The nucleus of a South Sudanese’s story in the recent past decades – and today, has been markedly dominated by protracted civil wars, inter-ethnic feuds, and mass displacements. Over 70 percent of South Sudan’s current population is the youth who were born either in internally displaced camps or in the neighboring countries’ refugee camps.
The consequences of more than three-decade-long civil wars have been very devastating and recurrently far-reaching in the livelihoods of every South Sudanese family, and especially young men and women. South Sudan has the lowest literacy rate in the world with 27 percent of the adult population can read and write. While education is a generational investment in most parts of the world, for many literate South Sudanese young men and women, they are being first in their families and communities and lack complete financial support.
Communities’ recovery and rebuilding livelihoods through self-reliance and economic reintegration are met with a number of outright challenges. These include huge life skills deficits and highly manifested psychological trauma. The former makes the youth idle, vulnerable to joining armed factions, and susceptible to perpetuating ethnic violence in post-conflict settings.
Support youth and women’s economic resilience
Despite all odds, South Sudanese young men and women – both in refugee camps and within the country are becoming resilient and rejuvenating. They are at the forefront reinvigorating their lives and collectively committing to build better and sustainable communities; through peacebuilding and economic initiatives.
Their efforts can be supported best by creating skills development opportunities, equipping them with peacebuilding tools, and providing psychosocial help. Vocational services are a suitable skills development program given the fact that many youth and women do not either have any level of formal education or are primary dropouts. At their age, it will be a futile attempt to follow with academic i.e primary, High School, and college, except for optional functional adult literacy.
There is also a need to integrate the three i.e skills development, psychosocial support, and peacebuilding into one workable program. Our five-year experience working around this model with youth and women indicates that these can create an intended impact best when implemented simultaneously.
An overall goal, targets and sustainability
The overall goal for vocational services is for South Sudanese young men and women to become self-reliant, improve living standards and for community economic reintegration through; life skill sets development. To mitigate any form of violence, former child soldiers need not only psychosocial rehabilitation into mainstream society but economic empowerment as well. If equipped with these skills they cannot only rebuild their livelihoods but can also, collectively build peaceful, better and sustainable communities.
The program’s target is to at least train 70 youth and women per year and 350 in five years. Sustainability include; i) development of a curriculum that takes into account local contexts. YEI proposes a community driven development (CDD) model that integrates skills development with psychosocial and peacebuilding tools; ii) community based skilling productive human resources is both cheap and sustainable in the long run since the beneficiaries can immediately give back to the communities in one way or another; iii) the model is both scalable, adaptable and impact can be easily tracked and measured against set local indicators.
Program activities, beneficiaries and selection criteria
Intended beneficiaries are young men and women with little or no formal education backgrounds at all. Can be refugees, IDPs, former child soldiers and young mothers. Vocational activities include; IT, agribusiness, green technologies, financial literacy, electrical wiring and baking, enterprise development and etc.
Beneficiaries will be selected against the following criteria:
- Must be a South Sudanese refugee, IDPs, ex-child soldiers and young mothers age between 18 to 32 or 35 for females.
- 60 percent of the beneficiaries will women and 40 percent are men
- Beneficiaries must demonstrate a high level of financial needs, interest and commitment to take up the training.
- Candidates must pass pre-admission assessment tests to be admitted into the programs.
- All beneficiaries must indicate commitment to put their acquired skills into use to earn income to improve their living standards and their communities
- YEI takes demographic representation into consideration i.e ethnicity, sex, age, religion and region, beneficiaries are not discriminated against base on any of these or other factors.
Who can support youth and women economic resilience and how?
YEI welcomes generous support from friends, people of goodwill, schools, Academic Institutions, Education agencies, INGOs, Foundations, social enterprises and other entities. We accept personal donations, grants, support in fundraising campaigns, beneficiaries’ placements, volunteerism, in-kinds, and corporate corporate responsibilities.
Youth Empowerment Scholarship
Established in 2018, Youth Empowerment Scholarship (YES) is a refugee educational program of the Young Adult Empowerment Initiative (YEI), that pays tuitions for unaccompanied South Sudanese refugee children in Uganda Settlements, who demonstrate academic excellence but cannot be in the classrooms due to lack of financial support.
Why support unprivileged refugee children?
Needless to say that orphaned and unaccompanied refugee children are very talented – with passionate dreams for the future. For example; 11 years old Nyaduoth Nyang dreams to take care of the sick people in refugee camps around the world when she grows up, while Modi Ladu aspires to build peace in his country by becoming the President. Our preliminary assessments in settlements in Uganda indicate that every at least 2 out of 5 children who are not attending school are either unaccompanied minors or orphans. These children are not only out of schools but also are subject to physical hard labour i.e cultivating family’s crop-farm, fetching water from several miles-away boreholes and collecting firewood from unsafe bushes. The girl child is particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and forced and early marriage.
An inspiration from a former unaccompanied child
The establishment of the YES program was partly inspired by the story of our Co-founder and Executive Director, Gatwal Gatkuoth who was separated from his parents at 11 years of age by the Second Sudanese Civil War in 2002. Gatkuoth crossed to Uganda as an unaccompanied refugee child in 2005. He was lucky to get a sponsor who paid his tuition fee and scholastic materials from Primary through High School and then Windle Trust Scholarship for the college – these are opportunities that saved him from all sorts of physical and psychological abuse and changed his life positively. Gatkuoth is now a community organizer, and a strong voice for peace and education at the International level.
Program overall goal and five-year-target
At their formative stage, the program’s overall goal is to support academically talented children who were separated from their parents by the civil wars by sending them to school where they can be protected from physical abuses, while getting psychological support and pursuing their dreams at the same time. Our five year goal is to at least sponsor 50 unprivileged children with an annual target of 10. Program sustainability includes; keeping track of scholars’ performance and impact, promotion of girl child education and outsourcing partnership and support form education agencies, individuals and foundations.
YES’ beneficiaries and selection criteria
With limited resources at our disposal, we understand that we cannot get every unprivileged child into the program, as much as we would like to. We try as much as possible to make the program merit-based for every child who meets the following selection criteria
- Scholars must either be unaccompanied or orphan registered refugee children
- Beneficiaries should be between 7 to 17 or 19 for girls of age.
- At least 70% of the scholars should be girls while 30% are boys
- Children must demonstrate academic excellence that promises a brighter future
- YES takes demographic representation into consideration i.e ethnicity, region & religion
- Scholars are administered with an attitude and aptitude assessments and tests through essay writing, reading, maths, interest and commitment learning.
Who can support YES, and how?
YES welcomes generous support from friends, people of goodwill, schools, Academic Institution, Education agencies, INGOs, Foundations, social enterprises and other entities who believe in our cause. We accept personal donations, grants, support in fundraising campaigns, school pupils’ placement, volunteerism, in-kinds, Goodwill ambassadorship and corporate corporate responsibilities’ support.