International also aids parents through nutrition classes that teach about healthy meals on limited budgets, so that children will not remain malnourished.

Through its community centers, such as the Kaligayahan Center (meaning “happiness” in Tagalog), the organization serves thousands of children in different areas. In this center alone, it provides medical and nutritional services to more than 5,100 children. The work that this organization does therefore helps to combat youth hunger in the Philippines. As a result, it helps stop the early deaths and malnutrition that Filipino youths often suffer through due to malnutrition.

Looking Forward

These two organizations demonstrate two different ways to fight impoverished conditions and youth hunger in the Philippines. The stark statistics on how many are affected show that stepping up to the challenge is a necessary step toward change. However, the fight is not done with just these two organizations. As demonstrated by Metcalf’s story, food insecurity is a serious issue that needs a coordinated response in the Philippines.

Kiana Powers
Photo: Flickr

Youth in Serbia
Serbia is a European country that was formerly a part of Yugoslavia. Located in the West-Central Balkans, it is surrounded by Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia. The majority of the population is of South Slavic origin and they speak Serbo-Croatian, which is nearly the same language that the Croats, Bosniaks, and Montenegrins speak.

Over time, a majority of Serbia’s population migrated to the capital city Belgrade from more rural areas. As recently as 2018 however, 43.9% of the people in Serbia still lived in the countryside. In 1945, when the country was still part of the former Yugoslavia, Serbians were under a socialist economic system. Although some free-market characteristics were later adopted in 1948, there was still a large emphasis on socialist self-management.

Youth Unemployment

Today, the youth in Serbia have been consistently making efforts to promote and provide a platform for entrepreneurship among young citizens. Near Belgrade—which has been a center for innovation and entrepreneurship over recent years—is the Impact Hub Belgrade.

One problem affecting the economy in Serbia is related to job availability among young citizens. The unemployment rate among youth is 40%, so providing employment opportunities to these citizens would impact a large portion of the population that is struggling to enter the job market or start businesses.

As a result of poor job opportunities, large numbers of young Serbians leave Serbia in search of work elsewhere. If the youth had more accessible jobs and economic opportunities, it may be more compelling for them to stay and stimulate their own economy, as opposed to the economies of other countries.

Impact Hub

Impact Hub focuses on supporting young entrepreneurs by strengthening their networks with investors in order to attract their investments. This provides an economic foundation for businesses to operate and produce goods and services.

One of the programs initiated by Impact Hub was called the Launch Pad, which provided these young entrepreneurs not only with tools needed to create new products, but with training to broaden their business skills. In addition, the program helped the youth in Serbia develop business models and connect with investors at home and abroad. This program received grants from USAID to help with funding.

Even though the program has ended, it raised a total of $230,000 from the domestic public sector, as well as from the private sector both at the national and international levels. Investments continued, including a $100,000 fund from the Innovation Impact Grant Program in Dubai.

Continued Efforts and Progress

Serbia’s economic freedom score by 2020 has increased by 2.1 points, bumping it to 66.0, and it saw GDP growth as recently as 2018. Even though Serbia has faced numerous economic difficulties since its independence, there are efforts being taken by its citizens to drive and stimulate the economy. The youth in Serbia have especially taken notable actions and the country continues to be supported by the USAID and many other programs and countries domestically and internationally.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Pixabay

Homeboy Industries“Homeboys has given me hope. It’s given me a better understanding of myself. Before, I just never gave myself a chance. So it’s encouraged me to change my life.” Latisha Valenzuela is one of the thousands of Angelenos and persons worldwide that Homeboy Industries impacted. Founded by Father Greg Boyle in 1988, Homeboy Industries has become the world’s most extensive program that works at least with those involved with gangs and jailed. Recently, an international jury chose the nonprofit organization as the 2020 recipient of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Humanitarian Prize, the world’s largest yearly humanitarian award.

Homeboy Industries is a thought leader and innovator in the area of criminal justice. Its model is fundamentally based on context: standing with the demonized and marginalized, healing them and investing in their futures; it involves a culture of compassion, tenderness and kinship.

Poverty

In its 2018 annual report are the words: “For most, a criminal record is a life sentence to poverty.” Gang violence is an outgrowth of something more profound: deprivation or trauma that an individual experiences. These cause pain and insecurity, which youth (between 12 and 25 years of age as outlined in the report) who are gang members do not or cannot properly deal with, and instead of causing themselves and others pain. Their actions as youth affect their lives as adults.

Not only are gangs and crime a product of poverty, but gangs and corruption contribute to it. It is a cycle. Gangs, crime and poverty must be dealt with together.

