Category Archives: MY World Result

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)

All aboard the Peace Boat! Guests champion the SDGs during the “Floating Festival for Sustainability”!

img_0959 img_0958On Thursday, October 20, over 600 people attended a grand exhibit aboard the Peace Boat. This “Floating Festival for Sustainability” marked the Peace Boat’s 92nd Global Voyage for Peace since the nonprofit was established in 1983, and the first time the ship has docked in New York in five years. It also marked the inauguration of the Global Goals logo on the boat.

The SDG Action Campaign has a long history of working with the Peace Boat, having launched a partnership in 2009 to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Peace Boat previously hosted the Millennium Campaign logo, gave courses on the MDGs to passengers, and participated in the Stand Up Campaign among other activities. The Peace Boat has also been an early adopter of the MY World 2030 survey, helping to translate the ballot into Japanese, and collecting ballots both from passengers and people they meet during their journey. They presented the results of their first efforts in their recent report about the ship’s visit to Latin America – showing the enormous efforts and impact the boat is able to make on supporting the implementation of the SDGs.

The event occurred aboard the Peace Boat, providing guests with an intimate glimpse of life at sea. When guests first arrived, they were greeted with a tour of Peace Boat’s impressive ship. The foyer of the ship allowed guests to engage with the mission of the Peace Boat and with an exhibition of projects the peace boat is aligned with. Peace Boat, an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations, campaigns for the Sustainable Development Goals as it tours the globe each year. The UN SDG Action Campaign was present to drum up excitement about the SDGs and give participants the ability to engage with immersive content. Participants could take the MY World survey to voice their opinion on the importance and progress of the SDGs, take selfies highlighting their favorite SDGs and watch the virtual reality films of stories from around the world.

The World We Want team was also present, inviting guests to learn about their activities and to join the Policy Strategy Group. The World We Want is looking to continue doing WWW exhibitions around the world to promote the SDGs and civil society’s participation in UN activities. Other exhibits included the presentation of the Eco Ship, an entirely sustainable ship fueled by renewable energy sources that will retrieve the mission of the Peace Boat and promote climate action world-wide when in launches in 2020.

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The main event of the evening began with live music and dance, followed by a series of speakers including H.E. Jan Eliasson (United Nations Deputy Secretary-General), H.E. Ahmed Sareer (Ambassador of the Maldives and Chairman of the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS)), Jeff Brez (Chief NGO Relations Advocacy and Special Events, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information), Yoshioka Tatsuya (Peace Boat Director) and Cora Weiss of the (President, Hague Appeal for Peace). The presentations were followed by an eco fashion show highlighting sustainable designs, and the SDGs chosen to be of highest import to each of the designers.

The presenters made appealing calls to action for all guests to get involved with the SDGs and in promoting peace. The Mr. Eliasson stressed the need to join forces and approach the SDGs in a collaborative manner, encouraging everyone to not be phased by the large task at hand, but rather to focus on small actions that add up: “nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something”. He stressed the need to empower and create space for youth and women as major actors in the fight for peace.

Mr. Tatsuya gave an energetic presentation about the new ship the Peace Boat is developing, which will soon be the most sustainable ship to ever set sail. It will include an on-board university for peace & sustainability, sport activities, and volunteer exchanges in local communities visited.

The evening also included a passionate appeal from a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing as part of a special partnership with the United Nations First Committee on Disarmament and International Security (UNODA). Five victims of both Nagasaki and Hiroshima, known as Hibakusha, are traveling with the Peace Boat to campaign against nuclear weapons, hoping to see a world without them in their lifetimes.

For more information on the Peace Boat, please visit: http://www.peaceboat-us.org/  

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Next Generation, Cross-Curricular Global Learning through Immersive Technology

Blog by Neesha N. Rahim, Co-Founder Level Up Village

The Level Up Village (LUV) team joined forces with the UN SDG Action Campaign, Shared_Studios, VIF, The Qatar Foundation International & P21 at the 2016 Global Ed Forum in Philadelphia in October. With the goal of providing an immersive, perspective-building experience for some of the best and brightest educators working to build global competency skills in K-12 students,  the experience provided a unique interpretation of “cross-curricular learning” and showed how global competency could be infused in all aspects of education.

