Doreen Mbabazi, 20, from Ntoroko district dropped out of school after Senior Four.
Her parents stopped paying her fees in favour of her brothers. Mbabazi got a boyfriend, hoping he would marry her, but when she conceived a few months into the relationship, he abandoned her. She started teaching at a nursery school, earning sh70,000 per month, which could barely support her.
One evening, Mbabazi heard an announcement over the radio about the Youth in Action programme that sought to equip vulnerable youth with entrepreneurial skills and she grabbed the opportunity. After the training, she received sh300,000 capital and started making liquid soap and supplying it in schools.
She also makes bar soap, herbal oils and cakes, which she says have since turned her life around. Mbabazi is among the 11,310 youth that benefited from the $39.8m (about sh147.7b) Youth in Action project by Save the Children in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation. The programme aimed at skilling rural youth to improve their livelihoods.
The five-year programme, which started in 2012, was also conducted in Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia and Malawi, working with youth aged between 12 and 18 years. In Uganda, it was implemented in Kasese, Bundibugyo, Ntoroko and Kabarole districts.
Speaking at the closure of the event at the Commonwealth Resort, Munyonyo recently, Save the Children’s country director, Brechtje van Lith, said there was need for collaboration between the public and private sectors and development partners to create sustainable opportunities for the youth to overcome unemployment.
“We call on governments, civil society and the private sector to invest in the youth and ensure that they are developing sustainable opportunities,” she said. Lith, however, expressed concern over government’s neglect of the youth between 12 and 18 years in its youth empowerment progammes, saying it is counterproductive.
“The project has demonstrated that this age group has the potential to contribute to their own socio–economic wellbeing when given the right support. Therefore, they should be included in the livelihood initiatives,” she said.
It should be noted that while government launched the fiveyear sh265b Youth Livelihood Programme in 2013 for the youth countrywide to start up enterprises; the target group was between 18-30 years. Marlen Mondaca, the international programme director of Save the Children Canada, advised the Government to always mentor beneficiaries of the empowerment programmes.
Holistic approach needed
Sita Conklin, the programme director Youth in Action, said there was need to adopt a holistic approach to programming in Uganda so as to provide opportunities for longer-term success. “The future needs to focus on engaging the youth and helping them to provide more sustainable opportunities,” she said.
The state minister for children and youth affairs, Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, commended Save the Children for the project, saying it will help reduce the unemployment in the country. “We aim at getting employment for all Ugandans by 2030 as per the Sustainable Development Goals and such initiatives would help us hit the target,” she said.
Nakiwala said government would include youth below 18 in its youth empowerment progammes. She also alluded to the need for a multi-sectoral approach to curb youth unemployment. “It is important that we reach out to the credible organisations to ensure that we fast-track alleviating unemployment,” she said.
The MasterCard Foundation director, thought leadership and innovation, Ann Miles, said they will explore how to leverage the lessons learned from the programme to inform future youth livelihood programmes. “We see the positive impact the programme is having on young people, their families and their communities. It will be critical for us to see how to engage a broader community,” she said.