Youth Entrepreneurship and Empowerment Project (YEEP)
Organized by: Melissa Finn
The Youth Entrepreneurship and Empowerment Project (YEEP) was created to help teach vulnerable, marginalized, disaffected, and/or at-risk youth how they can productively contribute to society, overcome the issues that burden their lives, and develop entrepreneurship capacities for solar light sales. YEEP instructs youth on many alternatives they can pursue to overcome idleness and/or crime.
Partnered with the Eastern Africa Development Agency and the International Youth Action Against Terrorism (IYAAT), Dr Finn is raising funding for YEEP as a locally driven initiative that seeks to bring multiple community stakeholders together to aid 1200 youth in Northern and Coastal Kenya. Once the outcomes of YEEP have been evaluated, we intend to scale the project up within the Eastern AFrican context, and out into other areas such as Nigeria, Yemen, and Syria.
We are convinced that soft-power and grass-roots community initiatives have the greatest potential to produce tangible results for the reduction of radicalization to violent extremism in Kenya. Soft-power approaches not only challenge the narratives of extremist groups, but they also mitigate the push and pull factors that bring otherwise disenfranchised youth into their fold. At present, the Eastern Africa Development Agency (EADA) and the International Youth Action Against Terrorism (IYAAT), estimates that 300,000 young people in nine Kenyan counties are vulnerable to the recruitment drives of al-Shabab and other regional militias. This estimate is supported by data at the Terrorism Index. The EADA/IYAAT have determined that this youth demographic is suffering from moderate-to-severe trauma and psychological dislocation, is frequently subject to cross-border communal conflicts, and/or is weighed down by real and perceived marginalization, neglect, and disenfranchisement due to systematic exclusions. For this youth population, the Kenyan government has, to date, failed to recognize their mobility and education rights, their need for career opportunities, and their basic needs due to poor implementation of core public service delivery in their locales. Addressing the needs and human rights of at-risk youth is an important, yet often highly overlooked way to mitigate the growing global threat of Islamic militancy. The Kenya Youth Entrepreneurship and Empowerment Project (KYEEP) would be the first program in Kenya spearheaded by Kenyan-Somalis, and supported by other Kenyan groups, to focus on empowering at-risk and vulnerable youths with entrepreneurship and business start-up skills, while also providing them with critical trauma counseling, opportunities to debate contentious issues and clear the air for dialogue, and receive leadership training. The pilot program would involve the implementation of pre- and post-program testing to measure the design and outcomes.
The pilot would help 1200 Kenyan youth between the ages of 16 and 25 years in five Northern Kenyan counties (specifically, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit and Isiolo), deemed ‘at-risk’ by local development agencies, to receive trauma and psychological counselling (regarded by these organizations as a crucial first-step before their career training), entrepreneurship and financial literacy training from specialists, and then given a solar light start-up package to get their businesses as independent sales contractors up and running. The Kenyan civil society organizations: the Eastern Africa Development Agency (EADA), the International Youth Action Against Terrorism (IYAAT), the Motisha Foundation would be partnered with the US-based Nokero International (for ‘no kerosene’) to help youth buy solar lights wholesale and sell them in their communities at retail prices for the development of their small businesses. Nokero International won the US Patent Office’s ‘Patents for Humanity Award’ in 2013, and the N233 light unit we have in mind has a two-year warranty. The 7-8 month long pilot would involve a win-win for locals by re-directing youth energies towards their productive potential and providing a much needed, safer, and versatile product for their homes (compared to kerosene or candles), and for regional governments in helping to reduce the vulnerability of youth to the push (aggravation) and pull (incentive) factors of violent extremism recruitment.
While statistics show that unemployment rates for youths are three to six times the rate for adults, and informal, low-wage and insecure work is the norm, young people are the major labour in Kenya, where the average of birth rate is around five children per household with an increasing rate of demography. This means that a major number of the entire population is at a crucial stage that can determine not only their personal growth and development but the future growth and development of Kenya as a country. This is also coupled with renewed hope and optimism among a people who not so long were at the brink of total collapse.
IYAAT believes that Kenyan young people are dynamic and have enough energy that need to be catalysed and reinforced to bring them to a high mobilization, creativity and innovation. Based on our experience, we believe that the category of young finalist graduates, both men and women have a crucial role to play in social-cultural and economic development of their Communities. Once equipped and empowered with the culture of mind-set and social change, entrepreneurship and leadership and life skills, youth are able to achieve their self-transformation for their wellbeing.
To realize such a vision IYAAT acknowledge that the highly diverse generation of young people who finish their secondary studies on transit to University or ready to embrace other walk of life need to be mobilized, organized, equipped and empowered with the culture of entrepreneurship and leadership skills and inspire them to creating income generating activities and play a key role in youth unemployment reduction.
IYAAT will work together with its partners to deliver a comprehensive entrepreneurship, volunteer-ship and leadership strategy and campaign to meet CSR FOR CVE PROJECT’s overall objective of empowering youth with entrepreneurship, leadership and life skills for social transformation and self-reliance.