Why Include Life Skills in Youth Programming?

Empowering Youth: Building Skills For Life for Youth in Ethiopa

a1sx2_Thumbnail1_youth-twitter-banner-1.jpgBuilding Skills for Life is a training program tailored for young workers (ages 14 -17) in Ethiopia. It is one aspect of a multi-pronged approach to supporting youth in the E-FACE project (Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation).

The program is based on MEDA's previous experiences with providing life skills and financial literacy training for youth in Morocco and Egypt through the YouthInvest project. The training encourages young people to understand themselves, to develop decision-making capacity, and improve their communication skills – in order to develop the required business skills to become entrepreneurs. It is designed to empower youth and to help them create further opportunities for their lives. In Ethiopia, the training is focussed on young weavers in the textile industry; hence a practical aspect that provides technical training and know-how on weaving techniques is also included. The diagram below illustrates the six core areas covered by the 100-hour training program.

MEDA has developed an integrated and tailored program for youth in Ethiopia's traditional weaving sector.

  1. LIFE SKILLS: This includes understanding self-awareness, goal setting and communication skills, including financial literacy.a1sx2_Thumbnail1_Building-Skills-for-Life-Diagram.png Research and programming both in developed and developing countries has shown that young people today require particular support in developing life skills. Some even argue that these are even more important than specific job-related technical skills. Life skills can be defined as the skills that a person must possess in order to successfully work at a job and be part of a team, manage money, manage time, and live as part of a family or community.

  2. BUSINESS SKILLS: This includes managing money, budgeting and borrowing wisely, as well as market-driven solutions to employment and entrepreneurship.

  3. PRACTICAL TRAINING: This includes technical training and access to tools/workspaces in a particular sector or industry, which in this case was traditional weaving so that the youth can acquire productive skills for their livelihood.

In Ethiopia, MEDA has been delivering this program since 2011; accomplishments to-date include:

  • 212 youth graduates;
  • 5 village saving associations of youth groups to practice financial management, sound decision making, good leadership, and effective communication;
  • 100 youth have received access to hybrid looms to strengthen their livelihoods as self-providers/ entrepreneurs.

The numbers may seem small but the Building Skills for Life program was one small component of the larger EFACE program, which targets 7,000 families and 3,250 youth through various other programs. The lessons learned from the Ethiopian context will be used to improve training programs for youth in other projects.

The discussion on life skills training is an interesting one and one that will be further explored in a future blog entry. Many youth programs include some aspect of life skills programming. Do these work? What are the best models out there of life skills programming for youth in Ethiopia? If we accept that life skills are somewhat dictated by cultural norms as well, how do we best adapt life skills training for different communities and countries?

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