Category Archives: Field Story in Africa

Malawi’s Future is in the Hands of the Youth Entrepreneurs

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-5-34-34-pmMalawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and its economy is worsening. Malawians are struggling to earn enough money to feed their families and two years of poor harvests means that people are hungry. There’s no welfare state, so earning a living is vital for survival.

To make matters worse, Malawi also faces a serious youth unemployment crisis and the highest working poverty rate in the world. According to a report of the National Statistical Office and ILO, in 2013 only 11.3% of the working population was in formal employment, and the figures for those under 35 are worse.

A large part of the population is left to fend for themselves with over 54% being self-employed. But what are the lived realities? The Building Bridges Foundation team discovered on the road in Malawi that there is hope for the landlocked “Warm Heart of Africa”.

The Road to Nairobi 2016 bus traveled around Malawi to meet 10 youth entrepreneurs working in a range of sectors in order to learn from their challenges and to get a better understanding of their experiences as entrepreneurs in one of the world’s most disadvantaged countries.

We met youth involved in fashion, improved seeds generation, water pipe construction and much more. These entrepreneurs proved to be change makers in Malawi who are not just creating employment for themselves, but also for others despite all the challenges they face.

Extensive power cuts, little education, corruption, lack of access to funding as well as scarcity of incubators and mentorship programs all hinder growth and sustainability. In the MY World survey, young Malawians expressed that education, healthcare, better job opportunities, affordable and nutritious food and access to clean water and sanitation are their top five concerns. The Malawian youth entrepreneurs we met were not only concerned with earning their own living, but especially with changing society and Malawi’s situation.

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“My vision is to give a future to those most in doubt and nurture them so that they do not merely become another statistic of African hardship and suffering,” said 15-year old Tawile. She expresses her feelings and hopes for the future through fashion and aims to unite Africa.

Other entrepreneurs are focusing on the challenges faced by Malawian girls such as child marriage, lack of education and sexual abuse. “Women are nurturing and can use that ability to take care of the economic situation in their home, community and country. They need to be empowered and inspired.”

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“The future of each and every nation is in the youth and entrepreneurship is the best way to go,” said Alexious. Young Malawian entrepreneurs should be empowered and supported as they are providing solutions for the country. To ensure youth are not discouraged and continue to change their circumstances, it’s important to understand the lived experiences. The Road to Nairobi team spoke to youth entrepreneurs in Malawi and asked what changes they would like to see:

  • Tadala T: Provide resources, information and opportunities on a merit basis, not because of who you know or what political affiliations you have.
  • Dumisani: Change the mindset of young people and the syndrome of dependency.
  • Ahmed: There needs to a better information system accessible everywhere where people can find all information related to entrepreneurship.
  • Alexious: Entrepreneurship should be part of the curriculum. It should be supported so that the youth are empowered.

Author: Charles Lipenga (Youth Ambassador Road to Nairobi project). Edited by: Annemarelle van Schayik (Research Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation) & Samantha Ndiwalana (Project Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation)

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Harnessing Youth Entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe: Key to a Better Future

Entrepreneurship is the key driving tool for most African economies. It facilitates effective economic growth and development for enhanced sustainability. Most young Zimbabwean entrepreneurs who strive to see a better Zimbabwe in the near future have taken this to heart.

The youth peak bulge has not spared Zimbabwe, as estimates reflect that it is probable that 60% of Zimbabwe’s national population is under the age of 30. Like many other young people in Africa, Zimbabwean youth have been challenged by the predicament of high unemployment rates and limited civic engagement opportunities, amongst other adversities.

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The informal sector dominates the Zimbabwean economy. More youth are now entering the scene with hopes of economic survival, yet the job market is not opening up enough opportunities for them. This has been lamented by many youth entrepreneurs. Despite many of them having received a good education, some are still unable to find stable, formal jobs.

Most universities are churning out more graduates than the economy can sustainably accommodate in its current state. However, many of the schools are also channeling out students who have more book knowledge than the technical skills required for self-sufficiency in the current market.