Thought leaders from around the world had the opportunity to immerse themselves virtually in the stunningly heartbreaking world of a Syrian refugee child named Sidra via Clouds Over Sidra. This set the stage to understanding what life is like in a Syrian refugee camp, adding depth and intimacy to an issue that many see only on the news.  Those who saw the film came away excited by the promises of VR, seeing the film and technology as an opportunity to effectively teach today’s digital natives about topics from the refugee crisis to the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

“Watching Clouds over Sidra in VR was an incredibly impactful experience,” said Connor Seidenschwarz of the Qatar Foundation International.  “Last summer I worked in a refugee camp in Lebanon, and the VR experience made me feel like I was right back there again.  I think this type of medium, along with the Shared_Studios portal and Level Up Village programs, will have a huge impact on anyone learning about refugee experience, especially in terms of what it can do to create humanize refugees.”

“I’ve worked in many countries, including in the developing world.  Yet this film drove home what life is really like for refugee children and made me see the differences and similarities between children here and there in a different light,” David Ross, Chief Strategy Officer at P21 said of the experience.

“Global education is the lens through which all teaching and learning should occur. Virtual exchanges, collaborative projects, and immersive VR experiences like Clouds over Sidra are critical elements for delivering quality education to all,” said David Young CEO of VIF, an organization that works districts and schools to develop global-ready teachers and students.

After watching the film, participants walked into a gold colored, sparkling Shared_Studios Portal tent where they connected in real time through full-body video conference with groups in Iraq, Pakistan and Nicaragua.  These live interactions pulled the world of each of these groups even closer, breaking down the wall of self consciousness that we often see via modes like Skype.  Through this opportunity, educators explored how students might be able to play and engage meaningfully with peers from around the world.    

Boys who fled the ISIS takeover of Mosul two years ago and are living in Harsham Camp for internally displaced Iraqis in the city of Erbil spoke directly to conference participants via the Erbil Portal, curated by UNICEF Iraq.  Amidst more serious conversations, one US educator spontaneously played a game of rock, paper, scissors with the children who taught her the Arabic words for the game.  The young Iraqi boys then taught a group of three women in the US a local dance.

Lindsay Mackenzie, communications specialist with UNICEF Iraq, explained that connecting with people around the world serves to build perspective and open the world for children in the camp, while giving voice to those who do not feel heard. Moreover, these opportunities represent hope and a moment of respite from otherwise harrowing situations.

Participants also connected in real time with educators and students from Level Up Village’s Global Partner programs in Pakistan and Nicaragua. iEarn Pakistan, led by Farah Kamal, has done incredible work in building global competency and tech skills in Pakistani students, often against seemingly insurmountable odds.  

“It was thrilling to stand right in front of my counterparts at the GEF 2016 and talk. We have the same hopes and aspirations – to have our students grow and thrive in a peaceful world,”  said Farah Kamal, Executive Director of iEarn Pakistan.   

Global Ed Forum participants interacted in real time with Level Up Village global partners NicaPhoto Nicaragua and iEARN Pakistan

At NicaPhoto in Nicaragua, Ronnie Maher has provided quality education, nutrition and other social services to hundreds of students who live in homes that were only recently wired for electricity.  Via Level Up Village programs, students in each location have engaged in one-to-one STEAM (STEM + arts) collaborations with students at schools in the US.

“The impact of Level Up Village programs on our kids is great, beginning with learning to use a computer, learning to form their own ideas, and to ask questions,” said Ronnie Maher, Founder & Executive Director of NicaPhoto. “The video letters and one-to-one connections help them to be less shy as they learn to express themselves. The project-based, small class environment is a unique opportunity that can have a big impact on learning here in Nicaragua.”

