Fighting to give Sierra Leone’s Youth the means to become Leaders of change
My name is Augustine Macarthy, I am 25 years old and I am from Sierra Leone, Africa. I got a Bachelor Degree in Sociology at Njala University, Sierra Leone, where I focuses on human development and societal transformation. After that, I’ve spent four years getting involved with sustainable development and youth empowerment, acquiring significance experience in child protection, peace building and sustainable development for young people. I then became the Founder and Executive Director of “Movement towards Education and Youth Empowerment-Sierra Leone” (MEYE-SL). I decided to embark on this project in order to be able to help promote the strength and abilities of many youths and children in my community, providing community-based services to empower them to be self-reliant in facing societal challenges with competency, confidence and dignity.
Alongside that, I have also served in various other projects. For example, I had the honor of representing Sierra Leone, as a National Coordinator, in the Plant startup Entrepreneurship Academy based in the USA, where I had to mobilize committed youths who were willing to acquire entrepreneurship skills, in order to change our society, through online training programs. Also, working with CARITAS-BO as a social worker, I helped in advocating and supporting children and their families in recovery processes. As part of the reintegration and recovery process, I provided 31 children (18 males and 13 females) with psychological support, family tracing and reunification. Moreover, I serve as a branch coordinator for Young Peace-Builders (YPB) in Sierra Leone, and I have been collaborating with them to educate children, in and out of schools, about the issues of violence, neglect, drug abuse, alcohol, rudiments of peace and mindfulness of good leadership, emphasizing on the importance for them to be fully involved in the actualization of a peaceful co-existence in our community. Lastly, in representing Oya Opportunities, as the national director for Sierra Leone, I have helped achieve their mission of exposing the most vulnerable youths to opportunities that have helped shape them into being leaders of change in their various communities.
Additionally, I have received several certificates in management, social entrepreneurship, leadership, development and humanitarian sectors from the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), in Accra, Ghana, from the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in Accra, Ghana, from Bocconi University, in Italy and from the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS). I value my role as a young change-maker very highly, and I therefore feel responsible and accountable for any positive or negative impact towards my community. In order to provide change, I have been focused on working to achieve a good environment and quality education, with the aim of helping youths in achieving economic empowerment, poverty reduction, equal opportunities and quality education, so that they can escape from poverty and fulfill their dreams.
So, throughout this whole process, my organization “MEYE-SL” has been engaging in promoting SDG 4 “Quality Education” and SDG 8 “Decent Work and Economic Growth”.
For SDG 4, August 10th, 2017, MEYE-SL conducted a two days baseline data collection survey on children out of school in seven villages across the Moyamba District in Sierra Leone. Based on the survey, I found out that 75.8 percent of children there do not get the basic educational support they need to become empowered agents of change in the community. Girls have to stay at home to help take care of their siblings and collect water. Boys have to go to work to help support their families. Some live way too far from schools. Some can’t afford to pay their school fees or buy school materials. Also, girls are forced to get married even before they have completed their primary education. This is exactly why my project is working so hard to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for vulnerable children, so that they don’t have to go through this ever again. So, the organization selected ten children who were school dropouts, wore tattered clothes, had no shoe, no school bags, notebooks or other learning materials; their families lived in mudbrick houses without electricity and basic needs of life, with no beds, no plumbing and no hope for the future. The organization has therefore been providing these ten kids with school fees, school uniforms, shoes, bags, notebooks, textbooks, pens and pencils.
My organization has also been involved in educating parents on the importance of children’s education, especially for girls. More importantly, I have been giving parents the opportunity to participate in yet another initiative by making products for sale locally, and thus getting the opportunity to make additional income, shifting from helplessness to truly striving, self-reliant communities . It was also very helpful for the children and their families to learn how to prevent illnesses, build and maintain infrastructure, manage personal and professional relationships, and understand basic rights.
In regards to SDG 8, In Sierra Leone most of the unemployed youth tends to be less skilled and much more inexperienced. The high rate of youth unemployment in Sierra Leone is an indicator that our youths are not getting the skills and experience that are necessary to foster development in our country. As a result of the civil war that plagued Sierra Leone for 11 years, youth unemployment has become the predominant problem, implemented by the worsening of ever so unfair work conditions. Therefore, youth unemployment in Sierra Leone continues to demand urgent attention because it has huge negative implications on our society, such as poverty, corruption, drugs abuse, marginalization and social exclusion. As a consequence, most of Sierra Leone’s youths today are unemployed, poor, unskilled, uneducated and indolent.
In order to address this issue, in November 2016, my organization established a partnership with Planetstartup Entrepreneurship Academy, a registered International Organization in Florida, USA, to join forces and help push youths in Sierra Leone to partake in their online entrepreneurship and mentorship training sessions. The training program has been concentrating on topics like project management, business planning, crowd funding, strategic thinking, business ethics, marketing, innovation and technology, risk analysis, and corporate responsibility.
This program has benefitted 96 youths (55 men and 51 women) so far, providing them with the “International Entrepreneurship and Project Management” certificate from Planetstartup.
As a result of this, I envision for the future more business plans and small enterprises created by young people within my country. And I want to be able to help them, providing guidance and support, so that their innovations and businesses can contribute towards poverty reduction, economic growth and the reconstruction of our country.
In case I should win the competition, half of the money would be used to buy a small laptop computer, a sizable speaker, a Sierratel Wi-Fi connection and a small projector. We are sure that once we have these logistics it can help our training center to be more set in continue to promote more entrepreneurship education to youths within the country. The other half would be used to set up a small local “Gari” processing business. Gari is a flour made out of the “Cassava” tuber, that is used in West-African countries such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, and it constitutes a major part of the African diet. The income generated from selling the Gari will then be used to continue supporting school sponsorships and awareness campaigns for both children and parents. Also, the project will be able to provide youth with job opportunities and training on Gari production.
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV