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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

International Youth Day 2017We’ve all heard the old adage that children are the future. While it may sound cliché, this idea is what led the United Nations General Assembly to establish International Youth Day on December 17, 1999.

Each year, the day of August 12 is used to spread awareness of the World Program of Action for Youth, which works to improve situations for children and young adults around the world. International Youth Day is also a tool to recognize the ability of youth to instill change in the world.

Since the first observance of International Youth Day in 2000, a theme has been selected each year. Some of the themes include Addressing Health and Unemployment, Tackling Poverty Together, Change Our World and the 2017 theme of Youth Building Peace.

In 2017, the theme of Youth Building Peace was used to highlight the ability of youth to contribute to conflict resolution and sustainable peace. United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16 aims to ensure that decision making is responsive, inclusive, representative and participatory at all levels.

On December 9, 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on Youth, Peace and Security and identified five key pillars for action: participation, protection, prevention, partnerships and disengagement and reintegration.

Both the U.N. Security Council and The World Program of Action for Youth recognize though International Youth Day that youths are often left out of important decision making because of their age. “When youth are excluded from political, economic and social spheres and processes, it can be a risk factor for violence and violent forms of conflict,” according to the U.N.

“Therefore, identifying and addressing the social exclusion of young people is a precondition for sustaining peace.”

Throughout the decades, many steps have been taken towards building peace. But in recent years, the occurrence of violence and conflict has been far too prevalent. Youths comprise a large part of populations where violent conflict is prevalent.

Since the population of youth across the globe is the biggest it has ever been, it is important now more than ever to include this population in decisions that will affect the future of peace.

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Youth Unemployment CrisisYouth unemployment is an increasing worldwide crisis. As of 2016, the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that 71 million 15 to 24-year-olds around the world are unemployed, many of whom are facing long-term unemployment. To put this number into perspective, youth unemployment is “close to an historic peak” of 13 percent.

The youth unemployment crisis impacts low-income countries the most because even employed citizens are at risk of poverty. In 2016 the ILO estimated that about 156 million employed youths in these countries lived in poverty. This makes up a substantial 38 percent of youths in developing nations.

For the sake of the world’s economy as well as these youths, here are four potential solutions to the youth unemployment crisis:

  1. One of the main causes of the youth unemployment crisis is the lack of quality education worldwide. It was reported in 2016 that about 40 percent of employers find it difficult to recruit people with needed skills. This is because about 250 million children worldwide do not acquire basic reading, writing and math skills. Therefore, nearly one in five youths do not gain the most basic skills needed for employment. By ensuring quality education globally, students will be able to acquire skills needed for gaining employment.
  2. A significant number of youths cannot acquire the education needed for employment because of crisis and conflict. An estimated 75 million children between the ages of three and 18 currently live in countries that are in conflict. These children are twice as likely as their counterparts to have no access to quality education. Thus, to resolve the youth unemployment crisis by allowing youth to get jobs, crisis and conflict in war-torn countries must first be dramatically reduced.
  3. To resolve the youth unemployment crisis, the focus must also shift toward gender equality in education. Gender distribution in the international labor force is woefully disproportionate. According to the ILO, 53.9 percent of young men compared to 37.3 percent of young women are employed. This is due in part to cultural beliefs regarding working women, but also has to do with a lack of women’s education. Globally, 61 million young women are not enrolled in primary or lower-secondary school, giving them little opportunity to gain skills for employment. This includes literacy, as “two-thirds of the world’s illiterates are women.” Therefore, addressing gender inequality in education is a necessary step towards reducing youth unemployment.
  4. Aside from reforming education, tackling youth unemployment will also take commitment to funding research, educational programs and employment programs. In order to finance these programs, funding for education needs to increase to $3 trillion by 2030. As the current investment in education stands at $1.2 trillion, reaching this goal requires large-scale cooperation. This means that companies, governments, non-government organizations and schools must form partnerships to invest in research and solutions to youth unemployment.

Resolving the youth unemployment crisis is critical for not only the well-being of youths worldwide, but also for the global economy. Mass youth unemployment slows progress and thereby it is essential to take steps toward ending it.

Haley Hurtt
Photo: Flickr

Job-Training Programs in RwandaNew job-training programs in Rwanda are helping unemployed youth gain practical skills that allow them to find meaningful work. The Educational Development Center (EDC), a nonprofit founded by MIT researchers, recently announced its newest project, called “Huguka Dukore.” The five-year program offers job-skills training, provides internship opportunities and helps with job placement to 40,000 Rwandan youth.

