OP-ED: Personal reflections on the remarkable strength of the younger generation: Somalia’s preparedness
In an op-ed piece, I want to highlight the incredible resilience and readiness for action that I have witnessed in the youth of Somalia. When I first arrived in Somalia, I knew that there were both promises and challenges ahead. However, what struck me was the overwhelming desire of young people to contribute their ideas and make a difference. They are eager to provide input, volunteer, and be part of the solution.
We all know that young people play a vital role in sustainable development and are catalysts for social change and economic growth. With access to education, technology, and information, they can build inclusive and peaceful societies, addressing inequalities and gender biases. Somalia presents a unique and heartwarming case in this regard.
Recognizing the lack of youth-friendly spaces in Somalia, we have made significant efforts to expand and create safe environments for young Somalis. We are building youth centers across various states, equipped with the necessary resources. For example, the Galmudug Youth Centre in Galmudug State is under construction and will provide vocational skills training, co-working spaces, and networking opportunities. It is essential to involve the youth in every step, which is why we conducted a needs assessment to ensure their voices are heard. In total, we plan to establish 11 Youth Centers in different parts of Somalia.
As a UN agency focused on youth, we are thrilled about these spaces and the opportunities they offer. The centers will be open to all young people, especially those who are out of school or have no formal education. They will receive literacy and numeracy courses, digital skills training, and valuable information on sexual and reproductive health. We prioritize the quality of service by selecting expert trainers and instructors.
We are grateful for the generous support of the European Union (EU) and The Netherlands, who have been instrumental in our projects. We also appreciate the openness of government officials, starting from the Prime Minister, His Excellency Hamza Abdi Barre, to state presidents and key ministries. They actively engage with us in discussions and contribute to policies and initiatives that benefit young people. The Prime Minister has even shared his plans for an Innovation Lab Initiative to build youth capacity in the country.
Looking ahead, I am excited about the recently launched Somalia Youth (SoYo) Fellowship by UNFPA. This fellowship aims to bring young Somalis closer to the United Nations, providing them with the necessary skills to become change-makers in their communities. Through this initiative, we can gather valuable ideas from young people to improve our services in Somalia.
As an organization committed to understanding and meeting the needs of young people, we believe in the power of their ideas. On International Youth Day, we celebrate the resilience and tenacity of young Somalis. There is much to look forward to, and I have witnessed promising potential that deserves recognition and celebration.
Niyi Ojuolape is the Country Representative of UNFPA – Somalia.