At the conference, we also demonstrated how Level Up Village’s social media-inspired platform facilitates the exchange of asynchronous video letters and project collaboration across the globe. In our courses, students in the US are paired one-on-one with partner students from around the world to learn cutting-edge STEAM skills and apply them to real-world problems, In addition, they collaborate on shared project files and exchange information about about each other’s daily lives and cultures through a guided exchange of video letters. The result is meaningful global collaboration and an enhanced understanding of the world – at a personal level.

Students in 20+ countries connect and collaborate using Level Up Village’s mobile-friendly Global Communications Platform in courses such as Global Inventors (3D printing). This type of innovative global STEAM collaboration with real-world applications teaches important 21st Century skills and creates meaningful personal connections

Participants at the Global Ed Forum experienced firsthand how a variety of exciting new technologies are proving to be game-changers in the field of global education. We look forward to further opportunities to collaborate with VIF, P21, The Qatar Foundation International, Shared_Studios and the UN SDG Action Campaign to move global education forward. In the next few years, we expect many more schools in the US and around the world will access the tools they need to bring the world into their classroom and the impact will be profound. Students will be able to develop social awareness, empathy and global competency in unprecedented ways, providing them with the framework they need to become compassionate leaders of tomorrow.

** Special thanks to GEF 2016 organizer Brandon Wiley & Dave Potter of VIF for making this experience possible.

About Level Up Village: A social enterprise based in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, Level Up Village (LUV) delivers pioneering Global STEAM (STEM + Arts) enrichment courses that promote design thinking and one-to-one collaboration on real-world problems between K-9 students in the U.S. and partner students in developing countries. Launched in 2012, LUV runs courses during school, after-school and in the summer at more than 150 U.S. schools, with 30+ Global Partner organizations in more than 20 countries.  For more information, visit at levelupvillage.com or find us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter @LevelUpVillage.

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Immersive exhibition brings delegates closer than ever to refugees, displaced, and migrants during UNGA

The 71st regular session of the United Nations General Assembly met this past September, which also coincided with the High Level Meeting on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants. In an effort to raise the voices are those most in danger of being left behind, the UN SDG Action Campaign brought two immersive technology experiences to the UN Secretariat Building, highlighting some of the most complex global challenges the UN faces. The particular focus on refugees, displaced people, and migrants allowed diplomats direct access and a deeper understanding of their everyday realities.

Above: Haider al Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq speaking to Waleed, a young boy displaced from Mosul by violence now living in the Harsham IDP Camp. Below: Ewan MacGregor, Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF poses with Mirna, young girl he met on his last visit to the Camp in Erbil.

The United Nations Virtual Reality film series and Portals immersive experiences enables people to access locations and situations they would otherwise never experience, providing context for some of the most complex issues the UN is striving to mitigate. By doing so, the Campaign hopes it will help transform understanding of critical global issues that must be addressed in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals into a medium that is instantly empathetic and universally relatable.

Throughout the course of the week, Delegates were able to watch several films on the newly launched UNVR app (available at http://www.UNVR.org) about the everyday realities of refugees. Filmed in the Zaatari Camp in Jordan, Clouds Over Sidra recounts the new normal for a young girl from Syria, and Born Into Exile by UNFPA highlights the importance of providing safe births for mothers, revealing the amazing statistic that zero mothers have been lost at the camp. Beyond the Lake recounts the harrowing experience of a woman escaping violence in Burundi who is able to start a new life in the DRC through the support of UN Women safe spaces. UNOCHA also previewed Home, a new film documenting the UN Secretary-General’s humanitarian tour, highlighting the plight of refugees living in Lebanon, Syria and the DRC.

Delegates further had the opportunity to have full-body conversations with individuals living these realities, in real time, through the UN Portal, curated by the CampaignShared_Studios, and Bridges of Understanding. It is part of an international project with countless locations around the world by Shared_Studios. The UN Portal connected to the Harsham IDP Camp in Erbil, curated by UNICEF  Iraq, allowing delegates to speak to young Iraqis displaced by fighting in Mosul. It also connected to a refugee resettlement home outside of Berlin, where delegates could speak to people from Chad, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria in varying stages of asylum seeking, and to young people at the University of Kabul in Afghanistan with Turquoise Mountain Institute. In the afternoons, the UN Portal connected to Mexico City with an NGO called Proyecto Habesha that is supporting Syrian refugees in coordinates higher education degrees in Mexico.