Whether or not the following relates to poverty, Director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU) Niven Rennie said concerning the rise in gang and knife crimes that the “main driver” is poverty. Although there may not be a universal definition of “gang,” it is at least possible that there are potential connections between poverty and gang membership and gang violence:

1. Gangs usually exist in areas where there is a lack of opportunities and social exclusion.

2. Marginalized persons, such as those in poverty, are specifically targeted for recruitment, violence and pressure (p 4); however, gang activities even affect ordinary persons.

3. Gangs exist in developed countries, such as Scotland (at least the U.K., which comprises Scotland) and the U.S., and developing countries, including those in Latin America.

Actions, Not Only Words

Not only are compassion, tenderness and kinship important, so too is providing for those involved in gangs or jailed or are susceptible to becoming involved. Homeboy Industries offers tattoo removal, education, substance abuse support, legal assistance and solar panel training. It also has its very own social enterprises, job training for homeboys and homegirls. Businesses include a bakery and electronics recycling.

Additionally, the nonprofit has a global network, which launched in 2014. Over 400 organizations have emulated or engaged with it to whatever degree. Representatives from countries such as Denmark and Scotland, Nicaragua and El Salvador are part of the network.

In an interview with Devex, a social enterprise connected to the global development community, Boyle is attributed as saying, “Everything is about something else. … The trick in any country is to find the ‘something else.’… Try to find a lack of connection and kinship.” In Scotland, Boyle worked with “the VRU” (as seen in a BBC article) in Glasgow. Braveheart Industries is a charity based on the manifestation of his work in Los Angeles; it has a social enterprise located in Glasgow that employs people with convictions.

El Salvador has seen reductions in levels of poverty and advances in human development. Nevertheless, gangs are active in the country. After he visited Homeboys Industries, Jaime Zablah founded La Factoría Ciudadana in the country. As examples, it offers therapy and tattoo removal.

Hope

International Youth Day was on August 12. Not all youth become gang members; some are “fundamental drivers and critical partners” concerning work concerning conflict-prevention and peace-building. Poverty can hinder the potential of young people: the World Programme of Action for Youth recognizes that basic needs such as education and sustainable livelihoods are crucial for youth social development.

Homeboy Industries has been there for the youth, launching the Summer Youth Program in 2018 as part of its “expansive approach to putting an end to the cycle of incarceration and poverty.” As youth need compassion, tenderness, and kinship, so does the world need youth with great aspirations, such as helping those involved in gangs or jailed.

– Kylar Cade
Photo: Flickr

Youth Entrepreneurship in Serbia
Serbia is a southeastern European country with an upper-middle-income economy. It ranks relatively high on the Human Development Index (63rd), Social Progress Index (53rd) and the Global Peace Index (54th). However, the nation suffers from high unemployment, especially in the youth population: Serbia recorded a youth unemployment rate of 30.3% in 2019. The lack of entry-level jobs consequently drives many young Serbians to flee their home country in search of work elsewhere. However, USAID has invested in an inventive solution to this problem: initiatives to promote youth entrepreneurship in Serbia.

Impact Hub Belgrade—Fostering Youth Entrepreneurship

USAID’s most notable endeavor is Impact Hub Belgrade. Impact Hub is a USAID-funded global network focusing on establishing entrepreneurial communities in cities worldwide. Serbia’s Impact Hub is located in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital city. It specifically focuses on youth entrepreneurship, helping youth-led start-ups to attract potential regional and international investors. In particular, it helps hone and validate young entrepreneurs’ business models, providing them with the materials and skills needed to turn their ideas into reality. Insufficient access to finance is the number-one challenge young entrepreneurs face. Therefore, Impact Hub dedicates itself to eliminating this obstacle and creating boundless opportunities for young Serbians. The program celebrated its fifth anniversary in December 2019.

Impact Hub Belgrade also prioritizes gender equality in its work. While Impact Hub Belgrade has a special focus on youth, it also recognizes the unique barriers that young female entrepreneurs face. On its anniversary in December, Impact Hub launched Women Entrepreneurs (WE) Founders, the first Serbian female investment group dedicated to fostering and supporting gender-diverse entrepreneurial teams and companies. Some of its techniques include ensuring women have an equal role in decision making, building trusting relationships between men and women in the workplace and encouraging women to take leadership positions.

Junior Achievement

Junior Achievement is another USAID-funded entrepreneurial program. The program is a training curriculum with the intention of teaching Serbian high school students the essentials of entrepreneurship. These essentials include writing business plans, identifying product placement and forecasting earnings. It ensures Serbian high school graduates enter the job market with the technical skills necessary to successfully establish a business. And while Junior Achievement programs are present throughout Europe, Serbia’s is among the strongest; in 2018, Belgrade hosted the European Student Company Competition, where 39 student-led companies from across the continent convened to present their businesses to a jury of prominent Serbian entrepreneurs.

