Understanding the multiple issues faced by vulnerable young people is vital to create an inclusive national youth policy, argues latest research evidence. This week at the National Youth Seminar, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, researchers, NGOs and young people will highlight the need to consider youth justice and rehabilitation, street connectedness and disability in the new policy.
Co-hosted by the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth and the YOUR World Research project, the event will profile the stories and data coming from YOUR World Research and Bridging the Gap projects. Funded by , both projects argue that there is a specific need to focus on the difficulties faced by disabled youth. Their research goes further to emphasise the challenges that disabled youth face, making their lives a constant struggle.
Estibel Mitiku from the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth said “We are on the verge of revising our national youth policy, as the current version has been in effect for 15 years. Today is a very important opportunity to listen to the youth and for them to tell us what is important to them. We need to strengthen our systems and create an inclusive strategy that incorporates all relevant youth issues.”
A young female participant, aged 19, shared some of the struggles she faces in finding employment: “I have just finished grade 10 but didn’t get the grades I need for college. I think I will work making shoes next month during the holidays, but when the holidays are over, there aren’t many jobs for the rest of the year. If I have a job and the country can look after me, I will stay here in Ethiopia, but I will go to Dubai if I can’t find work here, someone told me there is work there. I want to stay here so I hope there will be more jobs.”
The research shows how multiple challenges compounded together can make life very difficult for youth. In collaboration, the projects have used experiences from disabled young people in Ethiopia and evidence from other low-income African countries - Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia - to share lessons and recommendations for the Ethiopian government: barriers to education for disabled youth, and being young and disabled in the city.
Drawn from experiences of two Ethiopian young people, Yeneneh and Beyene, the lessons and recommendations particularly highlight how living in cities can be extremely isolating, and how lack of access to education are major barriers for people with disabilities. Recommendations include:
- Schools need to be physically accessible, and also foster a more inclusive educational environment to improve the wellbeing of young people with disabilities
- NGOs and the government need to work to raise awareness and improve the wider public understanding of disability
- Breaking down the bureaucratic barriers for vulnerable people in cities, specifically addressing the barrier that lack of identity papers and other documentation presents
- Local authorities need to reach out and welcome the participation of young people with disabilities in public meetings, and should keep them informed of opportunities, jobs and services.
Dr Vicky Johnson, lead researcher for YOUR World Research, commented that “youth experiences of marginalisation go beyond simple government definitions and include a much wider array of indicators, including disability, family situation, abuse, disrupted education, migration and ways of earning money or exploitation at work. This week in Addis Ababa, young people attending the National Youth Seminar will have a real opportunity to be heard by policymakers in civil society organisations and government ministries.”