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The MY World global survey shows that in Zimbabwe most people want a good education. The sampled entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe reinforced this. They want to see an education system which explores more and delves deeper into instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in its curriculum. They wish to have an education system which is not over-reliant on job acquisition immediately following graduation, but one that instead focuses on acquiring a set of business skills which will help in the development and sustenance of entrepreneurial ventures. It is with this notion that the entrepreneurial spirit could be embraced and fueled by graduates, or within the universities’ immediate communities.

The exact unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is currently unknown, but estimates as high as 95% have been calculated for the country. Youths face an uncertain future, but for many of them hope has been rekindled with the surge of entrepreneurial ventures. The hope is to create self-employment opportunities that will lead to a constant revenue flow, allowing sustainability in line with household expectations.

The Building Bridges’ Road to Nairobi 2016 project seeks to harness the spirit of entrepreneurship within all youth to inspire hope for the future, in which effective growth and sustenance is in reach.

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Zimbabwean youth entrepreneurs face a range of challenges such as lack of financial assistance and restrictive government regulations on company registration. These difficulties hinder them from seeing their dreams as viable ventures.

Despite the many struggles that youth encounter along the way in changing the current economic landscape, they continue to shed light on the hope that entrepreneurship is key to a better future. From the exuberant energy exhibited by most entrepreneurs, it has been established that youth have the innovation and energy that is required to drive successful enterprises and entrepreneurial ventures

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Youth are characterized as vibrant, go-getters and enthusiastic, and such energy if well applied, will lead into the successful implementation of the SDGs. Zimbabwean entrepreneurs are working on challenges they identify in their communities, such as the lack of access to basic education, unaffordable healthcare, health problems due to poor cooking fuels and many more.  

The future is in the hands of youth who define and map the journey that lies ahead. It is with this notion that youth could be effectively equipped with the necessary business skills to be the ones to see through the successful implementation of the SDGs.

These are a few of the solutions to improve the entrepreneurial spirit amongst youth in Zimbabwe deduced from the hearts and minds of the surveyed entrepreneurs:

  • Terrence: Government should create an enabling environment, incentivize people through the creation of funding structures, and build a strong database for youth entrepreneurs to access mentorship who will oversee the successful running of the businesses.
  • Candice: Youth should be made aware of the beauty of entrepreneurship. People have great ideas but they can’t develop them without assistance.
  • Shaun: Government could have proxies in youth businesses to ensure that they are run sustainably. This way you can give funds and ensure they will be paid back.
  • Tinashe: Entrepreneurship should be made part of the curriculum. The youth needs to get inspired, motivated.
  • Tichaona: We need a hub for entrepreneurs. We need IT skills and to make changes through technology.
  •  Chiedza: We need a transparent government where ministers are held accountable. They should focus on advancement of the country rather than how much they can make by helping you.

Author: Kudzanai Chimhanda (Country Team Zimbabwe of the the Building Bridges Foundation)

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Championing Youth Entrepreneurship in Mozambique with Building Bridges

img_2571The Road to Nairobi 2016 Project, with the support of the local World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper Hub, traveled around the greater Maputo area to meet 10 youth entrepreneurs working in a variety of sectors, in order to learn from their challenges and to get a better understanding of their lived experiences. The ventures discovered ranged from a tech startup working on information asymmetry in the labor market, to a design firm which transforms waste into materials for interior design. These individual stories are featured on the Humans of MY World photo-narrative blog.

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The path of an entrepreneur in Mozambique can be difficult and trying at times; a few of the entrepreneurs we met noted how the economic climate is having an impact on their businesses. Even so, some young people are choosing entrepreneurship as an alternative to looking for a job, where they are confronted by a youth unemployment rate estimated at around 80%. The young people who are resilient enough to try youth entrepreneurship need support, role models and an enabling environment. 

