This year, youth from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Sierra Leone, the Philippines and Tanzania have shared a window into their courageous lives through their drawings and stories. The following paragraphs provide a brief description of the socioeconomic conditions of these countries as well as well as the important work that Street Kids International is leading to empower street-involved youth in each country.
ETHIOPIA has one of the highest rates of child labour in the world. One half of all youth between the ages of 5 to 14 years old (7.5 million youth) are at work in economic activity. Child labour is closely linked to youth employment capacity as early experience in the labour market influences lifetime patterns of employment, unemployment and underemployment. Lack of opportunity for youth is of critical concern to the economic development of the country as Ethiopia has one of the largest youth populations in Sub-Saharan Africa and the largest population of youth living on under $1 a day.
Street Kids International’s geographical focus in Ethiopia is in the capital, Addis Ababa, and the Amhara region. The Addis Ababa region of Ethiopia is experiencing one of the fastest rates of ur- banization in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 4 percent population growth per year. Poverty is increas- ing faster in urban areas of this region with 40 percent of the urban population living in extreme poverty. The Amhara region includes many ‘market towns’ with transient populations and a high level of underemployment among youth. Youth unemployment in the Addis Ababa region is one of the highest in the world with 50 percent of the urban youth labour force either unemployed or underemployed. The street involved youth of greater Addis spend the majority of their time seeking income through various activities some of which are unhealthy and dangerous.
KENYA is a country where 58% of the population subsists on less than $2/day; youth make up 60% of the population with as many as 80% of them unemployed and 1.1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. Further, Kenya is seeing an increasingly large percentage of grandparent and child headed households due to AIDS related deaths of parents between the ages of 20- 40 years old. Under such pressures, families are finding it increasingly difficult to provide for their children. As a result, youth are sent to earn for themselves at a very young age where the formal labour market can absorb less than 5% of new entrants. These young people, without an alternative means of earning money to meet their basic needs, are particularly vulnerable to HIV transmission because of their participation in risky income generation activities, such as the sex and drug trades.
Youth require safe and effective strategies to support themselves, and small businesses in the informal economy can enable this. Through the projects of Street Kids International and their partners, Kenyan youth are being equipped with practical business skills and knowledge they need for a healthier future.
Street Kids International’s project in NEPAL targets the Terai Southern Lowland region, which is the largest geographical area of the country. The Terai Lowland has a young population and is home to one of the poorest groups of people in Nepali Society, the Terai Dalits. Approximately 90% of the Terai Dalits are illiterate and labeled “untouchable” by Nepali society and 80% of the Dalit population live below the national poverty line. Girls in this region are married at an average age of 15 and as a result, women are bearing children at much younger ages, limiting their access to education and reinforcing the cycle of poverty. Moreover, women have little to no meaningful participation in government and local decision-making bodies and account for only a third of the paid labour force.
Currently, Street Kids International is working with their local coordinating partner, SathSath, on a project entitled, “Setting Up for Success: Street Youth Entrepreneurship”, funded by CIDA’s Voluntary Sector Fund. This initiative aims to utilize business and finance training to tackle is- sues of street child exploitation in Nepal, with a focus on female involvement. The program is divided into four components: Street Business and Street Banking Toolkit training; the training and development of practice business modules for street youth; coaching and follow-up accom- paniment; and access to capital for youth’s self-directed businesses. This project is scheduled over a period of three years in the Terai (lowland) region of Nepal, and will involve six training sessions. This initiative will target 60 lead youth workers, who will then train a projected num- ber of 900 additional youth in their interactions with street children.
SIERRA LEONE is a mineral rich country containing one of the most valuable deposits of diamonds in the world, ranking near the bottom of the UN Human Development Index. HDI measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. Although Sierra Leone’s HDI rose by 1.1% between 1980 and 2010, it remains one of the lowest in the world today. The marginalization of youth, coupled with poverty, was a key driver in Sierra Leone’s eleven-year civil war. The future stability of Sierra Leone depends on whether youth who were involved in and affected by the conflict will find access to education, skills, training and employment.
In Sierra Leone, Street Kids International works directly with youth, trainers and other relief-oriented organizations. Street Kids’ intervention in Sierra Leone began with a workshop called “One Day I Will Do Something Else” which was used with youth involved in artisanal mining. It became evident that youth wanted to explore alternative livelihood opportunities but the formal channels to do so were lacking. To help remedy the situation, Street Kids has joined hands with HELP Salone (Hands Empowering the Less Privileged, Sierra Leone) and currently works with youth serving organizations and youth workers to increase livelihood training and positive outcomes for marginalized youth. Street Kids has trained Help Salone staff in SBTK, an entrepreneurship and financial literacy course designed for front-line workers to use directly with marginalized, often street-involved youth. After completing the course, youth will have developed their own business plan and will have begun to explore choices available to finance their business. Street Kids’ partner, Help Salone provides incubation funds for trained youth to start their businesses, enabling youth to build a better future.
The United Republic of TANZANIA is one of the poorest countries in the world. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has rapidly increased the number of children who are orphans and/or living without a stable support system. Rates of unemployment and under-employment are quite high, particularly for youth, who also lack a voice in decision-making bodies, and as a result are vulnerable to social exclusion and poverty.
Street Kids International is committed to working with local agencies (Mkombozi, http://www.mkombozi.org) in Tanzania to balance employment-oriented programs with business initiatives for youth. This is a business learning process, created specifically for at-risk and disadvantaged youth ages fifteen and up, that raises their economic literacy and enables them to create or improve their own income-generating activities. Street Kids and Mkombozi are currently collaborating to pioneer Microfranchise among marginalized young people in Tanzania. Microfranchise is the concept of franchising scaled down to micro- and small-enterprise scales, generally in the developing world. Street Kids and Mkombozi are piloting two microfranchise programs with marginalized youth: ACTT computer repair, and JustWater (a bottled water company). Both companies train youth and provide them with equipment and credit to get started. This program provides support for marginalized youth, who often face challenges with accessing start-up capital once they are trained in entrepreneurship enabling them to begin their connection to a microfranchise company, and begin their journey toward a better future.
Almost half the population of THE PHILIPPINES lives on less than $2 a day, with around a quarter of the country under the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. This economic reality has contributed to a high number of children being pushed to work to help support their families – sometimes in dangerous or potentially abusive or exploitative situations. In both urban and rural areas of the Philippines, an estimated 4 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 work.
Street Kids International works with a well entrenched NGO, Virlanie, with the objective of creating sustainable change in the lives of affected youth. The combined expertise of SKI and BPO (Business Processing Outsourcing) is a unique effort towards a unified goal. This project, called Street Source, involves recruiting street involved youth, providing them with training and support in job-readiness, and linking them to jobs in BPO centres. With a rigorous screening process, tailored training, and partnerships with companies that commit to hiring graduates, StreetSource produces motivated youth who are prepared to succeed in the jobs for which they are hired. Employed graduates are then provided with regular mentoring and support to ensure their continued success.