A youth-driven approach to employment creation

Participants at the workshop

Participants at the workshop

WHEN a score of young men and women from Doguwa Local Government Area in Kano State recently converged on the serene Seminaka Resort in Kaduna State, one word that came up repeatedly in the deliberation was unemployment. If nothing else it reflected the urgency of the need to reverse the nation’s youth unemployment crisis. Participants agreed that the Boko Haram insurgency, which has for over half a decade, drawn its lifeblood from the ranks of unemployed youths, is a stark reminder of the need to gainfully engage the youth.

Although insufficient in terms of job creation, the youths reached the conclusion that government- inspired youth employment schemes were areas to beam the searchlight. The strategy was therefore to learn new skills on how to communicate, advocate and mobilise for transparency, efficiency and inclusiveness in government-operated youth employment and empowerment schemes.

Convened by the Resource Centre for Civic Education and Human Rights (CHRICED), a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Kano, the two-day capacity building training for youth leaders was designed as a veritable platform to build community mobilization skills, as well as the public speaking capacity of youth leaders.

From the projection of the organisers, the youth leaders that have been trained in the art of communication, advocacy and community mobilization, would then take those skills to their various communities and use them to help their people, especially fellow youths, to get their voices and perspectives heard in the design and implementation of youth employment and empowerment programmes.

According to the Executive Director of CHRICED, Comrade Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, the project titled ‘Promoting Youth Employment and Participation in Kano State’ would prepare youth leaders in the concerned local government for the task of helping themselves and others in their communities effectively mobilize to access opportunities in state-run youth employment and empowerment programmes.

He stressed that the lack of fairness, transparency and openness in government-run employment and economic empowerment programmes often severely hampered access, especially where it concerns young people resident in poor and marginalized communities, especially in the rural and urban areas. Comrade Ibrahim lamented that the lack of fairness, transparency and openness in the operation of youth employment and empowerment schemes, allowed powerful interests to hoard and monopolize the opportunities which were already not enough for the teeming mass of unemployed youths.

He, therefore, canvassed the view that by enhancing openness and transparency in government-run employment and economic intervention schemes, the project would minimise the hoarding and monopoly of the livelihood opportunities they provide, and allow a more equitable access to them by all categories of youth, irrespective of class, gender, faith or ethnicity. The CHRICED helmsman admonished the participants not to lose hope in themselves on account of their status as unemployed youth.

Comrade Ibrahim agonized over bad governance, and ingrained corruption in the Nigerian system, saying young people have been denied opportunities. He said this has led to frustration, as reflected in the high wave of violent conflicts, as well as crimes being experienced in Nigeria. However, he called on participants not to despair on account of the hardships they face due to the problem of unemployment.

He said: “Education is one important thing you must not lose sight of. The first thing you must look at is that that education is the first necessary step. If you say you don’t have a sponsor, I will ask: must you have a sponsor to go to school? There are people who farm and do menial labour, and then they use the proceeds to go to school. Some work hard, get some money and set up a little business. I say this because in the kind of country where we are in today, if you are waiting for the government, you may end up waiting for eternity.

“So the important of the programme we are doing here today is that we know that there is lack of employment and we are doing something about it. Even the few government run employment and empowerment programmes, they are just there for the rich and powerful, who can always find the way and they are the ones that know such agencies exist. To such powerful people, you can only benefit from such schemes if you are their political thugs, but what if in the process of thuggery, you are killed? That is why you must shun all acts of violence. It is when you are peaceful that you will be able to think of your tomorrow.”

The Executive Director explained that the civil society organization has been providing the youth, especially in Kano different kinds of training and mentoring. He stressed that series of programmes had been organized, where the organization brought together the managers of youth employment and empowerment agencies, such as the National Directorate of Employment, Kano State Agricultural Research and Development Agency, the Youth Development agency in Kano and local government officials, to interact with young people and get their voices heard in the process of implementing empowerment programmes.

“There were series of town hall meetings for you to share your concerns etc. What we are here for now, is to give you the tool that is to train you on the things that you need, so that you can go out yourself and advocate for openness and transparency of those government run employment and empowerment agencies.

“This goal is to ensure there is equity in the distribution of the benefits coming from those agencies. That is why we brought in a seasoned expert on communication, strategy and communication, to take you through the rudiments of how you can engage on your own without CHRICED driving the process. We are talking about how you can organize on your own, pay visits to some of these agencies, share your concerns with them and let them know what is going on. That is very important because at your age, you have to be part of the design of these employment `programmes.”

The training on communication, advocacy and community mobilization was anchored by Osaze Lanre Nosaze, Managing Director, XtriMedia Limited. He told the youth to realise that they are the future of the nation, without which the nation had no hope for tomorrow. Lanre Nosaze stressed that the training goal was to equip the youth leaders and advocates with practical skills to help them become better on the field as local activists. He said as youths, leaders and community activists, the duty of participants is to mobilize and work their respective communities in order to build them into a powerful force that can influence the design and the operation of employment programmes run by government.

His words: The fact of life is this; the powerful will not listen to you, unless you have a force that they know can do damage to them. Power does not act according to morality, power acts according to the law of force. If the President of the country can steal all the country’s monies and millions of people are dying in the hospitals, and he can get away with that theft and nothing happens to him, he or she will do it. That is the way power thinks. It is only if power thinks that you can resist or oppose it effectively, it is only then power will say, let’s negotiate. Every other theory is just theory; power only respects power.

“So if you are going to be able to influence how the government designs and implements its programmes of youth empowerment, you need to be organized. You need to have a force that the government will see and say, if we don’t answer these people, they can do some damage. As activists, you are to work in your communities to build your people into that force that can meet government and say, ‘this is what we want.’”

After the conceptual overview of the first day, the training on day two focused on practical exercises as the youth advocates got the opportunity to engage in role plays to enact a real life environment. Participants described the training as one that would impact positively on their ability to mobilize members of their communities to get their voices heard in the design and implementation of youth employment and empowerment schemes.

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