With seven out of ten people under the age of 35, Somalia is one of the youngest countries in the world. Youth represents both the future of the nation and one of its primary resources. Recognizing the key role that youth can play in contributing to the peace and stability of the nation, UN-Habitat launched the first phase of the One Stop Youth Centre (part of the Joint Programme on Youth Employment) in Mogadishu on 14 January 2016. The initiative contributes substantively to harnessing the youth’s full potential by providing a safe and generative space for them not only to acquire market-driven vocational skills that will lead to gainful employment but also participate in making decisions about issues that affect their lives every day.
With close to 200 youths in attendance, the launch event had sports, arts and cultural activities, including participatory planning discussions that formed the nucleus of the event. The One Stop Youth Centre is underpinned by an inclusive approach that recognizes youths as partners in the development process. Youth leaders (who had been trained by UN-Habitat to conduct participatory planning workshops) designed and led all the activities at the launch event, and also mobilized their peers to articulate their needs and desires regarding what their youth centre should encompass. Their inputs were on key aspects of the centre: the physical design of the space, the types of recreational activities to be held and the vocational and life skills training they want.
The launch event emphasized youth-owned and youth-led processes that strengthen their capacity to act as social, economic and political actors in their community. Hussein Mohamed Salah, one of the youths who attended the event, saw the value in the initiative: “This programme by UN-Habitat is unique and from which we have been able to derive fun, happiness and many other benefits. We look forward to the many activities to be held at the centre, including vocational skills training. This is the first time that we have a centre that is dedicated to the youth, is run by the youth and addresses our needs.” Considered a resounding success, the event not only brought together youths from districts across Mogadishu to dance, laugh and play football, but it also allowed them to share their ideas for a space tailored meticulously to their needs, thereby empowering them through meaningful participation.