IYIP Blog: Unemployment and Youth

Whether I’m in Canada or in Uganda, the youth are all talking about the same things: the worrying costs of post-secondary education, the impossibility of finding decent employment and a general unease about the future. The youth of today had the great misfortune of finishing school during one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression. And it doesn’t look like it’ll get better until 2016, according to the ILO. So what are the youth of today to do?

That’s exactly what the Uganda Youth Network asked during its 10th anniversary conference. The conference had delegates from all five members of the East African Community (Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania). Take Kenya, for instance. 40% of the overall population is unemployed but 64% of those are youth- a highly disproportionate rate. Even in Canada, a country that remains relatively unscathed by the recession in comparison to many, the youth unemployment rate is twice that of the general population.

The Conference had speakers from each country who explored youth unemployment and strategies used both by the government and CSOs to address this. What struck me, however, was the universal agreement that nothing would change unless youth forced change; that unless youth demanded change, through political participation, through starting their own businesses, through perseverance, then nothing would change. The attitude was almost fatalistic in its lack of faith in the governments, the market and local businesses.

One conference speaker, Elisante Gabriel of Tanzania, spoke of the need for youth to change their mindset, to become more self-sufficient and entrepreneurial. This was a common refrain yet everyone acknowledged the difficulty of starting a business without a proper education or access to capital. The Youth Representative of Rwanda argued that the poorest youth, the one who most need the jobs and support, often face the most difficulty in accessing government-funded capital due to an inability to meet the stringent requirements. The representative from Kenya pointed out that the country cannot meet its Millennium Development Goals if the government continues to neglect the needs of the youth and unemployed; indeed, the biggest challenge for Kenyan youth is access to decent and honest living.

So much of the media narrative around youth unemployment criticizes youth for being ‘lazy’ or ‘entitled’; indeed, the term ‘Millennial’ has taken on a distinctly negative tone. But the youth I met at the conference were anything but lazy or entitled. From the lady with a university degree and working on her third or fourth internship to youth who have started their own NGOs, the youth were hard-working, determined and genuinely believe that they can change not only their own future, but the future of East Africa as a whole, for the better.

– Mariah Griffin-Angus, Governance Project Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Uganda 2012

IYIP Blog: Karamoja- Cattle, Guns and Hope

Our CIDA IYIP in Uganda, Mariah, recently wrote an article about UYONENT in Karamoja. The article appeared in the organization’s 10th anniversary magazine (UYONET @ 10)  that was published for their August 9th to 12th regional youth conference. Here is her article. 

Mariah took a photo of the article in print.

When I was told that I would be working in Uganda on a project to support Karamajong youth, I didn’t really know what to expect. The Internet revealed horror stories of violence, cattle-raiding, lack of infrastructure and crushing poverty. And yet while I discovered this is all true, Karamoja is so much more than all of that. It is an astoundingly beautiful area with people determined to change their future. It is a place of great potential, of untapped riches and a place in desperate need of real government intervention. Working on the Karamoja project has been a fascinating chance to see a part of Uganda many never get to visit. It is a surprisingly beautiful area surrounded by a mountain range.

As I discovered during my time here, Karamoja is one of the poorest regions in the world and lags far behind the rest of the country in terms of progress with the MDGs. Its literacy rate is less than 20% and the life expectancy is nearly ten years lower than the national rate. Years of drought and violence have eradicated the cattle population, leaving the youth without meaningful livelihood. Breaking the cycle of poverty and developing the region is a serious challenge and many of the issues UYONET deals with in Karamoja stem from these problems: lack of infrastructure, an impoverished population and a struggle to change the situation with minimal resources.

In Moroto, we met with various government officials, NGO representatives and community members. They face many challenges, however, in their quest to develop the region; the electricity is only on for three hours a day; there are no paved roads, making it difficult to access the rest of the country, and the region remains deeply impoverished. With constant drought and loss of cattle, the Karamajong face a very uncertain future. The representatives we met with told us that in order to have a real impact in the region, UYONET must commit to working with the youth long-term. This way, we can provide ongoing support to youth pursuing alternative livelihood activities.

