The Future is Equal

Archives for May 22, 2018

Education and employment for Ni-Vanuatu

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Photo: Glen Pakoa/Oxfam in Vanuatu

The youth population in Vanuatu is booming – and our local partner, Youth Challenge Vanuatu (YCV), specialises in offering these young people employment and enterprise training courses.

Aimed at those without school qualifications, YCV’s courses, which include life skills, internships and counselling, smooth their pathway into employment, enterprise or further study.

Ni-Vanuatu youth have to navigate hard realities – few jobs, a low-wage economy for unskilled jobs, and a high cost of urban living. Limited schooling opportunities mean that most young people don’t finish secondary school – in fact, only 32% even enrol. After leaving school, most have only two options: return to the family farm, or move to urban areas looking for work – areas where 35% of people are unemployed.

These challenges are particularly acute for disadvantaged youth – early school leavers, adolescent mothers and youth with disabilities.

Oxfam works through partnerships with local organisations on the ground, because who knows the community better than the ones living in it?

We’ve partnered with YCV to help them grow and develop their organisation so more young women and men will be able to thrive as employees and entrepreneurs, and engage as active citizens around the issues that are important to them. Most of YCV’s staff have come through the programme themselves, so they know the challenges these young people face – and the life-changing difference YCV’s support can make. Take a look at the stories of some of YCV’s graduates.

Vanuatu’s young people are the country’s biggest resource – with the right opportunities, these young people will be the leaders of Vanuatu’s social and economic development.

Together with YCV, you, and Oxfam, this is what the programme will achieve:

  • Over 2000 young women and men develop their knowledge, skills and confidence to pursue their chosen career path.
  • More young women and men are in employment, self-employment or further study, and are advocating around youth issues.
  • Youth will access innovative, effective courses that give them the skills employers are looking for, as well as complementary services like internships, enterprise incubators, career and enterprise counselling, an electronic resource library, and careers events.
  • YCV will develop a new course in social enterprise, giving youth the opportunity to learn the ropes of running a business while keeping the social purpose at the forefront.
  • YCV will be a stronger organisation, able to demonstrate the high quality of their services, and with a range of income streams that allow them to continue to serve underprivileged youth.

Want to be a part of supporting awesome programmes like this? The best way to do so is to give a regular gift – long-term programmes rely on long-term support.

Rohingya refugees: Finding hope amongst the hopelessness

Life in the Rohingya Refugee Camps.

The impending monsoon rains are bearing down on the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and there’s no getting around it – it’s going to be a really tough time.

I’ve just finished three weeks working for Oxfam’s Rohingya crisis response team in Cox’s Bazar and can remember one moment, standing in the pouring rain in the Rohingya refugee ‘mega-camp’. Everywhere I looked, ramshackle shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulins stretched into the distance.

People old and young were trying to find shelter from the downpour, and large puddles were quickly forming across the narrow brick road, with water running down sandy hillside paths.

As I was trying to take photos of a deep tube well Oxfam was drilling to provide clean water, numerous Rohingya refugees offered to take me into their shelters to stay dry, or brought me umbrellas. Such was the kindness of people who had endured unspeakable horrors that forced them from Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh.

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The camps are experiencing what they call the ‘pre-monsoon rains’ at the moment, where every couple of days a ferocious storm will hit for an hour or so. This rain is nothing like I’m used to.

The falling water has an almost physical quality, beating down on you, and the rain can be so heavy you struggle to see the other side of a road.

Trees are often blown over in the wind, and almost immediately, huge puddles form everywhere, slowing cars and trucks on the sandy, brick roads and draining into refugees’ flimsy shelters.

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It’s estimated that more than 600,000 people are living in the Rohingya refugee mega-camp alone – a population almost the size of Wellington, Dunedin and Hamilton combined.

The impact of the full monsoon on this many people in such desperate living conditions is what’s top of mind for aid workers. Yet despite this, I was struck by the way in which Rohingya refugees could find hope in what appeared to be a hopeless situation. They are denied citizenship in their country – they feel they have nowhere they belong and have nowhere to call home right now. No-one knows what their future holds.

They’re awaiting monsoon rains likely to bring floods, landslides and potentially deadly water-borne diseases. The United Nations (UN) estimates up to 200,000 people are living in at-risk areas of the camps.

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As much as 2.5 metres of rain could fall on the camps over the next three months. But, the refugees I met certainly weren’t hopeless or despairing.

Parents were working hard to strengthen their shelters or volunteering for charities like Oxfam as community health trainers or with the UN as camp labourers helping prepare the camps for the coming heavy rain.

Among them was a young woman I met called Ayesha*, who was 18 years old. She fled to Bangladesh with her mother and three siblings after their father was killed in the violence in Myanmar.

It took them nearly 5 days to get to Bangladesh by boat and foot; others weren’t so lucky and drowned when their boats sank.

Life is tough in the camps without a father or husband – women can get missed or sidelined at aid distributions, and culturally, young women are not supposed to go out alone.

But none of this had dampened Ayesha’s spirit. She put up her hand to volunteer and now runs community health training sessions with her neighbours and other women. 

She told me, “Now I work as an Oxfam volunteer, I teach people how to maintain good hygiene and I tell people what to do to have a good life. I feel good about it”.

As for the children, they played football wherever they could find space, and ran through the camps in happy bunches and practised English with aid workers – “goodbye, how are you, I am fine.”

*name changed to protect identity

Written by Dylan Quinnell, Senior Media Coordinator at Oxfam Australia.