In Bangladesh, a country enjoying youth population bulge, majority of youth lack industry driven technical skills necessary to become economically solvent. Lack of finance and market linkages for start-ups, limited access to information and services, youths’ attitude towards job and self-employment, restrictive social norms on young women- all critically hinder youths’ economic empowerment.
In addition, youths lack agency and soft-skills necessary to become productive and active citizens in their community. Most youths do not have access to apolitical platforms to share their voice and bring their opinions at local and national level decision making processes. As such, the country’s political mechanisms are missing the representation from a core group of the population and consequently failing to fully leverage the benefits of having an active and productive youth demography.
Towards a Solution
To address this challenge, the Empower Youth for work (EYW) project of Oxfam in Bangladesh is being implemented in 4 Upazilas under Rajshahi, Rangpur, Barishal and Khulna districts with funding from IKEA Foundation to support the Government of Bangladesh to achieve the SDG goals. The project targets 67,000 youths (70% females) living in climate affected vulnerable areas and has three outcome areas-
- Skills and Agency Creation of Youths
- Generating Economic Opportunities for Youths and
- Creating an enabling environment for youths to thrive socially and economically.
Among its many interventions, the project has established structured vertically tiered Youth Groups from Ward to National level in all project locations.
- Ward Youth groups
- Union Apex Body
- District Advisory Board
- National Youth Advisory Board (NYAB)
All these youth groups are working as a joint force to mobilize other youths and influence stakeholders in their communities to gain life skills, technical skills, economic opportunities and ensure connected civic participation of youths from local to national platforms. Most notably, the youth groups at Ward level had collected recommendations from their local youths on “National Youth Policy 2017’ and submitted that to their respective district administrations.
Later, youths of NYAB conveyed these recommendations to national decision-makers through an event “National Youth Dialogue 2018’ and attained endorsement from the All Party Parliamentary Group of Bangladesh Parliament. This initiative ultimately led to signing of a MoU between Department of Youth Development and Oxfam to establish the country’s first-ever “National Youth Council (NYC)”. The platform, to be established under the supervision of Department of Youth Development, will connect grassroots youths through the Youths Groups of EYW project and enable them to share their voice and integrate their opinion on social and economic issues at national decision making processes.
These groups are building their agency at local level and are autonomous. They have received Youth Organizational Development training and are working to get registration from local administration, so that they can continue to function even after EYW ceases to operate.
The youth group initiatives are receiving acknowledgement from local community and local government. These groups are also participating in local and national events organized by government and civil society networks and showcasing their activities and generating positive response. Their presence in such events, learning and sharing experiences in various platforms and linkages with other youth networks are creating pathways for replication outlined in the previous section on Cross-Country Knowledge Transfer.
Achievement of this initiative:
- The EYW program has reached 12,948 young people aged 15-29 through training.
- 1,035 young people have received technical skills training.
- 203 young people now have jobs in relevant industries (mostly technical) and 437 have become self-employed.
- 87 youth are receiving financial support from microfinance institutes/NGOs and banks.
- 25 young men and women formed the first National Youth Advisory Board, representing 3,600 rural youth from 144 groups.
- The Ministry of Youth and Sports has committed to integrate the voice of youth in its decision-making processes.
- EYW’s strategic partnership with the a2i (Access to Information) program of Bangladesh Government ensures easy, affordable and reliable access to quality public services.
- In Khulna, 25 youth have been linked with industries through a dual apprenticeship program.
- A youth-led ‘climate-smart village’ will model various climate-friendly practices.
- Through an ‘E-motive’ exchange visit EYW programme have learned and replicated good practices from similar initiatives in India.
Countries/ territories involved: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Indonesia
Implementing entities: Oxfam
Supported by: 2016- Present
Project status: On-going
Project period: N/A
URL to the project: https://www.empoweryouthforwork.org
Project Coordinator-Empower Youth for Work Project