UYONET only has two staff members in the field office but our work plan for this quarter has a lot planned. We will be holding training sessions for retired warriors to give them employable skills. This will help the youth find meaningful employment and prevent them from returning to violence. UYONET is planning a training session for miners to educate them on safe working practices.  UYONET is also planning a series of town hall dialogues to discuss key issues regarding youth with local government officials. In Moroto district, for instance, the town hall dialogue will look at the issue of youth in mining. Mining is becoming an increasingly popular alternative livelihood activity among youth as Karamoja is rich in minerals, including gold, copper and cobalt. It is also very dangerous since many youth do not know how to mine safely, educating them on the proper value of their goods and it is having an effect on the environment. By communicating our concerns to local officials, UYONET hopes to lobby for new by-laws that will positively regulate the mining trade.

In Kampala, UYONET is working to distribute our baseline survey conducted in Karamoja to various CSOs and Ministry officials. This will allow us to educate Ugandans on the issues facing Karamoja and what is needed in order to develop the region. There is much work to be done in the region; getting our projects off the ground will be challenging but an excellent opportunity for UYONET to expand its capacity and really make a difference where it’s needed.

– Mariah Griffin-Angus, Governance Project Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Uganda 2012

IYIP BLOG: Meet the Undertaker (A Study in Ornithology)

What’s that in the trees?

They say God loves all his creatures equally. I have proof otherwise. See, there’s this bird that lurks in the trees of Kampala. It’s massive, reaching over 152 cm in height. That’s almost five feet.  Its wingspan has been rumoured to reach up to 13 feet, which is the largest wingspan of any living bird. It will feed on anything from bits of metal to old shoes. They say it has even killed small children when angry. In short, the Marabou stork is a terrifying blight on the sub-Saharan landscape. Unsurprisingly, its nickname is the ‘Undertaker Bird’.

The undertaker bird is a common site in and around Kampala.

Marabou storks are commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in heavily populated areas. In Kampala, you’ll find them at the golf course, near Parliament or lounging around the police station. At first glance it looks more goofy than threatening. It’s very tall, with skinny, hollow white legs, bald on top with a huge bill. But don’t be fooled. If it can eat flamingos, it won’t be long before they figure out how to eat humans.

They hang out in trees and can be hard to spot at times. Clearly this is a strategy they’ve developed to spy on humans undetected. Wikipedia, the bastion of ornithological knowledge, says the marabou stork is known as the Undertaker Bird “due to its shape from behind: cloak-like wings and… skinny white legs…” But the storks are also scavengers and its baldhead also serves a purpose: “a feathered head would become rapidly clotted with blood and other substances when the bird’s head was inside a large corpse…” Proof, perhaps, that the Storks have malevolently evolved to adapt to its cold-blooded ways?

Casually hanging out or plotting their next move?

History further proves that there is sinister and evil side to the storks. Archaeological studies found that the original, prehistoric Marabou Storks were originally over six feet tall. Located on the isolated Flores Island, the humans and birds were subject rare phenomenon that occurs on isolated islands: the larger species shrink and the smaller species increase. The humans shrank to roughly three feet tall over the course of several generations and the storks increased. There were also dwarf elephants and giant rats on this island. The hunters became the hunted: evidence suggests that the storks hunted and ate humans. The entire human population died off, possibly due to hunting from the storks. In fact, scientists even found the remains of a young boy who had marks and scratches on his body consistent with a bird attack. He was killed by the original Marabou Storks.

According to the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, “Flores lacked any large-bodied mammalian predators… in their absence, birds like storks moved in to fill that role.” While there is no evidence that the Marabou stork currently eat people, history suggests it may only be a matter of time before they once again evolve to that state.

Can you imagine running into this almost 5 foot tall bird on the street?

And so I rest my case. Ugly and potentially murderous. When the local people refer to them as those ‘godforsaken birds”, I believe it!

– Mariah Griffin-Angus, Governance Project Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Uganda 2012

Mariah is also a featured blogger on the Huffington Post Canada while she is in Uganda. Click here to read her blog posts for them. 