For these young men and women, having skills that give them access to the job market is essential. In Rwanda, men and women under the age of 30 make up 60 percent of the country’s population. Many of them live on less than $1.75 a day, and the vast majority of them will never attend college. Additionally, those who go to work right out of high school find the job search extremely difficult.

USAID gave $20.5 million in funding for Huguka Dukore, which means “Get trained, let’s work” in Rwanda’s most widely-spoken language, Kinyarwanda. More than 200 government and business leaders support the initiative, hoping these new jobs will contribute to Rwanda’s growing economy.

Huguka Dukore follows on the heels of another EDC project in Rwanda, the Akazi Kanoze Youth Livelihoods Project, which has trained 21,000 Rwandan youth since its launch in 2009. Graduates became entrepreneurs, worked as certified caregivers for children or worked for a Rwandan company. Consequently, over half found employment within six months of completing their training.

Not all job-training programs in Rwanda are strictly technical; some have a creative side. For example, the nonprofit Indego Africa runs a vocational training program that teaches Rwandan women artisanal work. Started in February of 2016, the program is split into two main focuses: artisanal training and business instruction.

For three days a week over the course of six months, the class of 45 women learns sweetgrass basket weaving, banana-leaf weaving, beading and sewing. They craft hats, bags, baskets and stuffed animals designed by a team in New York City and sell them online. On the other two days, the women go to Kigali, the capital, to learn computer skills, bookkeeping and budgeting. Consequently, taining young women allows the artisan collectives to continue to grow, even as the founding members age.

This new focus on job-training programs in Rwanda is part of Rwanda’s Vision 2020, as outlined by the UNDP. The country aims to shift dependence away from farming, a traditionally low-income lifestyle. They plan on creating 2.2 million jobs in industry and services. Consequently, Rwanda is making sure that its youngest population of adults receives preparation to work in the business sector.

Emilia Otte

Photo: Flickr


Despite India’s growing economic success, a recent study by Oxford University found that over half of India’s youth lives in acute poverty. Of the staggering 528 million impoverished Indians, almost half are under the age of 18. The study looked at their access to health care, nutrition, clean water, education and other standards of living when assessing poverty in India.

According to the study, of the 689 million impoverished children in the world, 87 percent live in South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa. This study was designed in accordance with the United Nation’s primary Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating poverty in all forms. By addressing youth poverty in highly-populated areas such as India, global poverty could be greatly reduced.

There are many possible explanations for why so many of India’s impoverished are those under the age of 18, including policy issues, general values and the mindsets of India’s citizenry. Rural areas, in particular, are vulnerable to cultural issues such as early marriage and pregnancy, as well as a lack of educational access for girls. These issues are more complex than simple economic reform.

Additionally, author and former Indian Administrative Officer, Anirudh Krishna, addressed three overarching explanations for this phenomenon: healthcare deficiency, insufficient state support of citizens and the upper class’s prejudices towards those in poverty in India. These issues are attributed to India’s particular value system and a lack of opportunity for families living in rural slums. Children from these families lack access to the same opportunities as higher-income children, depriving India of potential economic resources.

The results of this study are particularly astonishing in the context of India’s economic boom. In recent months, India’s GDP grew at seven percent and is set to continue growing to about eight percent in upcoming years — primarily due to its digital boom and healthy startup economy. Despite this growing GDP, India’s rural youth population remains in a state of economic strife.

However, young professionals are beginning to look at the problem as fellows trained to study issues of poverty in India. These fellows study rural areas to understand which resources they lack most and which issues affect children the greatest. Their work focuses on how higher standards of health care and education, as well as access to electricity and technology, are achievable in rural India.

Investing in education is of high importance; it equips children with skills to enter the workforce and might effectively challenge potentially harmful values in rural communities. By addressing this lack of basic needs in rural areas, India can cultivate a generation of healthy, educated and productive citizens. Investing in modern education, technology and opportunities for rural youth could provide India with a great economic return.

Julia Morrison

Photo: Flickr


In one of the smallest African countries, Rwanda, the population growth is recovering from the Rwandan genocide. Rwandans who are below the age of 25 represent 67 percent of the population. As the population grows, new support is needed to educate youth in Rwanda.

“This population represents a youth bulge that is hungry for knowledge and success but is being starved of the access and opportunities,” reads the description of the Basketball Health Corps, just one of the programs provided by the nonprofit Shooting Touch.

Shooting Touch is an international development organization that uses the sport of basketball to educate and provides health care to youth in underdeveloped communities. The organization travels all over the world to spread the sport and their message along with it. Basketball can help kids learn about teamwork, sportsmanship and the importance of staying active together. More importantly, Shooting Touch uses basketball as a platform to educate youth in Rwanda on health and happiness.

Erick Niyitanga, a teenage Rwandan coach who has been playing basketball for years with the Basketball Health Corps, says that the sport has taught him how to carry himself “on the court and in real life.”

Board member of the organization and ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan took a trip to Rwanda to report on the outcomes that their nonprofit produces.

The 25 local full-time and volunteer coaches organize the children into teams, where the children get to pick their own teammates and are educated on consent. Health screening is provided in conjunction with the Boston-based nonprofit Partners In Health.

In the country of Rwanda, many of the communities are economically undernourished — the average monthly salary of citizens living in the impoverished city of Rwinkwavu is just $20 a month. Since Rwandans have little to spend on healthcare, Shooting Touch offers free healthcare to anyone who joins their program. In this way, the organization is not only advocating for healthcare; they are sponsoring it as well. The program also educates youth in Rwanda, with hands-on education.

“When we are on the court together, we are free,” says the mother of one of the players during a basketball tournament sponsored by Shooting Touch. Each player is provided a hot meal, and celebration ensues as the tournament ends. There is not a loss for one team, but rather a huge win for both sides, as all of the players walk away with free food and healthcare.

To educate youth in Rwanda and all over the world is essential to aid the growth of countries and is the first step to bringing families out of poverty. All of this is courtesy of one organization’s passion for lifting the spirits of struggling youth with the universal language of sports.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr


As more youth in Cambodia become politically aware, the country has seen significant strides by these individuals in advocating for change.

Such advocacy makes sense in light of changing technologies. As Ou Ritthy, the founder of a Cambodian discussion group, states: “Youth have two things: Information — from social media — and smartphones. They are more independent in terms of information.”

Not only has this allowed Cambodia’s youth to become more educated regarding governmental matters, but it has opened up opportunities for political networking. Through applications such as Facebook, these individuals can now unite through common interests. Together, they can plan rallies, organize volunteer efforts or simply instigate debate.

Furthermore, these efforts are having a bigger impact than ever before. As the New York Times reports, “Two-thirds of the population is under 30,” meaning youth in Cambodia now have the greatest capacity to bring about political change.

Student Thy Sovantha serves as one example. Sovantha created a Facebook page and posted Youtube videos supporting Sam Rainsy, the opposing candidate to Cambodia’s current prime minister Hun Sen, during the country’s 2013 elections. Her actions resulted in thousands of followers.

Sovantha is not the only one who opposes Sen, however. Youth protests were widespread during the 2013 elections, and efforts against his rule continue to this day. Cambodia’s elections later this year will be the final determinant of his power.

“The image of Cambodia in the international community has been damaged because they can see that…Cambodia is moving to dictatorship,” comments Ren Chanrith, a member of Cambodia’s Youth Resource Development Programme.

Regardless of Cambodia’s future regarding Sen, it is certain that youth in Cambodia will continue to have a big impact in what lies ahead for the country. This demographic change, combined with new technology, puts Cambodia’s youth at the forefront of politics.

Genevieve DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

IBM is investing $70 million in building digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills among youth in Africa in order to support a 21st-century workforce. The initiative, “IBM Digital – Nation Africa,” will provide a cloud-based learning platform offering free skills development programs for up to 25 million African youth over the next five years. The IBM investment is part of their global push to equip the next generation with the skills needed for “New Collar” careers, a term used by IBM to describe non-traditional careers that require sought-after skills in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data science, cloud and more, rather than a traditional four-year college degree.

The IBM investment will offer programs ranging from basic IT literacy to advanced IT skills development to enable digital competence and sprout innovation in Africa. The platform is geared to raise overall digital literacy, increase the number of developers able to tap into cognitive engines and enable entrepreneurs to grow businesses around new digital solutions.

The program will run through a free, cloud-based online learning environment delivered on IBM Bluemix and will allow users to learn a wide range of skills, from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced IT skills. Users will even have access to career-oriented topics including programming, cybersecurity and data science. The initiative aims to empower African citizens by giving them the educational tools to design, develop and launch their own digital solutions. The program will run in English and is completely free of charge.

In Africa, just 25% of people have a bank account, but 75% have access to a mobile phone. There is no doubt that technology plays a huge part in Africa’s future development, and that with this much-needed technological revolution will come an influx of job opportunities. Programs such as that from the IBM investment will ensure that the youth of Africa are equipped for such opportunities that are quickly arising.

Mayan Derhy

Photo: Flickr

UNICEF Innovation Fund
Starting in February, UNICEF will be accepting applications for its Innovation Fund. The funding will go to companies, teams or ideas from the developing world that help empower the local youth.

To be eligible for funding, the recipient’s project must use open source technology. This means that it is open to the public and can be modified by anyone.

UNICEF’s Innovation Principles stresses the importance of open source tech. According to UNICEF’s website, open source technology permits a global community of developers and designers to tweak and improve the code and design elements.

This allows the latest and most effective methods to be applied to the tech at no additional cost. It facilitates the creation of a public good by a global community.

In addition to the open source requirement, the tech must help local youth through the Innovation Fund’s three portfolio areas:

The first is that the project must be for people under the age of 25. Technology for this group can help break down the barriers that restrict access to information. It can also allow youth to connect with each other to share and scale their own solutions.

The second portfolio area of the Innovation Fund is real time information. With constantly updating data, decision makers will be more informed. Inefficiencies, disparities and restrictions can be resolved quickly.

The third area is infrastructure. UNICEF’s Innovation Fund aims to increase access to information for youth by improving infrastructure like connectivity, sensors and transport.

The open source requirement and the three portfolio areas represent the fund’s overall theme of access. The Innovation Fund desires that all children have unrestricted access to information.

According to its website, UNICEF believes “access to information, particularly basic, life-enhancing information, is a human right.”

This access to life-improving information is typically much more difficult for children living in poverty.

UNICEF Innovation Co-Lead, Christopher Fabian, stressed this when he said to Panarmenian.net: “We’ll be identifying opportunities from countries around the world including some that may not see a lot of capital investment in technology start-ups.”

He went on to say, “We are hoping to identify communities of problem-solvers and help them develop simple solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing children.”

So far, the Innovation Fund has raised $9 million for technology that helps young people. These funds have gone to various projects that improve the lives of children, like the U-Report project in Burkina Faso.

U-Report increases real-time access to information to help young women and girls in Burkina Faso. It connects the local girls so they can better cope with harmful traditional practices.

It also allows the girls to share information with each other, such as how to practice safe sex and improve familial practices.

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund helps empower youth in the developing world by increasing access to information through open source technology.

Andrew Wildes

Sources: Innovation Fund Backgrounder, OpenSource, Panarmenian, UNICEF Innovation Fund 1, UNICEF Innovation Fund 2, UNICEF Innovation Fund 3
Picture: Google Images

z1 miniature people
Since independence, the long civil war and recurring natural disasters have led to widespread poverty in Tajikistan. About half of the country’s population is poor and depends on agriculture to survive. The majority of the poor are unemployed, underemployed or self-employed.

On Oct. 12, 2015, a Youth Entrepreneurship Forum took place in Dushanbe with support from the World Bank Group. The goal of the event is to increase awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship for job creation and economic growth and to share ideas about entrepreneurship for youth in Tajikistan.

The World Bank has an active portfolio of 24 projects, including regional projects and Trust Funds. It intends to make a net commitment of U.S. $383 million to support economic growth through private sector development and investments in better public services, such as education, health, municipal services and social protection.

As part of the World Bank Group-financed Central Asia Youth Empowerment and Jobs Project, this event aims to improve the business climate and foster youth entrepreneurship in Tajikistan through improving the capacity of state entities and offering skills training for youth.

The event involved around 200 young entrepreneurs, private companies, civil society organizations, development partners, World Bank Group experts, representatives from the Government of Tajikistan and participants from the Slovak Republic.

At the forum, international and local experts introduced key concepts of entrepreneurship, including how to set up and manage a business, how to make entrepreneurial decisions and identify new business opportunities. Representatives from Tajikistan private companies and the Slovak Republic shared their experience of starting a business and discussed with young entrepreneurs about how entrepreneurship works at the individual and company level.

embassy_dushanbe_0Moreover, officials from the Secretariat of Consultative Council on Improvement Investment Climate under the President of Tajikistan and the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic focused on policies that foster youth entrepreneurship and how to better link the private sector with education institutions.

The forum also includes the discussion on business and entrepreneurship opportunities offered by local and international civil society organizations, development partners and local associations and companies.

In order to put words into action, following the forum, a master class started on October 13 for start-up businesses intending to collect individual business advice from successful entrepreneurs from Tajikistan and the Slovak Republic.

“Young people are eager to work and need good job opportunities. A society that can deliver these opportunities is promoting growth and investing in its welfare,” said Patricia Veevers-Carter, World Bank Country Manager for Tajikistan. “The World Bank Group’s efforts in this area in Tajikistan are going to focus on helping youth develop skills and increase employment opportunities, as well as on assisting the Government in designing policies that help youth thrive.”

This project will benefit the society of Tajikistan with more jobs created by entrepreneurship and improved economy.

Shengyu Wang

Sources: World Bank, Rural Poverty                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Photo: DIPNOTE