Frederico Peres Da Silva, co-founder of a tech startup in Maputo, recognizes the importance of entrepreneurial role models: “If you are in the [United] States, a CEO understands the value of mentoring a startup. You know why? Because he’s heard of Facebook, he’s heard of Snapchat, he’s heard of WhatsApp. He goes, ‘Oh, what if this is the next Facebook?’ To change that perception in Mozambique you need to have a couple of references in the market. You need to have your champions.”

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Graca Machel, SDG Advocate speaks at the Mozambican Building Bridges Forum

Young Mozambicans that have taken to the MY World global survey prioritize good education as one of the key areas where  they hope to see positive improvement. The youth entrepreneurs we met further discussed the current education system and their experiences with it.  However, they are not only focused on education in general, but see the importance of having practical skills and experience in the workplace as the key to success in their entrepreneurial journey.

Lack of technological infrastructure and resources are other challenges to educational access and entrepreneurship in Mozambique. Frederico is using technology to help young unemployed Mozambicans access the job opportunities through their phones.

img_2754Where gaps and challenges exist, young people in Mozambique are stepping up to empowering each other and themselves. Marlene de Souza found that young people were unable to communicate and translate their knowledge into action in the workplace. She started a company which offers training to university students on skills such as how to successfully enter the job market and how to communicate with “attitude,” so that these students can bridge the gap between the academic and labor market.

Diogo Lucas started a business to help SMEs access finance and gave them the tools to mature into sustainable businesses. According to Diogo, this is something SMEs really need: “There are opportunities for small businesses but they’re not developing because there is not enough support, there’s not enough money. Bank finance is hard to come by with all these challenges. When I was travelling across the country I realized that it’s not because they have bad businesses. It’s because people don’t have the skills or the ability to access capital that can help them grow and develop.”

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Sázia Souza runs a company which offers tech solutions to companies and private individuals. Twice a month, she and her team trains children on how to use computers. When asked about her passion for technology and education, Sázia said: “Mozambique has a problem when it comes to using technology. People are not prepared for the future. Technology is growing too fast. When you go to some schools, they don’t even have computer lessons. Even the teachers don’t know how to use the computers.”

Youth entrepreneurs in Mozambique are working to carve a bright future for themselves. They are working together and with other young people to support skills development while growing a culture of entrepreneurship. To help them on this path, it is important to understand the Mozambican context as well as the lived experiences of rural and urban young Mozambicans in order to empower them for success. The Road to Nairobi team spoke to youth entrepreneurs and asked them what changes they would like to see to support youth entrepreneurship in Mozambique:

  • Lineu: More young people need to have the courage to start for themselves. I started with nothing and almost 100% of the people didn’t believe in me.
  • Claudio: When you register a business, you are sent from one place to another. The process will be better when everything is in one place. It should take less time and require fewer documents.
  • Wilton: Government must create conditions for young entrepreneurs to develop businesses. Especially fiscal policy because currently, police doesn’t differentiate between being a young entrepreneur or an old entrepreneur.
  • Sides: We need more incubators with people who have been trained to support youth entrepreneurs.

Authors: Samantha Ndiwalana (Project Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation) and Annemarelle van Schayik (Research Manager of the Building Bridges Foundation).

African Youth SDGs Training launch report: Mainstreaming youth in the implementation of the SDGs

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On December 29th 2015, the African Youth SDGs Training Program was launched at AFPEFAM’s head office. Thirty participants from youth and women groups, civil society organizations and other associations joined the launch. The training enabled all participants share their thoughts of the SDGs and discuss what next actions to take after the training.

Ntiokam Divine, who initiated the training program, stated that 2016 is a year of sensitization and mobilization of all Cameroonians in support of the SDGs, and youth should be well informed and own the SDGs. Mr. Divine emphasized the contributions of the MY World2015 global survey has achieved in local communities in Cameroon.67, 032people in Cameroon voted on the survey. Education, health care, clean water and sanitation are the top three key priorities. Half of the voters are youth age from 15 to 30.