This exhibition was made possible through the political support of the Government of the Netherlands, the Government of Germany, the Government of Iraq, and the UN Department of Information.

The Campaign also shared the space with UNICEF’s Time Machine, an installation that  translating childhood memories from data into unique sound – giving visitors and delegates attending the UNGA an opportunity to understand the data on children currently available and areas that fall short.

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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).

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Building Bridges Road to Nairobi meets youth entrepreneurs across South Africa

The Building Bridges Foundation has completed traveling through South Africa, its first country on the Road to Nairobi. With its mission to foster youth-led solutions at the grassroots level in order to contribute towards the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the team met with over a hundred youth entrepreneurs across the country. The Foundation’s seeks to learn from grassroots youth entrepreneurs to to understand their day-to-day challenges and how these entrepreneurs have thus far managed to overcome them. 

Samantha Ndiwalana, Building Bridges Project Manager, and Annemarelle van Schayik, Building Bridges Research Manager, report back on the team’s journey through South Africa.


IMG_20160906_142901.jpgThe Building Bridges core team in front of their bus

“African problems, need African solutions” – some South African youth have taken this approach to heart and are fighting for a better future every day. In South Africa there are more than 19 million young people between the ages of 15 and 34 (as defined by South Africa’s National Youth Policy), that is 42% of the population.

Strikingly, among the 9.8 million youth in South Africa’s labour force only 6.2 million were employed and more than 3.6 million youth were unemployed in 2015, with unemployment being especially high for those residing in rural areas. However, most people cannot afford to be unemployed due to the lack of significant safety nets and the responsibility to care for their families.

IMG_20160907_175928.jpgThe Building Bridges team visiting a young poultry farmer in Vredeford

Today’s South African youth were born in the last years of, or just after, Apartheid. Since then regardless of race, color or gender all youth should have the same access to resources and opportunities in theory. However, the lived reality is that black South Africans struggle more than white South Africans, not necessarily solely because of race, but also because of a different upbringing and exposure from a young age.

According to one black youth entrepreneur, “white people have more social capital. At home you can talk about having a business and your parents can introduce you to people who can help you. Most black people don’t have that.”

14053918_1766289320279392_1969452852959175315_o.jpgThe Building Bridges team meets the young entrepreneur behind Sisanda Energy Lab

The MY World global survey led by the UN SDG Action Campaign shows that in South Africa most people want “A good education”. In the past years, thousands of youth have gone onto the streets to stop university tuition fee increases and instead are demanding free education. In a country where many black South Africans are the first of their generation to enter university, keeping up with fees and other university expenses is a challenge. Many drop out before graduating due to “financial exclusion”. Still, a future without a university diploma is seen as one of insecurity and poverty.

South African youth’s priority is not only education, they are also concerned with being taught the skills that will enable them to succeed. “We don’t learn practical skills. There is no talk about running a business up till high school. How can we take care of ourselves?”, remarked one youth.

Youth who drop out of university or do not continue after high school should have learned skills to create a better life for themselves than their parents had. Youth are the future and they all should be given the tools to contribute to a better future for themselves, their communities and South Africa as a whole.

Entrepreneurial innovations should be encouraged from a young age. Schools play a fundamental role in this. A white-collar job is not the only path to success and wealth. As skills training goes underutilized, there are opportunities for individuals with, for example, artisan, technical, electronic or plumbing training. There are many self-employment opportunities in these fields. In fact, South Africa is in need of local entrepreneurs who can create sustainable businesses.

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South African youth have great potential to innovate, to change, to create solutions. Of course, being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, but those who have the passion and the drive can potentially learn the skills. Their success is not just on the individual level. It carries through their communities and their nation as they employ other youth.