Non-Governmental Organizations

Non-governmental organizations also support young entrepreneurs. A notable example is Smart Kolektiv, an independent nonprofit organization with the stated purpose of promoting youth entrepreneurship in Serbia. Smart Kolektiv assists young entrepreneurs in establishing their businesses. Its hope is that Serbia’s youth will use their power to drive positive social change.

Success in Entrepreneurship

Young entrepreneur success stories abound across Serbia. One example of lucrative youth entrepreneurship in Serbia is Nikica Marinkovic’s Box System, an eco-friendly replacement for styrofoam designed to transport organic produce. Thanks to Impact Hub, Marinkovic gained funding from Austrian investors and U.S. markets that allowed him to expand his business.

Encouraging youth entrepreneurship in Serbia is just one way to encourage young Serbians to stay in their home country and fulfill their dreams. However, the popularity of these initiatives and their encouraging results also demonstrate that fostering youth entrepreneurship is a lucrative option for Serbia’s economy. Prosperous, youth-led operations continue to emerge throughout Serbia, from independent coffee shops to cutting-edge technologies.

Abby Tarwater
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty EradicationA new job-search platform in South Africa seeks to put an end to youth unemployment. Entrepreneurs Anish Shivdasani and Shafin Anwarsha founded an online company called Giraffe in 2015 to help reduce the staggering youth unemployment rate. Securing jobs for young South Africans is key to alleviating life-long poverty, as well as improving education and access to resources. The startup uses a specialized algorithm to match job-seekers to employers, making it one of the many innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa.

Solving Unemployment in South Africa

Around 40% of South Africans are unemployed, and the youth unemployment rate is even higher at nearly 50%. The government has made efforts to dismantle poverty and inequality since the end of apartheid in 1994 by building over two million new houses, improving access to clean water and distributing social grants to millions of people in poverty. The economy grew by roughly 3.5% yearly from 1998 to 2008, producing millions of new jobs. The financial crisis of 2008 halted some of this progress, but all efforts for improvement will neutralize if half of the country’s young people grow up outside of the job market.

With the long-term effects of youth unemployment in mind, Shivdasani and Anwarsha set out to curb the trend. In 2015, they introduced Giraffe to South Africa’s smallest province Gauteng, home of the country’s largest city Johannesburg. A year later, with 100,000 job-seekers signed up, they brought Giraffe to the greater metro areas of Cape Town and Durban. Today, over 1 million people have joined the platform as well as thousands of businesses, both small and large, looking for the right match.

The App That is Not Just for Smartphones

As one of the innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa, Giraffe’s success is a direct result of its ease of use and technological innovation. Anyone with a cellphone that has an internet browser, not necessarily a smartphone, can use the service. Job-seekers must first visit Giraffe’s website from whatever device they have available, and then fill out a form that takes about eight or nine minutes. The company then creates a CV for the user and uploads it to their database. Employers have a short sign-up process as well.

From there, Giraffe’s algorithm does all of the work, matching the right candidates to the right jobs. The algorithm will even set up the interview at an agreed-upon time. Most recruitment agencies require an agent to contact both parties and review qualifications by hand. Giraffe works faster and keeps costs extremely low for businesses by employing technology instead, charging up to 30 times less than other recruitment agencies. The platform is free for job-seekers.

The Future of Giraffe and UNICEF’s Innovation Fund

In July 2020, Giraffe became a recipient of funding from UNICEF’s Innovation Fund, along with 10 other start-ups around the world that are focused on eradicating inequality of opportunity for young people. In recognition of the importance of education and skill-level on employability, Giraffe intends to use the money to build a job-seeker content portal, drawing from Giraffe’s labor market data and highlighting the most in-demand skills. The new feature will help educate and upskill young people to improve their career prospects and will hold Giraffe to a higher standard as one of the newest innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa.

In addition to the funding, Giraffe now has access to UNICEF’s team of innovators and networks, and plans are in place to make both the matching algorithm and content portal open source for other global organizations to use.

McKenna Black
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Papua New GuineaAmidst everything that is currently happening around the world, one of the biggest challenges that Papua New Guinea faces is the growth of youth which already represents 60% of the entire population. If the government does not start acting accordingly, then these young people could become vulnerable to delinquency and violence and end up increasing overall homelessness in Papua New Guinea.

Life of Homeless Children

According to the Life PNG Care Director Collin Pake, there were around 5,000 homeless children in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, in 2018. Many of them migrated from the rural areas of PNG looking for cleaning jobs as a way to help their families, while others received encouragement to go to the capital in search of their dreams. Additionally, others left home after experiencing abandonment from their families or ran away because of abuse or losing their family to illness.

Housing Crisis

But no matter their reasons, when coming to the capital they encounter many obstacles that do not let them prosper. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the employment per ratio population in Papua New Guinea has considerably dropped from 69% to 46%. It is not news that finding well-paid employment in the capital is hard. For that reason, many young people engage in informal jobs to subsist, as well as many live out in the streets due to the high rent.

