The Gambia Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) yesterday started a three-day National Youth Employment Summit at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.
The summit is being attended by young people, local authorities and development partners aimed at creating more employment opportunities for Gambian youths.
The Big Lottery Fund (BLF) in UK, in partnership with Ycare International support the summit, which is being held on the theme: ‘Creating Markets…Unleashing Entrepreneurship Commitment in support of the Actualization of Vision 2020 and the MDGs’.
The summit further aimed to create a platform for young people to share ideas surrounding youth employment and economic justice issues, and engage with policy makers and service providers on strategies to profile the many challenges facing young people with regards to their employment opportunities.
In declaring the summit opened, Sheriff Gomez, Minister of Youth and Sports, indicated that his Ministry is not only focusing its direction on youth development towards skills training, entrepreneurship and employability, but has also created a five-year strategic plan towards its achievement.
“The high completion rate of the vocational skills training coupled with the youthful enthusiasm that characterized the first phase of the project is due mainly to the strategic planning and monitoring mechanisms in place.
“The energy invested to ensure that marginalized and disadvantage young people are reached, despite their location, is a clear manifestation that the YMCA is a global youth organization” Youth minister Gomez said.
The theme, he added, is a global necessity, and has been the clarion call by the President, who has urged Gambian youths to go back to the land.
He reaffirmed that youth employment and its corresponding challenges have taken a centerstage in the global agenda, since over five year ago when then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan launched the campaign challenging Governments to make youth employment a priority.
“The Gambia government continues to create the enabling environment for all hands to come on deck, as it is their conviction that it is only through such collective action that we can successfully fight and conquers this monster call youth unemployment.”
He commended the YMCA for the tremendous work that they are doing.
“Your programs are relevant and respond to addressing the goals as enshrined in the Vision 2010 and other policies,”
The minister urged the participants take the summit seriously, as the ministry is very interested in the outcome, as it is envisaged that the information, ideas and recommendations will influence policy decisions.
Speaking earlier, Joseph Taiwo Peacock, YMCA’s BLF project coordinator, said The Gambia YMCA with support from partners has demonstrated the need to march towards reducing poverty and developing global partnership, through a strategic intervention in providing skills training and enterprise development support for the marginalized and disadvantaged young people in the country.
“Youth employment is critical for socio-economic stability and growth,” he stated, adding that the most important step to end poverty is to create employment and income opportunities for the poor, and especially the youth.
“The provision of vocational skills training to 1617 young people from over 80 different communities in the country by YMCA, coupled with micro enterprise support through the establishment of small businesses for youth, is by the way a strong commitment in supporting the actualization of Vision 2020 and MDGs 1 and 2,” he said,
However, he maintained that “education and training are a means to empower people, therefore it is a central pillar of decent work.” He further stated that the demand for skilled labour is rising because of globalization, technology development and challenges in the organization of work, adding that a better trained labour force can increase competitiveness, reinforce economic growth and improve job prospects.
“There are strong economic operational and socio imperatives for all employers to do all they can to stimulate job creation for young people,” he urged.
Simon Lazarre Badiane, Executive Secretary Africa Alliance of YMCAs thanked Ycare International for supporting he Gambia YMCA.
He revealed that their vision is to empower the young people, and commended the Gambia YMCA for the support they have been offering to the youths in changing their lives.
Mr. Badiane urged the youths to take the responsibility to empower their communities in the entrepreneurship program.
He further challenged the youths to continue after the program, hence they have already been empowered.
“Take this project as a kick-start to transform our country to become citizen, not subjects,” he added.
Other speakers included Oreme Joiner, YMCA national board chairman, and the permanent secretary Ministry of trade, Naffie Barry, and Sarah Hunt, Ycare International Africa program coordinator.