Youth entrepreneurs not only address issues of decent employment opportunities, but also other striking local problems. Youth are drivers of innovation. On their journey through South Africa the Building Bridges team met, among others, innovative youth who are working on hydroponic farming, an interactive, but informative game about energy and how to handle, a cheaper medical insurance solution for uninsured South Africans.

Youth entrepreneurs are the future. But before changes can be made, we need to understand what the lived experiences of South African youth are and what can be done to enable them to succeed.

IMG_20160907_175938.jpgA Building Bridges event with various youth entrepreneurs in Kwaggafontein, Mpumalanga

Besides a pressing lack of business education from a young age and role models, many black youth entrepreneurs found the access to business registration lacking. We were told time after time that the decentralized government system is confusing and that the entrepreneurs wasted time being sent back and forth from office to office. Others were unemployed and had difficulty paying the needed business registration fees.

One youth entrepreneur stated, “there are a lot of young people who have ideas; they’re really strong ideas that are so powerful. The problem is, you are unemployed, but you’ve been told to open a bank account it is R500 (US$35.28), you’ve been told that to register a company it’s R400(US$28.22), your certificates that you needed, your BEE and your other certificates are quite expensive. And you are unemployed.”

Those that succeeded then found it difficult to get the startup capital needed. They were seen as risks by the banks and government funding was often unavailable for their type of business. However, besides lacking capital, many entrepreneurs also face negative feedback from their communities. Whole families depend on their income. Brothers’ tuition fees, sisters’ mobile data, and of course there needs to be food on the table. Working from 8 to 5 means a stable income and is the desired path by the wider community. All odds are against the young South African entrepreneur to succeed.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 14.27.37.pngYouth entrepreneurs from South Africa

So what can be done? Building Bridges asked the youth entrepreneurs themselves. After all they are the experts:

  • Innocentia: “We need to change how things are run. The government offices should guide entrepreneurs. They should be people who are passionate, who care.”
  • Joyce: “The government can subsidize [registration costs]. It is expensive for an unemployed person to pay and there are a lot of procedures.”
  • Xola: “We need an entrepreneurial culture, a critical mass. We need more black entrepreneurial heroes. Youth need to be able to identify with people who are like them.”
  • Vusumuzi: “Banks can create a different loan system. They should invest in the youth.”
  • Major: “We need practical things when going to programs and incubators. The people presenting don’t understand what we go through. They are not entrepreneurs. We should learn from entrepreneurs.”

 

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ACLS International Summer School students and faculty meet UN SDG Action Campaign & UN Colleagues

Master’s and doctoral students as well as faculty of the Education Academy of Computational Life Sciences (ACLS) International Summer School engaged on harnessing technology and data for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations headquarters yesterday, 29 August 2016.

IMG_7ovu7d.jpgACLS International Summer School delegation visits “SDGs: A People-powered Agenda – Leave No One Behind” exhibition at the United Nations Headquarters

This year’s ACLS International Summer School, led by Professor Yutaka Akiyama,Dr. Eng. and Professor Takashi Harada, jointly hosted by the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Cornell University, has the thematic background of the Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, students and faculty took a special tour of the SDGs: A People-powered Agenda – Leave No One Behind exhibition at the United Nations Headquarters, experienced the UN Portal installation and the UN Virtual Reality film series, before participating in a workshop and discussion on the SDGs.

IMG_-f30lht.jpgParticipants vote in the MY World 2030 Survey at the exhibition 

At the interactive exhibition, Summer School participants voted in the MY World 2030 Survey, the High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment’s special MY World 2030 Empower Women Thematic Survey and wrote their commitment to the SDGs on the blackboard. After experiencing the human stories behind today’s pressing challenges through the UN Virtual Reality film series, students were able to converse live with internally displaced people (IDPs) inside the Harsham camp on the northern edge of Erbil, Iraq, through the UN Portal. Harsham is a camp that hosts more than 1500 internally displaced Iraqi families who fled Mosul and its surrounding villages to escape Islamist militant attacks.

IMG_-86o9x7.jpgStudents experience the UN Virtual Reality film series

IMG-20160829-WA0025.jpgFaculty and students inside the UN Portal speaking live with IDPs in Harsham, Iraq

Later, students and professors engaged in a SDGs workshop collaboratively held by the UN SDG Action Campaign, the UN Department for Public Information (DPI), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Gender Team, and the UNDP Sustainable Development Team.

IMG_5pq75w.jpgAlice Chen, UN SDG Action Campaign, presenting on how to harness technology and data for SDGs implementation 

Antje Watermann, UN DPI, provided an overview of the SDGs framework and communication strategies for advancing them. In particular, she highlighted the interconnected, universal, inclusive and transformative nature of the 2030 Agenda.

The UNDP Gender Team’s Henny Ngu spoke on utilizing technology to achieve gender equality. Sustainable Development Goal 5, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, tasks UNDP to contribute to the eradication of poverty and the significant reduction of gender inequalities by empowering women and promoting and protecting their rights.

Alice Chen, UN SDG Action Campaign, presented on how students and scholars can get involved in SDGs implementation and advocacy, especially by drawing upon technology and data. For instance, the Campaign’s MY World 2030 Survey is a tool for localizing, monitoring and promoting accountability of the new agenda through 2030. In addition, exhibitions and data playgrounds have provided interactive displays of citizen-generated data and storytelling initiatives on the SDGs, as well as videos and new media content on the SDGs worldwide. Furthermore, United Nations Virtual Reality amplifies the voices of the most vulnerable in danger of being left behind, allowing them to narrate their story from their own perspective and in their own words.

UNDP Sustainable Development Team’s Yuqiong Zhou concluded the workshop by outlining UNDP’s work on integrating the SDGs and the ways they will programmatically support countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

IMG-20160829-WA0027.jpgAntje Watermann, UN DPI, discussing with students and faculty how academia can contribute to SDGs implementation

The presentations were followed by enthusiastic discussion by student and faculty. The audience was particularly interested on how the indicators would be measured, the expectation from different Member States in terms of how they would work towards achieving the SDGs, and most importantly, what scholars can do to contribute to the realization of the goals by 2030!

 

Building Bridges the Road to Nairobi launches on International Youth Day

Road to nairobi-logo (2)The Building Bridges Foundation’s Road to Nairobi 2016 project kicked off on International Youth Day, 12 August 2016, in Johannesburg and at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The Building Bridges Foundation is a not-for-profit organization established in the Netherlands. The mission is to foster youth-led solutions at the grassroots level in order to contribute towards the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In their first project last year, the Foundation collected the opinions and priorities from young people by bike riding from Amsterdam to Cape Town in an effort to include youth voices in the development of the Sustainable Development Agenda.

In this second phase, the Road to Nairobi 2016a team of Dutch and South African youth will travel by bus from Johannesburg to Nairobi, meeting 80 inspirational and innovative youth entrepreneurs from all industries and walks of life in eight countries. In each country, these real life case studies of the challenges youth entrepreneurs face will be presented to government officials, CEOs, foreign ambassadors, representatives of the UN and the media during a youth summit in the capital. The project co-creates solutions that promote youth employment and aims to inspire African and global leaders by showcasing how young people are making a difference, and how their work can be further promoted to help achieve the SDGs by 2030. The results will be presented at the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) in Nairobi in December.

Building Bridges bus, which will carry the team and youth entrepreneurs to the Second High-Level Meeting of the GPEDC in Nairobi

“Young people often have the best out of the box solutions for difficult problems. So if we want a better life for unemployed young Africans, who else to ask then young African entrepreneurs.” said Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen. She continued, “they show that starting your own business empowers and creates jobs and income. The Road to Nairobi brings these smart youngsters together with politicians and business leaders who are eager for innovative and smart solutions. To reach the Sustainable Development Goals, young people are key.” Minister Ploumen supports the project in her role as co-chair of the GPEDC.