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Jean Njita, Director of the UN Information Center in Cameroon mentioned that the training marked a huge step forward towards the SDGs implementation since January 1st  2016. He pointed out that volunteers are crucial supporting the SDGs in Cameroonian communities through sharing stories in local languages. Such work enables the most marginalized individuals and groups to be included in the SDGs implementation process.

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we shall have another world, the world we want, a better world for the future generation.

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In Cameroon and many developing countries, translating the SDGs into local languages is essential to enhance communication effectiveness. AFPEFAM collaborates with partners to translate SDGs into local languages including Ewondo, Shupamum, and Basaa. During the training, volunteers at AFPEFAM shared their experiences and motivation in translating the SDGs into Shupamum, Basaa and Ewondo. They also shared with the audience their understanding of the transition from MDGs to SDGs. Three pillars of SDGs: Social development, Economic development and Environmental sustainability, and the 5Ps: People, Planet, Partnership, Prosperity and Peace, were introduced to the audience.
The next phase of the training program is to establish SDGs Clubs in schools to engage broader audience.

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(All participants signed and took pledges)

 

Building Bridges arrives in Cape Town, South Africa!

Jilt & Teun finish on Signal Hill in Cape Town
Jilt & Teun finish their 17,000 km cycling tour on Signal Hill in Cape Town

Blog by Kristin Gutekunst. Originally posted on UN Women’s Website.

After thousands of kilometres of dirt roads, small mountain paths, jungle trails and deserts, through 20 countries on two continents, UN Youth Delegate Jilt Van Schayik and Teun Meulepas arrived to Cape Town, South Africa! Throughout this six-month cycling odyssey from Amsterdam to Cape Town, aimed at hearing what people – and youth in particular – have to say about the development of the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through MY World, Humans of MY World, HeforShe Campaign, and Building Bridges Youth consultations. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille attended a ceremony to mark the end of their journey on 12 August, International Youth Day.

Jilt Van Schayik, Kristin Gutekunst & Teun Meulepas lead Cape Town's Women's Humanities Walk during South African National Women's Day. 
Jilt Van Schayik, Kristin Gutekunst & Teun Meulepas lead Cape Town’s Women’s Humanities Walk during South African National Women’s Day.
Armed only with the gear that fit on their bicycles, a computer and a camera, they worked with young ambassadors in each country to organize forums and consultations discussing gender issues as well as results from the MY World Survey so as to understand the specific development priorities of young people in each country. They also visited community initiatives, and involved people they met along the way from rural and urban settings through a photo series called Humans of MY World. They accomplished the trip with very modest means, relying on the kindness of strangers and many times sleeping in the homes of those they met along the way.

Continue reading Building Bridges arrives in Cape Town, South Africa!

UNMC screens sneak preview of new Virtual Reality film: Waves of Grace

The United Nations Millennium Campaign screened a sneak preview of their latest Virtual Reality film, Waves of Grace on Friday 10 July at the United Nations. Its premier was planned in conjunction with the United Nations Secretary-General’s International Ebola Recovery Conference, hosted to ensure affected countries receive the support they need to end the epidemic and continue countries on the path to recovery. Wavesofgrace promoWaves of Grace follows a young woman’s struggle for life amid the Ebola epidemic. The movie is the result of collaboration between the UN Millennium Campaign, Vrse.works and Vice Media, and was created to call attention to the obstacles faced by Ebola survivors. The movie transports viewers to West Point, Liberia and follows the experience of Decontee Davis, an Ebola survivor who uses her immunity to help others affected by the disease.  The VR experience captures the Liberian tragedy from illness to recovery, mourning to perseverance.  It is part of a larger initiative of the United Nations Millennium Campaign to fight donor fatigue on the world’s most pressing challenges.

