The Economic and Social Empowerment of Youth: Tackling Poverty and Marginalization, and Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals

As a result of recent global developments, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, Silatech—an international development non-governmental organization that links youth with employment and economic opportunities—has maximized its efforts to safeguard youth against extremist ideologies through economic and social empowerment. Silatech has also decided to increasingly contribute to programmes that focus on conflict, extremism and poverty.

Silatech was formally announced by Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser at the First Alliance of Civilizations Forum in Madrid, Spain, in 2008. At the event, Her Highness stated that “by investing in our youth, we are investing in the security of our nations, and only secure and confident nations can build alliances based on mutual respect and common objectives… We have talked enough, now we have to take action”. At the time, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced his full support for the initiative.

Ten years later, Silatech has contributed to connecting over 1.3  million young men and women with economic opportunities. In March 2019, Silatech’s founder and Chair of the Board of Trustees, Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, set an ambitious goal for the organization—to create 5  million jobs for youth by 2022. Eventually, this new target will require expansion to new areas to reach more youth and forge new partnerships, as the organization’s operating model is based on working with and through partners.

Silatech has a vast network of more than 300 partners, ranging from government to the private sector, and non-governmental, international and bilateral organizations. Such partnerships include many United Nations funds, agencies and programmes, such as UN-Women, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Democracy Fund and the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism. Soon we will also enter into partnerships with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, among others.

Through its programmes in 17 countries, Silatech contributes to the achievement of a number of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including:

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. Silatech supports microenterprises by focusing on the most vulnerable groups among youth through the provision of loans, loan guarantees and training, and by facilitating employment opportunities and bridging the gap between academic and work life through several programmes aligned with the needs of youth.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Silatech’s programmes target male and female youth without discrimination, in addition to tailoring some projects to empower women in particular.

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Silatech consistently implements new and innovative tools and programmes to empower youth through career guidance and vocational training for direct employment. The organization also works to support income-generating activities by collaborating with financial and microenterprise institutions. Its enterprise development programme includes the provision of loan guarantees, as well as training entrepreneurs and building their capabilities through initiatives developed in collaboration with international partners.

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development: Silatech works through international, regional and local partners, ranging from the private sector, donor organizations, governments, civil society and academia to develop comprehensive programmes aimed at the economic empowerment of youth. These programmes are implemented at the local level to sustain performance, transfer expertise and develop competencies. The organization has also adopted some of the priorities of Youth2030: The United Nations Strategy on Youth, namely:

FIRST PRIORITY: Engagement, Participation and Advocacy—Amplify youth voices for the promotion of a peaceful, just and sustainable world.

THIRD PRIORITY: Economic Empowerment through Decent Work— Support young people’s greater access to decent work and productive employment.

FIFTH PRIORITY: Peace and Resilience Building—Support young people as catalysts for Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action.

Although Silatech currently focuses most of its operations in Africa and the Middle East, where the youth unemployment rate is more than double the global average, it is also actively taking steps to expand its activities to other regions, supporting a broader segment of youth.

Entrepreneurial Project Management Training Workshops by Silatech
Entrepreneurial Project Management Training Workshops by Silatech

Silatech provides assistance to youth through its three core programme areas: Employment, Enterprise Development, and Research and Policy. The Employment unit supports youth job placement by developing mechanisms that link job-seekers to employment opportunities; teaching youth how to successfully transform awareness, skills and experience into employment; and working with employers to enhance youth hiring practices. Silatech links employers and young job-seekers through innovative technological platforms and services, and provides them with access to career guidance and training services such as the Ta3mal and Tamheed initiatives.

Through the Enterprise Development programme, Silatech helps young entrepreneurs establish and sustain successful enterprises by providing them with access to finance, training, mentorship and new markets. To reach the largest number of youth, Silatech encourages financial institutions to lend to youth so that they can start businesses through combining technical support and various types of innovative financing instruments. The organization also helps financial institutions design loan products, market their services, provide credit officers with focused training programmes, and implement best practices to benefit both youth and the institutions.

Silatech’s third supporting programme, Policy and Research, covers a number of areas, including youth research and advocacy; entrepreneurship and development; advancing youth issues in the international arena and with policymakers; and conducting research that may inform policy and programming by Silatech and its partners.

The three programme areas are integrated to support several projects in the countries of operation through a dynamic network of national teams and partners.

The organization is also focused on reducing poverty, which is manifested in its targeting of vulnerable young men and women mainly in countries experiencing conflict and in post-conflict situations, and/or fragile States. In this context, Silatech has decided to increase its contributions to specific programmes designed to deal with the threats and impacts of conflict, extremism and terrorism. Examples of such projects include
the Support to Youth’s Entrepreneurship and Financial Inclusion in Yemen; and the Fisheries Economic Empowerment in Partnership with Yustan programme in Somalia, which is aimed at building the capacity of Somali youth, teaching them proper fishing practices using the latest technological solutions to help them become well-versed in the industry.

Although Silatech programmes are available to young women and men, some of its initiatives specifically target women, such as the economic empowerment of women in urban, peri-urban and rural areas in Sudan. This pilot programme, implemented in cooperation with UN-Women, has empowered over 1,000 women with disabilities, survivors of gender-based violence, and women living in refugee and internally displaced persons camps. Silatech has also partnered with the Palestinian Food Industries Union to implement the women’s empowerment programme, aiming in its second phase to train 5,000 young women in food processing and packaging, thus providing them with productive employment opportunities.

In addition to economic empowerment, Silatech works to advance social empowerment, impacting the communities in which it operates. The organization believes in the importance of youth civic engagement and the policymaking process, as they are the driving forces for development.

In addition to economic empowerment, Silatech works to advance social empowerment, impacting the communities in which it operates. The organization believes in the importance of youth civic engagement and the policymaking process, as they are the driving forces for development. Within this context, Silatech has partnered with the United Nations Democracy Fund, Tamkeen for Development and Zitouna Tamkeen in Tunisia to implement the Entrepreneurship and Inclusion of Youth Program, which supports the economic and social empowerment of youth by helping them to build their confidence and increase their participation in the democratic process.

Silatech is keen to provide appropriate means and solutions that will safeguard youth against radicalization and violent extremism, in addition to protecting young people from illegal migration, increasing youth engagement in social responsibility, and mitigating the negative effects of conflict and war through reintegration, rehabilitation and the empowerment of youth in society.

The UN Chronicle is not an official record. The views expressed by individual authors, as well as the boundaries and names shown and the designations used in maps or articles, do not necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

Sabah Al-Haidoos is the Chief Executive Officer of Silatech.


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