ICS has been working in Uganda since 2011. Over that time, thousands of passionate young Ugandans have completed their ICS placements more committed than ever to highlighting youth voice. In a country with one of the world’s youngest populations – well over half the 42 million-strong population is under 16 – championing youth voice is crucial.
Uganda has long been grappling with high levels of youth unemployment. With local authorities run mostly by older people, young people feel overlooked, pointing to a lack of investment in employment and training opportunities. Those that do exist are not always well-advertised, meaning many young people miss out.
Taking collective action
With their ICS placements completed and COVID-19 halting many other opportunities, a group of inspired young people came together to form Uganda’s very own National Youth Engagement Network (NYEN). Championing youth participation and youth led change, NYEN operates in six ICS countries. Initially formed by ICS alumni, these networks have expanded to include all young people, alumni or not, in bringing positive change to their communities.
For core committee member Comfort Kansande, being part of NYEN builds upon the skills developed through her ICS placement and helps her continue putting her principles into practice.
“Being a strong youth activist, NYEN is another opportunity for me to reach out, inspire, influence and bring out the best out of my fellow young people,” said Comfort. “Being part of NYEN pushes me in the right direction.”
Recognising the lack of representation and participation of young people in decision making, the core committee aim to create a space where young people can have their say. Not only do they want jobs for youth, they are striving to empower young people to become job creators themselves.
In a post-COVID world, where many jobs are harder to come by, how does this group of ten Ugandan young people plan to achieve such ambitious aims?
Getting creative at a time when face-to-face meetings may not be an option, NYEN Uganda is bringing its vision to life through online training sessions. Topics include practical employment skills such as soap making, as well as interview and CV skill workshops.
The group set up social media pages to share opportunities they’re confident will benefit their peers. They will also reach out to radio talk shows to raise awareness of youth employment and the importance of including young people in decision-making.
Working with local authorities, NYEN will bring young people into dialogues and decision making, empowering them to advocate for the change they want to see.
To do all this, the group has split into four key teams, each taking the lead in areas such as social media, member- facing communication, partner engagement and event planning.
The power of networks
While it’s still early days, the team is proud of their achievements so far. With some online training sessions already completed, and more in the pipeline, NYEN Uganda is off to a really exciting start.
And their work doesn’t stop in Uganda: by linking up with other NYEN networks around the world, the team have participated in global events on climate change, International Youth Day, and the impact of COVID-19 on delivering the Sustainable Development Goals.
For Comfort, the benefits of being part of NYEN were immediately evident: "I've been able to grow my network through knowing NYEN members from different countries and learn much more about what amazing things they are doing in their countries. It's such an inspiration."
Find out more about NYEN in your country, including how to join.