Empowering Youth to Engage Meaningfully in Their Community

Originally published by USAID

Meriton Binakaj is currently enrolled in online courses to finish high school.  “I couldn’t have done it before since I had a long recovery period from my accident,” he says.  Besides his high school classes, Meriton spends his time virtually participating in USAID’s Up to Youth activities.  Since joining the older cohort of youth in Gjakovë/Đakovica municipality, he has participated in various Up to Youth life-skills training courses, learning about critical thinking, effective communication, community asset mapping, entrepreneurship, and rapid market assessment.

“The most exciting part is being engaged in the practical part, when I actually get to go out and get involved in interviewing businesses and meeting with youth-related institutions.  I felt more engaged and effectively contributing to my community.  Such activities with local businesses, training on communication or critical thinking are a great experience for me.  I have no doubt all these hands-on skills will prepare me for my future entrepreneurship plans.” 

Up to Youth has trained almost 140 youth vulnerable to social exclusion in the benefits of entrepreneurship and how to rapidly assess their municipalities’ potential for future private sector engagement.  Youth like Meriton collect information and meet with businesses, helping the youth play active roles in the local and national economies.  Meriton is an inspiration among the other youth participants because he is active, focused, never misses activities, works hard toward his dreams, and is always ready to help his peers.

Meriton was also one of the almost 200 youth who participated in the community asset mapping workshop to gain the skills needed to demonstrate agency in leading community asset mapping.  The youth analyzed data to identify youth-related challenges or priorities in their community, and will work with other youth and local stakeholders to design and implement relevant solutions such as advocacy campaigns, community initiatives, and social ventures.

By empowering youth to engage with businesses, government, and support networks, youth vulnerable to social exclusion are able to make informed, effective contributions to their communities.  Youth are strengthening their voices and their ability to positively affect their communities and the services within those communities, which strengthens youth resilience and allows youth to effect positive change in meaningful ways.        

Up to Youth is a five year Activity implemented by Global Communities and funded by United States Agency for International Development – USAID.