According to a research by Professor Eugene Ezebilo, head of the property development program at the PNG National Research Institute, rent around the capital is too high for low-income families; often an apartment listing can go for around $300-600 USD a week, which represents rent stress for many families living in Port Moresby. In this way, many either become homeless, recur to ask for money from other family members or live in the outskirts of the city in informal houses.

How Life PNG Care Improves the Lives of Homeless Children

In an effort to reduce homelessness in Papua New Guinea, Pake and his wife started LIfe PNG Care 12 years ago. In 2018, it granted shelter, food and care to around 54 children. It even offers an education program that caters to 100 children.

Life PNG Care offers accommodation, education and advocates for child protection. They run three main education programs: the Strongim Pikinini program, Home School education program and Mobile Education program.

Furthermore, efforts of NCD Food Bank volunteers have resulted in the preparation of food bags for the homeless, street kids, people with disabilities and those who are experiencing food poverty in Port Moresby. This work has been especially important during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Yet, the problem still continues unless more results come from the government. Indeed, a way to not let the youth become an obstacle for the economy is supporting them in every way possible with better access to education, health and employment. This youth with guidance can become quite an exceptional asset for the economy and in ending homelessness in Papua New Guinea

Alannys Milano
Photo: Flickr

Unemployment in South Africa
Although South Africa’s GDP is the second-highest in Africa, more than 50% of the population lives in poverty. One of the factors preventing people from escaping poverty is the nation’s staggering unemployment rate. With over 28.18% of the population looking for work in 2019, South Africa’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world. Giraffe is a job recruitment platform that Anish Shivdasani created in 2015 with the mission of alleviating unemployment in South Africa.

3 Causes of Unemployment in South Africa

  1. Apartheid systematically excluded black people from the educational system and the skilled workforce throughout the 20th century. Recently, there are more women and people of color participating in the education system and receiving training. As a result, there are more job seekers in South Africa than there are hiring employers.
  2. South Africa’s labor market favors highly skilled workers. This results in few accessible jobs for the general public. The nation’s labor laws, which include high wages and policies that constrain employers from letting employees go, discourage employers from hiring young workers with minimal experience.
  3. Despite the government’s increased spending on education, the South African education system does not provide students with adequate training or skills necessary for the type of employment available in the formal sector. Additionally, many students are unable to finish school and are, therefore, highly likely to experience unemployment. The problems within the nation’s education system resulted in a youth unemployment rate of 55.97% in 2019.

Giraffe: A Solution

More than 1 million job seekers use Giraffe’s platform, and the software has invited more than 500,000 applicants for an interview in the last five years. The app is convenient for both employers and applicants, as it takes just a few minutes to post a job with the employer’s desired criteria. Here are three ways Giraffe addresses the problem of unemployment in South Africa.

3 Ways Giraffe Addresses Unemployment

  1. Giraffe aims to empower its employers by focusing on the problem of job retention in South Africa. The technology screens candidates so that employers only have to assess applicants that meet their qualifications. Giraffe even provides an option for a voice recording through which applicants respond to a question that the employer poses. Therefore, when candidates receive a request to come in for an interview, employers are confident that they have picked the right person for the job.
  2. Giraffe is the platform with the most medium-skilled workers in South Africa, including recent graduates and students. The app offers jobs for many levels of training rather than just providing jobs to wealthy, highly educated applicants. This could eventually serve to reduce the youth unemployment rate by providing opportunities to young people with mid-level training.
  3. In 2019, Giraffe announced that it would provide its services “for free to exempted micro-enterprises (EMEs) who are willing to hire first-time job-seekers.” This helps small businesses who are often unable to afford job-recruitment technology. In South Africa, where economic competition is rare and small businesses struggle to gain traction, Giraffe’s services could serve to invigorate entrepreneurial culture while actively reducing unemployment.

Impact of COVID-19

With more than 380,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths, COVID-19 has taken a toll on unemployment in South Africa, which experts expect to increase to 35.31% by December 2020. Additionally, 8.1% of people reported having closed their businesses or lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 lockdown in May 2020.

Giraffe’s platform will be integral to the thousands of people who lose their jobs in the wake of COVID-19, as more people will be looking for work once the virus subsides. The company also adapted to COVID-19 by educating other start-ups about how to conduct business productively from home.

Looking Forward

In the future, Giraffe aims to provide job training through its app. This should provide even more opportunities for job seekers to improve their skills, become qualified for higher-paying jobs and to meet more employers’ criteria. The start-up also intends to expand internationally and to continue to narrow its focus on small businesses.

Giraffe is a fast-growing company using modern technology that has garnered support and funding from around the world. Unemployment remains one of the most pressing issues in South Africa. However, companies like Giraffe provide tangible solutions that will help address the issue of unemployment in South Africa.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr