Encouraging participation of young people is one of the key principles of the YouthCan! partnership. The partnership provides young people who cannot grow up with their parents and families, or are at risk of losing parental care, with skills training and mentoring support on their way to transition to decent work.
YouthCan! today counts 232 partners, multi-national, national and local businesses, as well as governmental institutions, training providers and other supporters. In 2020 alone, 6,500 young people across 37 countries received skills training and mentoring support through YouthCan!.
With the objective to strengthen youth participation in YouthCan! at the national and global levels, the new youth advisory board was introduced on April 21, 2021 at the annual YouthCan! conference.
“I am taking part in the youth advisory board because I believe in the idea of youth being given a chance to have a voice,” said Emma Thokwana, 20, from South Africa. “I also love representing the young people in my region with regards to the issues they face on a daily basis and being part of the solution.”
“I still feel like a beginner in my role but that in no way affects my will to join the program,” added Driss El Haimeur, 21, from Morocco. “My motivation to join the program is that I know the problems job seekers face trying to find a job that match their skills, and I love to represent young people because I am a part of this generation.”
Due to pandemic measures and to enable everyone’s participation, the group meets virtually. “We discuss matters affecting youth and also get to know each other more and more with each call so that we work better together as a team,” explained Emma. “I think we will work together with adults when we have a voice as youth. We can make sure that youth and adults realize that they are all working towards the same goal which is seeing our economies and our world being better and coming to a world with more opportunities for youth.”
Despite constraints resulting from the pandemic and related measures, partners have continued to engage in skills training and mentoring young people to help provide equal opportunities. In fact, the reach of YouthCan! programs increased by 14% since 2019. Digital technology provides new solutions, such as virtual training and mentoring programs, which allows a large number of young people to participate, even from remote areas.
“YouthCan! is like a microphone that allows us to say what we really want and more importantly, what we need,” highlighted Rania Ameerah, 21, from Palestine. “It is very important to keep in mind that over 50% of young people participating in YouthCan! programs have only completed primary or secondary education. The majority of them comes from challenging backgrounds and grew up in the care of fragile families."
Bharat Ahirwar, a 22-year old psychology student from India noted that, “YouthCan! activities and mentoring is also a great support for mental health. 74% of young people participating in YouthCan! say they found it helped them in coping with the pandemic.”
The young people agree that it has helped them build confidence—one of the benefits they want to pass on to other youth through their roles as members of the youth advisory board.
“I have gained more confidence in sharing my ideas and my views without fear of being wrong. I also have gained more experience with regards to public speaking skills,” noted Emma.
Driss concluded: “Young people will be the light owners in the future. Therefore, we have to care about them, and save them from unemployment and bad decisions that affect their lives.”
YouthCan! was launched in 2017 by SOS Children’s Villages and partners from the private sector to promote decent work for young people who have lost or are at risk of losing parental care. To find out more about the partnership, click here.