International Youth Day – Inspiration in action, Isatta’s story

August 14, 2020


FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 12 August 2020 – Sierra Leone has a youthful population, with more than one-third of the population aged between 15-35 years.  

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been supporting the national youth service scheme since its inception in 2018. UNFPA contributed to the orientation of 571 youth corpers in 2018 and 2019, and ensured  the corpers were trained on life skills, sexual reproductive health and actions to prevent gender-based violence.

The national youth service scheme works to reduce the country’s high youth unemployment rate, as well as equipping young graduates with basic skills and work experience needed to make them attractive to employers.

Youth corper at UNFPA

Isatta Cylvia Rashid is a 26-year-old who holds a degree in Public Health from N’jala University and served as a 2020 service youth corper at UNFPA. “As a youth corper, I had the privilege to learn as much as I could,” said Isatta.

Whilst at UNFPA, Isatta completed UNFPA mandatory courses and performed a variety of duties. “I also had the platform to learn essential office skills, like how to address official emails, memos, do concept notes, take minutes, work on proposals and prepare reports,” said Isatta. “I had the opportunity to improve on my computer skills and these have immensely helped me in diverse ways.”

COVID-19 response efforts

Serving as a youth corper at UNFPA was of great help to Isatta’s future. She says, the desire to volunteer inspired her to serve humanity. “Volunteerism has not only paved a way for me to know and interact with different people, but it has immensely helped to build self-esteem and confidence in me. It has given me a sense of purpose and capacitated me.” 

Isatta was a key player in the packaging and distribution of the dignity kits to vulnerable women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic, something she sees as a major achievement in her life. “As a young person, helping people in need is the greatest form of achievement for me. I supported the office [UNFPA] in packaging dignity kits because I considered it as one of my little means of helping humanity, especially people at the isolation centres who at that moment were in need of help.” Emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic may increase vulnerability to gender-based violence. To help mitigate gender-based violence, UNFPA ensures gender-based violence prevention and response services are available and scaled up in Sierra Leone. To date, with funding from UNFPA and Irish Aid, a total 7,636 dignity kits, with sanitisers, masks and other essential items have been distributed by the agency to those most in need including adolescent girls and those in quarantine. 

Isatta never knew how relevant this experience was, until when she joined the International Rescue Committee as a Women and Girls Protection Empowerment Senior Officer.

International Youth Day

Every year on 12 August, International Youth Day is observed across the world. This year the theme is entitled ‘Youth engagement for global action’.  Sierra Leone’s national theme is ‘Youth Engagement for National Action – COVID-19 and Youth Policy’. For Isatta, there are development activities young people can engage in that would enhance their growth, “Young people can engage in diverse ways of volunteerism, the purpose for this is not just to help build their CVs but to also equip them with the essential skills and competencies needed to achieve a dream job.” She added, “Young people can also make their voices heard by reaching out to people that can be of great help or support. This can be by writing their political representatives, suggesting developmental activities that they will embark on to help enhance them. They can also use online platforms to learn and improve themselves.”

Future desires

Isatta foresees a brighter future. “My first and most important dream, is marriage and family harmony. Creating, maintaining, and expanding in this area is an absolute top priority for me. Secondly, educational progression is a significant dream for me. One should not fear change, because it’s going to come. Career passion and personal satisfaction, financial stability and many more are all parts of my future dreams.”