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Youth look to a cleaner, greener, prosperous future

The project encourages young people to become active agents of the community by ensuring the cleanliness of their communities, engraining a sense of ownership of the environment

Youth look to a cleaner, greener, prosperous future

Young people are proving they have what it takes to make their communities healthy, beautiful and prosperous.

In a quick one-month community clean-up and sensitization project led by the Government of Liberia, and supported by UNDP and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), 1,600 youth (50 percent women) were mobilized to clean their streets and pass on the message that change is afoot.

Abraham Sheriff is one of the young people chosen to lead the groups.

He says that the short-term project helped empower him to see the value of taking charge of his own future rather than waiting for others to do it for him.

“We as young people now want to take ownership of a project for this national clean-up campaign whether it is supported by donors or not,” he said. 

Led by the Government, this rapid empowerment initiative has young people as agents of social change, helping their communities understand the importance of clean and green spaces.

The Youth Engagement for Improved Community Sanitation and Revitalization project saw 54 youth leaders trained in sanitation, safety and youth opportunities. They went back into their own communities to lead 54 teams comprising 1,620 young people to clean up the streets, and let other young people know what they can do to engage in their own well-being and growth, whether schooling or work.

Participants also earned some money, and according Abraham Sheriff, this had a huge impact for one youth.  

“One young person told me that he didn’t have money to pay his school fees. He used the money from the project to pay his school fees,” Sheriff said.   

Liberia’s youth comprise 60 percent of the population of 4 million, and a large number of them are under- or un-employed. Theirs were powerful voices during the 2017 elections, and helped elect the new president, H.E. George Weah, who ran and won on the promise of meaningful and sustainable work for youth.

Eugene Herring, Policy Advisor in the Office of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, says the Government has begun the groundwork on a more comprehensive youth empowerment program in line with its pro-poor agenda to address youth unemployment. 

According to Herring, Liberia’s youth are stakeholders in the nation and are the engine development promotion and sustaining the peace. While President Weah is passionately committed to providing youth opportunities, he said, whether by employment, vocational training, or scholarship, young people need to rise to the challenge.

“We must begin to govern ourselves in a way that promotes the development that we wish to see,” Herring said.

During the launch of the project in late February, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Olayee S. Collins, described the project as one that is at the heart of the President, re-emphasizing President Weah’s commitment to youth empowerment. 

"I urged you the young people of Liberia to learn and take advantage of the learning process, be a professional person and be part of the nation building process, go to school and tell people you are professionals,” Collins said.

With support from UNMIL and UNDP, participants were given personal protective gears and tools to enable a safe and quick clean-up. Cleaning out the gutters and picking up the garbage that litters the streets and public areas not only looks good, it keeps the community healthy and green.

But it’s also the messages of opportunities that some of the participants are most excited about. Liberia’s youth are not only ready to leap at any job opportunities, they want to create the opportunities themselves.    

“The leadership orientation lead by Ministry of Public Works and UNDP helped to sensitize us as young people on managing our expectations and exploring options outside of government support," Sheriff said.

The project is comprised of a series of community sensitizations and simultaneous clean up campaigns being undertaken and spearheaded by youths with the strategic principle to help address and manage their expectations following the political transition.

It encourages young people to become active agents of the community by ensuring the cleanliness of their communities, engraining a sense of ownership of the environment.