In Guatemala, young people are more likely to join a gang than to graduate upper secondary school. According to UNICEF, only 54.2 percent of youth ages 10-19 are enrolled in upper secondary schools.

On the other hand, a World Bank report states there are an estimated 14,000 young gang members. The report goes on to explain that “youth unemployment is associated with a higher probability of youth engaging in risky behavior, including crime and violence. Youth inactivity rates are often much higher than youth unemployment rates.”

To counteract this trend of violence, several organizations are working with youth to help them stay focused on educational opportunities. In fact, USAID found that “Long-term, sustainable development and improved equity in Guatemala will only be possible if [the] education of children and youth continues to improve.”

One of the most successful programs to date has been the United Nations Developing Programme’s (UNDP) Munijoven project. The Municipality of Guatemala City, with the support and funding of the UNDP and the Italian Government, leads the project.

In total, it is estimated that by April 10, 323 youth had taken part in the project’s training opportunities. “The Munijoven project aims to create academic opportunities for those underprivileged youth and to help them into employment,” UNDP said.

With programs focused on English, IT, tourism, gardening, arts, cooking and customer service training, the project hopes to provide job opportunities that these youth would not have under normal circumstances.

“With UNDP’s support, an employment strategy is currently being developed within the city’s youth policy, to create better economic, training, health and recreational opportunities through public-private partnerships,” UNDP said.

Businesses like Pizza Hut, local banks, furniture retailers and bakeries have joined the initiative. These businesses are vital to the project’s goals.

In fact, Ana Gabriela De León, UNDP’s Programme Officer for Poverty Reduction and Social Investment, stated, “Business participation is a key part of this process, since the main goal at the end of the training is to integrate young people into the labor market [as soon as] they have successfully completed the Munijoven programme.”

An estimated 60 percent of the participants, or 6,000 young people, were able to sign employment contracts at the end of the project.

Katherine Martin

Sources: UNICEF, World Bank, USAID, IZA, UNDP
Photo: Flickr