Through a series of multi-stakeholder events at the local and national levels, the project will help facilitate the co-creation of solutions and actions to promote youth employment in their respective countries. “We believe that only by working together with all stakeholders, can we achieve a more just, sustainable and equal world by 2030,” says Jilt van Schayik, co-founder of the Building Bridges Foundation. “Youth are traditionally seen as a problem, but we believe they are the solution. There are many youth entrepreneurs with innovative businesses solutions to overcome local challenges. We need to listen to their ideas, and help them grow to scale to create real impact for people on the ground.”

The Project was launched in South Africa in the Diepsloot Township jointly with the Building Bridges Team and the Dutch Embassy in South Africa. Focus on youth entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas, the launch included a panel discussion, about the enabling factors for innovative entrepreneurship and the necessary steps that will allow South African entrepreneurs to benefit from increased globalization.

IMG_2163The Road to Nairobi launch in Johannesburg with the Building Bridges team and the Dutch Ambassador in South Africa, H.E. Marisa Gerards

In addition to the project’s launch in South Africa, the project was ceremoniously launched at the SDGs exhibition in the United Nations Visitors Lobby by H.E. Mr. Karel van Oosterom, the Netherlands Permanent Representative to the UN and the UN SDG Action Campaign. The Ambassador toured the exhibition, seeing the enormous influence the first phase of Building Bridges had in collecting people’s voices to support the development of the SDGs. HE van Oosterom then viewed the current platforms for action, taking the MY World 2030 Survey reading the Humans if MY World stories and experiencing UN Virtual Reality. The visit concluded with a live video chat with the Building Bridges Team in South Africa, providing words of encouragement for their journey to foster youth employment on the African continent.

IMG_0051.jpgThe Road to Nairobi launch at the UN HQ with the Netherlands Permanent Representative to the UN, H.E. Karel van Oosterom

The Ambassador, his son as well as a team from the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the UN and the SDG Action Campaign wrote their good wishes to the Building Bridges Team on the large sized exhibition blackboard. In a statement on the occasion of the virtual launch in New York the Ambassador said, “youth must have a central role in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. We hope projects like this inspire other youth to step up and help realize the Sustainable Development Goals.”

IMG_20160812_121005Ambassador Karel van Oosterom’s good wishes to Jilt van Schayik, co-founder of the Building Bridges Foundation, and part of the Road to Nairobi team

Kristin Gutekunst, UN SDG Action Campaign Project Manager, remarked, “we are excited to be partnering with the Building Bridges Foundation and the Government of the Netherlands to continue SDG momentum in this new phase of the Building Bridges project. Young people are integral to making the SDGs a reality for all by 2030. The MY World 2015 Survey identified Better job opportunities as one of the main priorities for youth globally. Advancing youth entrepreneurship through this project and bringing people’s voices to the United Nations will support us in achieving the SDGs.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 17.29.40The Road to Nairobi’s route across 8 countries

The Building Bridges team operates with the idea there is a gap between between local and international policymakers and the challenges faced by young people at the grassroots level. Simultaneously in New York, Building Bridges Representative and UN SDG Action Campaign Youth Advocate Jonas Lossau introduced the Road to Nairobi 2016 project and how it contributes to ‘17 SDGs in Action’ at the UN Headquarters on International Youth Day. Samantha Ndiwalana, a Building Bridges Project Manager, added, “the project is a way for young people to get together, to learn from each other, to share their solutions and to inspire each other. It is time for real action, not empty words.”

To create real changes, the Building Bridges team together with the most inspiring youth entrepreneurs will present their data and suggest solutions at the Second High-Level Meeting of the GPEDC in Nairobi.

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Peoples’ Voices from around the world celebrated in SDGs Exhibition in UN Visitors Lobby

Since its launch on the 18th of July, the SDGs: A People-powered Agenda – Leave No One Behind exhibition at the United Nations Headquarters has drawn excited crowds of visitors and high-level delegations from around the world.

IMG_20160808_115212.jpgH.E. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, visits the SDGs exhibition 

During the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), H.E. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and co-chair of the United Nations Secretary-General’s SDG Advocacy Group, was one of the first to visit the exhibition together with the Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations, Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen. Both expressed their commitment to making the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a reality for all on the exhibitions large size blackboard. H.E. Erna Solberg wrote that she will continue to advocate for “Quality Education for All”, while H.E. Geir O. Pedersen committed to “Take Action against Inequality”.

