Young men and women aged under 30 currently represent over 60 per cent of the Commonwealth’s population. They are the largest ever to enter the transition into adulthood. By 2015, there will be 3 billion young people in the world, with 2.5 billion living in developing countries.
The current and emerging imperatives of globalisation and of contemporary living foretell that young women and women and men are likely to be exposed to more challenges and inequities than any other population cohort over the period.
The Northern Uganda Youth Development Centre, a Government of Uganda project located in Gulu district and currently supported with funding from the Commonwealth Youth Programme, targets young people aged 15 to 25 years old in Gulu District and will subsequently expand to cover the Acholi sub-region. The project aims to help young people gain decent employment through learning vocational and other skills and also create a healthy young labour force to ensure a constructive contribution to the development and peace building process.
It will also facilitate youth involvement in social and cultural reconstruction as a way of helping them reclaim their identity. Dialogue and the promotion of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence are encouraged at the Centre. This effort is directly aimed at the families and communities who were torn apart by the conflict.
The Commonwealth Youth Programme helps young people in Commonwealth countries to target issues like HIV/AIDS. Young Ambassadors for Positive Living (many of whom are HIV positive themselves) are taught accurate information and trained to communicate with young people about the virus. To date, over 200 young people across Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean have received training.
They organise ‘street plays,’ which are performed in villages or open fields and contain information on HIV/AIDS. Doctors provide advice regarding the content in the scripts and often attend the plays, so they can answer questions raised after the production. Rock music concerts take place with Ambassadors performing in areas such as shopping malls. The music, which tempts a young crowd, contains messages that address important points about HIV/AIDS.
The Commonwealth Youth Credit Initiative (CYCI) was set up to offer loans, training, education and business support for young men and women across the Commonwealth. It was piloted in Zambia, India, Guyana and Solomon Islands, and has since been replicated in a further 12 countries. In India alone nearly 1,000 people gained functional literacy through the project and 9,000 have been exposed to health awareness camps and exhibitions. “The loan from the CYCI has helped me to be independent and not to be a sex worker...I can buy my own soap, food, clothes.” (CYCI participant Florida Harrison, from Malawi.)
The Commonwealth Youth Development awards were established to recognise significant contributions to the development of young people in communities. Every year approximately £35,000 is made available to outstanding youth-led initiatives. Recent winners of the Gold Award include a soil regeneration project in India and an initiative in Fiji to provide alternative livelihoods to the drug trade, including fishing, farming and a canteen business. Through these awards, CYP recognises the efforts of young people to develop their communities by creating innovative and sustainable development projects. The projects are evaluated on the participation of young people in identifying, planning, implementing and monitoring the project.
The Diploma in Youth Development Work, currently offered by 29 partner institutions in 45 countries, is designed to provide youth workers with an underpinning knowledge on which to base their work with young people; an understanding of the values and ethics of the profession, grounded in the values and principles of the Commonwealth; and the practical skills to undertake the work.
The Diploma is made up of 13 “core” modules, in addition to region-specific modules. The modules cover topics such as enterprise and economic development, youth policy, gender, health, project management, the environment and sustainable development. Each module takes approximately 4-6 weeks of full-time study but students are free to arrange a different schedule in their individual “learning agreement” with the University they are registered with.