“With a national median age of 18, Ethiopia’s most valuable resource is her youth. This calls for the absolute need to create more platforms of youth empowerment, capacity development, and meaningful civic engagement. I disagree with the norm that young people are the leaders of tomorrow. I believe we are the leaders of NOW,” Amref Youth Advisory Group (AYAG) representative Bitania Lulu, 26, declared at the close of Amref’s co-creation workshop for USAID’s Integrated Youth Activity (IYA).
Amref Health Africa Ethiopia brought together 19 young people (49% female), from all regions of the country, for a weeklong co-creation workshop in response to USAID’s IYA opportunity. Using the visualization in participatory planning (VIPP) approach, the workshop placed youth at the center to guide and lead Amref and its partners’ response.
Ibrahem Hasen, a 24-year-old participant from Jijiga, stated that some major challenges youth face today are unemployment and lack of youth engagement in development programs and policy formulation. He said, “youth today are not being valued and are voiceless in their community as well as in the political arena.” As an outspoken youth, Ibrahem is keen on being a voice for young people, and working with decision makers to address these issues.
In addition to our youth leaders, 22 participants from 14 youth-led and youth serving organizations and the private sector, as well as nine participants from Amref Health Africa and our international partners, International Youth Foundation, Arizona State University, and Johns Hopkins Center for Communications Program were also part of the workshop. Their role was primarily to actively listen to the youth, and support them to brainstorm innovative and targeted approaches to address youth advocacy and empowerment, employment and entrepreneurship and access to youth-friendly services, while taking into account regional variations and inclusion. Youth were encouraged to assert their agency, and to claim their seat at the table, as agents of their own change.
“We need the youth to be empowered and to change the country,” said Misrak Makonnen. Country Director of Amref Health Africa Ethiopia. “The youth are our biggest asset. They are the agents of change we need in our country right now.”
Twenty-eight-year-old Ayan Mohammed from Dire Dawa was among the talented youth in the co-creation workshop. She is passionate about health outcomes and is actively engaged in COVID-19 response work in her community. Ayan affirmed that her participation in the co-creation workshop gave her the space to assert her skills in “public communication and facilitation with the help, encouragement and support of health system leaders, and partners working together for integrated response and intervention.”
AYAG representatives facilitated series of the IYA co-creation sessions, and provided their input based on their experience as youth leaders in number of interventions. The co-creation workshop culminated with participants being asked to reflect on their “vision for Ethiopian youth.” Responses ranged from “a peaceful country with higher dignity for humanity and democracy,” “to be able – to dream and want more,” to “emotionally intelligent youth” (See Our Vision). Across all responses, there was a common thread of peace and stability. This opportunity to share experiences and vision between the youth and youth focused organizations’ staffs has inspired all to take bold approaches as Amref and its partners design an activity that is youth-owned, youth-led, and youth-managed, elevating youth to be the game-changers of our country during this critical time.
Amref Health Africa teams up with African communities to create lasting health change.