IYIP BLOG: The Spring of Our Discontent

This blog post was originally posted on A Street in a Strange World, which is the blog of our IYIP in Uganda, Mariah Griffin-Angus. For the complete post, please click HERE

The corner of Kampala Street in Kampala.

Life in Kampala is pretty good. It’s beautiful, with excellent restaurants and friendly people. I can get most things I need at the supermarkets or local shops. Armed robberies, so prevalent in Cape Town and Nairobi, are rare here. The only real downside? The constant power outages and poor infrastructure.

It always happens at the most annoying of times. When you’re sitting down for dinner. Or maybe you’re researching a project online. Then, poof, lights go out. No power. It always sparks a few curses, a scramble for lanterns and flashlights, and a hope that it’ll come back on soon. Sometimes it does; sometimes it will be hours.

‘Load-shedding’, as power cuts are known in Uganda, is frequent. If my neighborhood has power, it is likely another neighborhood somewhere else does not. Last Thursday, the power was out almost all day, returning around 4:30 and cutting off again at 6:30. It’s strange planning the day around power outages. I keep my laptop plugged in all the time so I have reserve battery power. I keep a flashlight in my bag at all times. There are lanterns in every room at my house. Our stove is gas so we can still cook dinner. Even still, there’s something strange about an evening without power.

When I stand on my porch, with the only light coming from the flickering lantern, the city, for once, seems so very quiet. Even the yelping dogs, the roosters, the cats, the cows, they all go silent. The air will often feel cool, a welcome change from the blistering heat of the midday. Sometimes, I see the lights from the cars driving down the bypass. I pull on my hoodie, grab my ipod and sit outside, enjoying the solitude. It’s a rare moment of peace and it’s something I’ve come to enjoy.

Yet my experience is very different from most Ugandans. A significant percent of the population live in poverty. Some places, like Moroto in northeastern Uganda, just got power last year and even then, it’s only for a few hours in the evening. Only 3-5% of the population has regular access to electricity. The busy night markets in Kampala are usually lit up by lanterns and candles rather than fluorescent lights. The few shops that are connected to the electrical grid make extra money by offering a place for people to charge their cell phones.

But lack of electricity is more than just an inconvenience; it’s symptomatic of  larger problems: the rising cost of living, unreliable infrastructure and high unemployment. While large malls and expensive resorts have backup generators, most businesses cannot afford this. Many offices, my own included, face problems when the computers shut down. How can people develop a country or run a business when they cannot depend on the infrastructure?

Not only is load-shedding frequent, but electricity is also very expensive. In our house, for instance, our electricity bill doubled over the last month for no apparent reason. If a house full of decently employed people struggle with their bills, then what about the people who don’t make that much money? Solar power is also prohibitively expensive, as we discovered when my landlord looked into getting solar power for our house. Living on the equator, I can’t help but think how revolutionary solar power could be if it was cheap and accessible.

For countries to develop, they need infrastructure: accessible roads, electricity, a communications system and functional governments. If there is no power, restaurants can’t cook food; students can’t type up their homework; businesses can’t connect to colleagues internationally. More crucially, many hospitals are forced to operate by torchlight or by the light of cell phones. For mothers facing complications during labour or for the person facing amputation from a road injury, the operation becomes much more dangerous. Over 150 people have died in the past six months at the Jinja Referral Hospital (about an hour outside of Kampala) because of power outages. Children in intensive care, patients who need assistance breathing, or those who need blood transfusions, are all in danger when the power goes out.

The Daily Monitor, the ‘reform’ newspaper, has labeled this state of discontent “Uganda’s national despair”. In December 2011, there were riots in Kampala over the frequent power outages and since the election last year, the opposition leaders have led ‘walk to work’ protests against the rising cost of living. As Reuters points out, Uganda is the third largest economy in East Africa but this growth can’t continue with such poor infrastructure. In the Reuters article, Asaf Kulumbano, a sheet metal worker, says he doesn’t make any money if there’s no power. His children will go hungry.

