Mogadishu 17 June 2017--“The Mogadishu One Stop Youth Centre is a symbol of hope that offers us a physical space that we can tailor to meet our needs. What does that look like for youth in Mogadishu? Well, youth in Mogadishu want a Centre that connects all youth in Somalia; a centre where youth can both watch and play a game of football, a centre that raises awareness for the youth and has youth advocacy programs, a centre that trains youth on how to be economically, socially and politically empowered and most importantly, a youth friendly centre that is safe, peaceful and offers equal opportunities for both young men and women” remarked Cabdi Kaafi Mahamuud Makaraan, Chairman of the Banadir Regional Youth Association (BARYA) and youth leader in Mogadishu.

Investing in the employment of young people means investing in the present and future of our societies. With improved education outcomes, relevant skills and competencies, and access to decent jobs, youth can help accelerate progress on the 2030 Agenda, fostering a prosperous, sustainable and equitable socio-economic environment for all. World Youth Skills Day, taking place on July 17th, sheds light on the needs of youth to gain tangible skills for the employment sector.

Implemented for the first time in a post-conflict setting, the One-Stop Youth Centre Model does precisely that. Underpinned by an inclusive approach which recognises youth as partners in the development process, the One-Stop Youth Centre model empowers youth by providing a safe and generative space for them to not only acquire market-driven vocational skills but to also participate in decision-making processes on issues that affect their lives daily.

Launched in January 2016, the Mogadishu One Stop Youth Centre (MOSYC) builds on these principles contributing substantively to harnessing the full potential of youth by emphasising a youth owned and youth led process that strengthens the capacity of youth to act as social, economic and political actors in their community through the meticulous development of programming which carefully considers the needs of the youth.

Considering the needs of the youth for further inclusion in governance mechanisms, a series of inclusive roundtable discussions were conducted that engaged the youth on their visions for their city. With close to 745 youth participating across all the sessions, youth were placed at the helm of discussions with political, social and economic leaders in their community to discuss both challenges and present solutions on how youth can play a role in the development of a city that fosters economic prosperity and political inclusivity. Focusing on the principles of inclusion, football tournaments at the centre also offer the opportunity to build social cohesion by bringing youth across all districts together through cultivating a culture of sports.

The voices of the youth matter at the centre. Particpatory planning workshops conducted during the planning of the MOSYC revealed that many youth did not have access to basic health services and lacked the proper information and guidance on key health issues. Therefore, learning about matters related to their health was listed as a priority for the youth in Mogadishu. Seeking to fill this key gap, the MOSYC partnered with UNFPA/ Y-PEER to provide weekly health talks that has been averaging an attendance of 45-50 youth per week since its inception in June 2016. The inclusion of computer as well as first aid skills training into the programming of the MOSYC is a further example of ways that the participation of youth is continuously encouraged as youth are placed in the drivers seat of the decision making process.

Seeking to continue the success established in Mogadishu, the first phase of life-skills training and urban campaign events were held in Kismayo launching on September 2016. Youth in Kismayo have access to even fewer opportunities for inclusion in development and perhaps even face more challenges than their counterparts in Mogadishu.  The participation of 110 youth in the life-skills training (42 young women and 68 young men) and over a 150 youth participating in throughout the course of the urban campaign were, therefore, essential first steps to enhancing the capacity of youth to be able to address their needs.

It is clear that youth in Mogadishu and Kismayo are passionate about the capacity of the One Stop Youth Centre Model to change their lives, not only through providing vocational skills training but also through providing real opportunities for them to engage in a truly collaborative process that empowers them through meaningful participation and gives them a voice in the process to develop a centre truly owned by them. One Mogadishu youth drives this point home by stating “we are envisioning the MOSYC to become one of the best youth centres in Africa in the next 5 years.”