March 17, 2021
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Ministry of Youth Affairs yesterday held a planning meeting with youth leaders and other stakeholders on the theme ‘Strengthening Youth Inclusion in Decision-Making Structures in Sierra Leone.’
Speaking at the meeting, which was held at the conference room of the ministry, Stadium Hostels in Freetown, Minister of Youth Affairs, Mohammed Orman Bangura, thanked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for always working with his ministry to ensuring that youth in the country are empowered and made self-reliant.
He said the meeting was geared towards launching and celebrating the partnership of his ministry and the UNDP.
He said UNDP was not one of the partners of the ministry at the time he took office, but that they worked very hard to bring them on-board to help shape the future of the country’s youth.
Minister Orman Bangura noted that the event was also to launch a project titled ‘Strengthening Youth Inclusion in Decision Making Structures in Sierra Leone.
He said with such project, the UNDP is complementing government’s efforts in empowering and putting young people in trusted positions in every chiefdoms and districts.
He said the project seeks to identify rising challenges including capacity gap of government and civil society actors in formulating, implementing, and partnering for youth and gender friendly policy that ensure meaningful growth engagement and contribution to decision making process at local and national levels.
He said the policy directives attempted to give his ministry and its partners the relying points and measures that will be achieved in the next five years, stating that they now have a solid document from cabinet that will be including village, section, chiefdom, district and even at national levels.
Also, Parliamentary Youth Committee Chairman, Hon. Abdul Kargbo, stated that the manner in which youth of today are handled will determine how the country would look like in the future.
He claimed that most of the violence acts in the country are being perpetrated by some ‘idle’ youth.
He congratulated the Minister of Youth Affairs for his tireless efforts in ensuring that the country’s youth are empowered and be able to provide for themselves.
He said the youth represent the highest percentage of the country’s population and that their issues should not be treated with carelessness or levity, because should they become a liability it will affect the development of the nation.
He said the Parliamentary Committee on Youth together with the Ministry of Youth Affairs, the UNDP and other development partners, was working together to ensure that youth are capacitated so that they will not be a liability to society.
Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP, Rokya Ye Dieng, said she was passionate about issues that affect young people because she believes that as development practitioners, they have no choice but to embrace and support young people’s progression to fulfil their own mandate.
She said they are aware that Sierra Leone has a youthful population, according to Statistics Sierra Leone (2015 Population and Housing Census).
She said persons under 35 years of age make up about 80% of the entire population of Sierra Leone.
She said the larger youthful population could present challenges but also a great resources offering an opportunity to establish a solid foundation for development of the country.
She noted that investing in young people is thus a clear obligation for them if they are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
She said UNDP has a long-standing partnership and very good working relationship with the Ministry of Youth Affairs.
She further stated that in the recent past, the Government of Sierra Leone, having prioritized youth development, engaged with the UNDP in implementing phases of the youth employment and empowerment programme, to develop the potential, creativity, and skills of the country’s youth for national development.
She said through that programme, hundreds of young people gained valuable experiences in the real world of work, leading to some youth being permanently employed.
She said the UNDP in collaboration with MOYA and other partners has seen the review of the National Youth (Policy) and development of a Youth Strategy in 2020, adding that they understand that the policy has now been adopted by cabinet, and that they believe that the policy will go a long way in guiding the youth development agenda for the country.
She said UNDP’s work with the ministry continues to target skills training including business entrepreneurship for youth to develop their ability to establish sustainable employment and income generating enterprises.
She disclosed that in 2020, a total of 240 graduate interns, (consisting of 144 males and 96 females) placed in 58 institutions, have been capacitated to gain employable skills required for the job market.
She said UNDP also works with youth in 2020 including 50 miner youth in Tankoro in the Kono district, who were trained and are now actively engaged in sustainable agricultural practices.