Clearly the government will have to address these concerns very soon. As the cost of living in Uganda keeps increasing, people are becoming increasingly frustrated. Food costs have increased, along with fuel. When the GDP per capita is $1,300 USD (Uganda ranks 209/226 countries in terms of GDP per capita), every penny counts. People pay more for the services yet see poor hospitals, terrible roads and lack of electricity.

The government is promising more reliable electricity, but whether this will be enough remains to be seen. For now, I am both relieved and uncomfortable that power outages are just an inconvenience for me, not a matter of life and death as it is for so many Ugandans.

The Owino Market in Kampala. This market is one of the largest in the continent and is believed to have more than 50 000 vendors.

– Mariah Griffin-Angus, Governance Project Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Uganda 2012

Introducing Our 2012 IYIPs (Part 2)

Our CIDA International Youth Interns (IYIPs) have recently deployed to their field placements. These 8 young Canadians will be working with YCI’s field partners for the next 7 months. Last week we introduced the first four and here are short bios on the remaining four. 

Elena Togias

Elena stepping carefully.

Hi my name is Elena! I grew up in Toronto and did most of my studies at U of T (an undergrad degree in Human Biology and French, and a Bachelor of Education for teaching Biology and French at the Intermediate/Senior level). I spent my third year at Université Laval in Quebec City and decided to go back there to do an M.A. in Linguistics and Language Teaching. If you suspect that I may have some teaching experience, you’re right! I’ve taught in Toronto, Quebec City (UL and Cégep), Trois-Pistoles, QC, Nice, France, and Hyderabad, India. I have many hours as a Teaching Assistant under my belt as well, and that’s given me some great teacher training experience – teaching future ESL and FSL teachers at the university level. I’ve also designed and facilitated a few pre-departure training sessions for AIESEC Laval. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but enough about me – let’s get to the business side of things. Here at The Umoja Centre, a small education NGO in Njiro (a suburb of Arusha, Tanzania), I’ve got many roles. Our main challenge right now (for both staff and students) is implementing and maintaining an English Immersion learning environment throughout the school. Since I have knowledge and experience in this very area, I am delivering workshops for the teachers to share various immersion teaching strategies and to encourage them in this difficult task. My workshops will extend to numerous other professional development topics for teachers, and I will soon be doing one-on-one mentoring. Oh, I almost forgot – I’m doing a little bit of teaching, too. Until the YCI Ambassadors get here, I’m covering the “Key Skills” class for the Intermediate students (we just finished reproduction and will be learning about diseases for the next month), as well as the “Spoken English” class for both Intermediates and Beginners. As you can see, my plate is full, but I love being busy. And, now that I’m settled, I can focus my efforts on learning to speak more fluent Swahili – it’s the only way to show everyone that I am not a tourist – mimi sio mtali!

Kendra Borutski

Kendra is not the one in the pink lipstick.

I’m Kendra! I was born and raised in Paris Ontario, and recently graduated from Niagara College’s Bachelor of Applied Business in International Business and Global Development. Through my studies at Niagara College, I had the incredible opportunity to assist in Women’s Economic Development in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2010. I was working alongside the Instituton Federal De Educaco, Ciencia E Technolgia and NGO EMAUS developing capacity building framework and gender empowerment workshops for the Mulheres Mil Project. Most recently, I worked for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, a part of the Rural Economic Development Branch where I worked on Ontario Economic Stimulus projects, which help with the development of rural communities across Ontario. Through my studies I fell in love with all aspects of economic development and capacity building especially regarding international, rural and gender empowerment.  I am passionate, outgoing, adventurous and excited to represent Youth Challenge International as the new Women’s Entrepreneurship Program Officer in Guyana.

Sana Malik

Hey, what's that over there?!?!

I’m Sana and I’ll be spending the next seven months in Morogoro, Tanzania working as a Health Outreach Officer on HIV and Gender Based Violence education in schools with Faraja Trust Fund. Faraja is one of the oldest community-led and community-driven HIV/AIDS and Health NGOs in the region.  I’ll be working on integrating gender into more of Faraja’s programming and making links with other Sexual and Reproductive Health organisations in the area, focusing on creating a bigger network for youth outreach and education. Previously, I was at the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London working on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights advocacy and mobilization. I have an MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an undergraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Toronto. My interest to connect community-based responses to health challenges has led me to work in various health outreach capacities with marginalized communities in the UK, Lebanon and West Africa. In 2007, I participated in the WUSC International Research Seminar in Burkina Faso working on a HIV and Gender Project using popular theatre as an education tool and I`m looking forward to working once again on HIV and Gender issues through creative and innovative approaches in community health outreach and education. Although I miss my inner urban side, I’m loving being near the spectacular Uluguru mountains in Morogoro and having the chance to reconnect with nature. I’m hopeful that by the time I head home in November, I`ll not only have perfected my bartering skills in Swahili, but I’ll have some serious mountain-climbing and biking abilities across Morogoro’s muddy hills as well.

Mariah Griffin-Angus

Mariah getting her art on at the Louvre.

My name is Mariah Griffin-Angus and I am working for Uganda Youth Network as part of an internship program with Youth Challenge International. I will be in Kampala for seven months working on governance and human rights projects geared towards youth. My work focuses on the human rights issues in the Karamoja region in northern Uganda. I graduated from the University of Bristol in 2012 with a LLM in Human Rights Law (Bristol, UK). In 2006, I graduated with a Bachelors of Public Affairs and Policy Management, with a specialization in human rights from Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada). I have previous human rights research experience in Europe, Africa and with Canada’s indigenous communities. I have travelled to East Africa before but this will be my longest stay here. I am very excited to live in Kampala and to learn more about this country. In my spare time, I like baking and exploring.

Introducing our 2012 Team of IYIPs!

Our CIDA International Youth Interns (IYIPs) have recently deployed to their field placements. These 8 young Canadians will be working with YCI’s field partners for the next 7 months. We would like to take this opportunity to introduce the first four!

Devin Woods

This will be the photo on the dust cover of Devin's first published book.

My name is Devin Woods. I completed my undergraduate education at the University of Guelph in Political Science and a post-graduate program from Humber College in International Development Program Management (IPMP). Having volunteered and worked with a number of development organizations over the years I am very passionate about facilitating opportunities for people to learn and build skills. I will be working in Accra, Ghana as the Communications and Mobilization Officer with Youth Challenge International (YCI). My position will entail supporting YCI’s partner Youth Empowerment Synergy Ghana (YES Ghana). Specifically, this will be an opportunity for YES Ghana and I to share our different skills and build the success of their new programs surrounding Ghana’s 2012 election. Creating new media to communicate and engage with youth, this will be an exciting time for YES Ghana. As my first time travelling to Ghana I am thrilled that I will be able to take part in YES Ghana’s efforts and I am excited to take on all of the new challenges that I will face.

Clare Esler

Clare, though born in Oakville, is a Torontonian with a deep love of the city.

Hi! My name is Clare Esler and I am currently working as an Environment Project Officer at ANIDES (The Nicaraguan Association for Sustainable Development) in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where I will be for the next seven months. Inherent in the design of all of ANIDES’ projects is sustainability; community members participate in hands on workshops and are shown step by step how to maintain the project themselves. I will be developing and implementing a variety of environmental projects including an organic agriculture scheme for families living in rural Matagalpa, a hygiene strategy, a dry toilet scheme and an environmental protection and awareness project. I grew up in Oakville, Ontario but currently reside permanently in Toronto, Ontario.  I have a Bachelors double major in French and International Development from Dalhousie University.  Two years following graduation, I completed a one-year post-graduate program in International Project Management from Humber College. Last year, I worked to develop an organic agriculture scheme as part of a six month internship in La Concepcion, Nicaragua for La Mariposa Eco-Hotel.  My passion is the environment and education, specifically in organic agriculture and promoting environmental awareness.  Outside of work I dance salsa, bachata, cook delicious vegan food and practice yoga!

Camaro West

Camaro was named after the classic car. That is why she is so cool.