IMG_20160718_110241.jpgH.E. Geir O. Pedersen, Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN, writing his commitment to the SDGs on exhibition blackboard 

The HLPF is central platform of the United Nations for the follow-up and review of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. It provided political leadership, guidance and recommendations on the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and follow-up; keep track of progress of the SDGs; spur coherent policies informed by evidence, science and country experiences; as well as addressing new and emerging issues. In addition to visiting the SDGs exhibition, H.E. Erna Solberg delivered the opening key-note speech at the start of the Ministerial Segment of the HLPF on 18 July and presented Norway’s voluntary national reviews on its progress of delivering the Sustainable Development Goals on the 19th.

IMG_20160804_171540.jpgJCI members at the exhibition’s selfie station

Taking up the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s challenge that “youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels,” members of Junior Chamber International’s (JCI) visited the SDGs exhibition during the JCI Annual Global Partnership Summit. Held July 25 to 28 in New York City, the summit offered international leaders and JCI members the chance to visit the exhibition and experience its interactive selfie stations, take surveysand engage with the important challenges and opportunities that the SDGs present to youth globally.

IMG_20160729_111157 (1).jpgYoung students read the stories of Humans of MY World (www.facebook.com/homy2015)

Moreover, groups of national and international students have been particularly drawn to the exhibition’s touch screens hosting the MY World 2030 Survey (www.myworld2030.org), the High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment’s special MY World 2030 Empower Women Thematic Survey (www.empowerwomen.myworld2030.org) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Impossible Choices humanitarian challenge (www.impossiblechoices.org).

IMG_20160808_115129.jpgVisitor taking the MY World 2030 Survey on exhibition touchscreen 

The UN Virtual Reality film series, which allows visitors to immersively experience the life of some of the world’s most vulnerable using high-tech 3D VR headsets has been a major visitor attraction since the opening of the exhibition. Visitors have been touched by the human stories of the Syrian refugee crisis, the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and the effects of conflict in the Gaza Strip in the VR films Clouds Over Sidra, Waves of Grace and My Mother’s Wing (www.unvr.org).

IMG_20160729_104940 (1).jpgStudents watch United Nations Virtual Reality at exhibition 

Watching the movies and experiencing global issues up close has had a profound effect on visitors, many of whom have tried virtual reality technology for the first time. Especially touched was a group of students from LaGuardia Community College, NYC, who had scheduled a special visit to the virtual reality station. After visiting the exhibition with around 30 students the teacher wrote to the SDG Action Campaign to describe what a strong tool for the creation of empathy UNVR had been for the students:

“I just want to thank you for making the extra headsets available for my students last Friday. They were very impressed with the films. My students recently wrote an essay about whether or not the United States should take in Syrian refugees. Most of my students (who are all immigrants) said no, we shouldn’t let them in because there could be dangerous terrorists among them. One student stayed after class and argued with me about this, insisting that all Syrians are terrorists. After this particular student saw your film and experienced what it was like to be in a refugee camp, he told me he wants to rewrite his essay. We have been reading about refugee situations all during the term, we’ve seen film clips from the news, and we’ve watched Hotel Rwanda, and still most students wanted to keep refugees out. Your film changed that for some of them, which is very powerful. So thank you!”

The interactive SDGs exhibition will continue to be open until 4 September 2016.

HOW TO VISIT

The exhibition is open to the general public during official UN visiting hours:

  • Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
  • Saturday & Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
  • All visitors must exit the building by 5:30pm.
  • Virtual Reality screenings at the exhibition: Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm.

The entrance is at 46th Street and 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Visitors without an official UN Pass will have to first obtain a guest pass at the screening station on 46th and 1st across the street from the UN. Be sure to bring a photo ID.

If your delegation or mission would like to schedule a special exhibition tour, please kindly contact Kristin Gutekunst at kristin.gutekunst@undp.org (9143303774).