UNMC Colleagues Kristin & Alice with actor Jeffrey Wright
UNMC Colleagues Kristin & Alice with actor Jeffrey Wright

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“Development achievements can be quickly reversed due to crises such as the Ebola epidemic” said Mitchell Toomey, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign. “If the world does not focus on helping the most vulnerable and building resiliency in recovering communities, development goals and targets will not be met. Thus it is hoped that this film may aid the United Nations’ efforts to draw attention to the lasting impact of the Ebola crisis, as well as the need for continued support for those affected by the disease.”

“The Ebola crisis has captivated the world in its devastating effects over the last year and a half. However, the individual stories behind the numbers are often not told.  Decontee’s story captures the strife and spirit of the communities across West Africa in the wake of the Ebola epidemic. It is hoped that this second VR experience will promote greater understanding of the socio-economic impact of the disease and empathy for those who continue to overcome it.” said Gabo Arora, co-creator of the film and Senior Advisor for the UN Millennium Campaign.

The film will be formally launched soon on the VRSE App. To sign up for more information on the Virtual Reality please visit: www.vr4dev.org. Stay tuned! Continue reading UNMC screens sneak preview of new Virtual Reality film: Waves of Grace

Educate a Child Collects 1,630 ballots across Cameroon

DSC01403 copyBlog by Asaah Gideon, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Educate a Child in Africa (ECA). 

Educate a Child in Africa (ECA), a nonprofit and nongovernmental organization that uses non-formal education and the media to inspire a passion for consequential formal education in children in Africa recently administered one thousand six hundred and thirty (1,630) MY World survey questionnaires to young Cameroonians from the towns of Limbe and Buea of the South West Region of Cameroon. The implementation of MY World survey questionnaires was part of the Building Bridges project that focuses on the priorities of young men and women at the grassroots level and their vision of the world in 2030 based on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda.

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The young people who participated in this exercise ranged from the ages of 15-35 years and represented the 10 regions of Cameroon. MY World survey questionnaires were administered in colleges, higher educational institutions, places of work, religious groups, associations, homes and the man on the streets. They were asked choose 6 out of 16 options based on what is of most interest to them and their families, the world they want.

The survey results were officially presented in a conference that was organized by Building Bridges (BB) and Educate a Child in Africa (ECA) in the University of Buea, Cameroon on the 9th of June. The first three aspects of the world young people in Cameroon want as portrayed by the results are quality education, better job opportunities, access to clean water and sanitation, better transport and roads, better health care and honest and responsive government.

Though some of these young people clearly doubted the possibility of their choices being directly implemented in their country, most of them were however very excited to learn that the United Nations was interested in the opinion of the world they want.

In general, the MY World survey in Cameroon was well responded to and the young people even raised personal concerns that were not listed among the sixteen articles which will would positively affect their livelihood.

 

Building Bridges kicked off! From Amsterdam to Cape Town #BB2015UN

bb2Building Bridges kicked off in The Netherlands! From now until August, Jilt van Schayik (UN Youth Representative for The Netherlands) and Teun Meulepas will be cycling from Amsterdam to Cape Town. During this six month bike tour, they will cross 20 countries and over 15,000km (over 9,000 miles) to hear stories and collect MY World votes.

From the vast deserts of the Sahara to the central highlands of Namibia, from rural communities to crowded metropolises, and everywhere in between, Jilt & Teun want to connect with young people on the ground, share stories and inspire one another to make changes for the world we want. The duo have teamed up with youth representatives from every country who will be organizing events around their arrival to spread the word about MY World as the voice of the public to the UN. They will take photographs for Humans of MY World, gather MY World votes, and organize forums with young people. They will try to answer the question: “How do young people at the grassroots level envision the world in 2030?” ‪

2015 is an important time to activate the voices of the public to ensure that the sustainable development goals reflect the people’s needs and interests. As we look at the outcomes of the Millennium Development Goals, which come to a close on December 31, 2015, will the public feel that their governments made great strides in areas such as gender equality, sanitation, and the environment? What are the areas of continued need? These questions can only be answered by asking the people and sharing their votes and their voices.