My name is Camaro West and I am spending my IYIP working with the YMCA of Ghana as a Gender Advisor for the next seven months.  My role includes working with branches of the YMCA to implement a Gender Equality policy, designing specific gender equality programming targeted at men and women; and increasing the number of women and girls who benefit from YMCA programming.  I am so excited that my job will give me the opportunity to travel to different parts of Ghana and work with regional YMCAs, while experiencing the country’s diversity.  I am originally from the Island of St. Kitts, but have grown up in and around Toronto.  I recently completed my Master’s degree in International Development Studies and am particularly interested in development issues pertaining to women and girls.  I had the opportunity to visit The Gambia in 2009, so this is my second time in West Africa, but my first extended stay.  Ghana has been on my list of places to visit for a long time, and I’m excited to finally be here!  I’m looking forward to catching some football (soccer) games in the stadium and playing a little myself.

Ben Verboom

Ben: a contemplative fellow.

I am a graduate of the Physical Education and Health program at the University of Toronto, and will be working as a Health Policy Officer with the Zanzibar NGO Cluster for HIV/AIDS and Prevention (ZANGOC) in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Having lost my father to suicide when I was a teenager, I have worked for years in mental health stigma reduction, including founding the Cycle To Help awareness campaign and cycling over 8000km across Canada in 2009.  My passion for stigma reduction, combined with a long-held interest in public health and community development, took me to Namibia in 2010 to intern with local youth NGO Physically Active Youth, addressing youth development issues and HIV/AIDS using education and sport.   As Health Policy Officer, my primary role will be helping ZANGOC to craft an organizational HIV/AIDS policy, formally outlining the role that the ZANGOC, and its 45 member organizations across the archipelago, play in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Zanzibar. Drawing on input from ZANGOC’s staff and administration, and ZANGOC’s member organizations, the policy will serve as the guiding document for ZANGOC’s HIV/AIDS projects and will inform the development of a long-term action plan for ZANGOC and its members. In addition to HIV/AIDS policy project, I will also be assisting with capacity-building for ZANGOC’s members and community partners in the areas of HIV stigma reduction and gender equality.  I look forward to a meaningful and challenging intercultural, professional, and personal experience!

Announcing our International Youth Internships Program Positions for 2012

YCI is currently recruiting for eight interns to depart in March 2012. Successful applicants will be placed with YCI partner organizations for seven month subsidized placements. The internship includes a one-week orientation in the Toronto office to prepare the interns for their overseas work experience.

The IYIP Program is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as part of the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy (YES). YES provides Canadian post-secondary graduates (aged 19-30) with the tools and experience they need to launch successful careers both at home in Canada and abroad.

The objectives of the International Youth Internship Program are:
• To provide eligible youth with international experience, skills and knowledge that will prepare them for future employment in a knowledge-based economy;
• To increase employment opportunities by promoting awareness among Canadian organizations of the advantages of integrating young Canadian professionals into their structures and programs;
• To provide opportunities for Canadians to increase their awareness, deepen their understanding and engage in international development;
• To contribute to the advancement of CIDA’s mandate (reducing poverty, promoting human rights and increased sustainable development) and to meeting CIDA’s priorities for Official Development Assistance.

Interns must meet the following requirements in order to be eligible for CIDA support:
• The intern must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
• The intern must be a post-secondary graduate
• The intern must be currently out of school
• The intern must be between the ages of 19 and 30
• The intern must be currently unemployed or underemployed
• The intern must be legally entitled to work in Canada
• All interns must contribute to YCI’s public engagement efforts throughout their placement and upon their return home

To read more about the current eight internship opportunities, click on the links below:

Ghana: Communications Officer

Ghana: Gender Advisor

Guyana: Women’s Entrepreneurship Project Officer

Nicaragua: Environment Project Officer

Tanzania: Faraja Health Outreach Officer

Tanzania: Umoja Education Officer

Tanzania: ZANGOC Health Policy Officer

Uganda: Governance Project Officer

Application Deadline: January 2, 2012

No phone calls accepted about the position but email inquiries can be sent to generalinfo@yci.org