Connect with Building Bridges

These young men have long road ahead of them! Follow their adventure and show your support between now an August. Connect on Twitter with #bb2015UN and on Facebook at Humans of MY World & Building Bridges!

Building Bridges & MY World was featured on Dutch television!

Lesotho’s MY World campaign launched by youth volunteers

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Dr. Tesfaye Shiferaw, UNICEF Representative in Lesotho takes the MY World 2015 Global Survey on Friday, October 24. Photo: Mark S. Cogan / UNDP Lesotho

MASERU–As the United Nations in Lesotho celebrated the 69th birthday of the UN with national and international partners last Friday, (October 24) it also formally introduced the Basotho people to MY World 2015, the United Nations Global Survey with the help of the United Nations Volunteers and volunteer-involving organizations like the Rise Up Youth Organization.

“We will work to pass the survey on to other youth, which means getting into villages and into schools,” said Ramootsi Majalle, Director of the Rise Up Youth Organization.

Ramootsi said he hopes to enable as many Basotho as possible to have their say, including those with visual disabilities by translating MY World into braille.

Lesotho, a small landlocked country in Sub-Saharan Africa, is beset by a number of persistent development challenges. It has the second highest HIV burden in the world—second only to its close neighbour Swaziland.  Half of the country lives below the national poverty line.

The United Nations seeks the views of the Kingdom of Lesotho on the world they would like see post 2015. Unemployment is rampant, particularly among youth, who make up almost half of the population.

“Engaging youth is critical to reaching a sizable portion of the Basotho people,” said Ms. Karla Robin Hershey, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative in Lesotho.

“We want to make sure that their voices are heard as we transition into the next set of sustainable development goals.”

UN Day activities led by volunteer involving organizations yielded almost 150 votes on the afternoon.

Several national volunteer groups helped collect MY World votes, including the Rise Up Youth Organisation, and the Campaign for Education Forum. In addition, MY World was supported by the National Volunteering Corps, a government volunteering initiative supported by UNV and UNDP.

“MY World Survey is a great opportunity for Basotho to have their say in determining the post-2015 agenda,” said John Villiers, a UN Volunteer from Ireland.

“The turnout was outstanding and we look forward to working with our national partners to spread MY World into other districts across Lesotho.”

Contact Information:

Mark S. Cogan, UNDP Communications and Reporting Specialist, mark.cogan@one.un.org, +266 Tel: (+266) 22 313 790 ext. 377

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Volunteers in Lesotho carry out the MY World 2015 Global Survey on UN Day. Photo: Mark S. Cogan / UNDP Lesotho

 

Vote and volunteer: VIO Network Engages Kenyan youth

Youth Engaged in a Discussion while Filling Out the My World Paper Ballo...KENYA

The VIO Network Kenya, which gathers nearly 20 volunteer organizations across the country, actively rolled out the MY World survey during the International Youth Day (IYD) 2014. Member organizations took part in the celebrations at the United Nations Office and Kenyatta International Conference Center in Nairobi, where they were involved in discussions on volunteerism for development and in particular on the inclusion of youth priorities in the post-2015 agenda.

The youth participating in the events, mostly enrolled in university programs, but also young volunteers and members of youth organizations such as the Organization for African Youth and Youth Agenda, were invited to vote for MY World offline by filling the paper ballot. Around 100 young people voted and all have taken the survey willingly. For us, it was very encouraging to see them discussing amongst each other what was most important for them in the future.

The situation also allowed youth to ask many questions about the possibilities for volunteering and where to find information. As a result, numerous young people showed up to support a clean-up and tree planting activity in a Nairobi neighborhood organized by the county government of Nairobi with our collaboration during the International Youth Week 2014.

Starting from its own country, VIO Kenya will continue to engage governments, partners and other stakeholders in efforts aimed at ensuring universal access to quality services. We are doing this through the promotion of volunteerism, and MY World helps us engaging people in identifying priorities and act on them.

Continue reading Vote and volunteer: VIO Network Engages Kenyan youth