The drive to ensure that youths are engaged in community development comes against a background where research has revealed that the youth in Malawi form 40% of the total population, indicating that Malawi is a youthful nation. It also comes in the wake of the knowledge that 15% of the youth in Malawi, aged between 15 and 24 (The National Youth Policy 2012) are unemployed. Most of such youths are idle or involved in petty piece works that cannot support their livelihoods. Commentators have always described the escalating levels of youth unemployment in Malawi as a ticking bomb if left unattended to.
Following up on a 2007 – 2008 project which the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO (MNCU) implemented, another Youth Entrepreneurial Project which is currently being implemented has embraced the same aim of empowering youths with knowledge, skills, and attitudes that can enable them embark on small scale business enterprises in order to up-lift their living standards. While the 2007-2008 project provided a once off starter pack to vulnerable youths, this time the project instituted a self help group approach with non sharing of savings and a revolving fund to enable more youths benefit from the resources. MNCU partnered with Consol Homes who monitor the revolving fund.
The Youth Entrepreneurial Project is in tandem with Government’s policy on youth development. The current Government has, in its national development agenda, prioritised youth entrepreneurship. It has thus embarked on building Community Technical Colleges where youths are being trained in various community development skills with the aim of ensuring that youths become part of Government's development agenda and that the youths are engaged or self employed. Currently Government has plans to open a Community Technical College in every Traditional Authority. This project will therefore complement Government’s efforts for youth engagement and community development through youth entrepreneurship programmes that are responsive to the needs of rural communities.
A module was developed with topics on: Self Help Groups; A Culture of Peace; Goal Setting and Aims; Democracy; Savings and Loans; Role of Parliament; Record keeping and Loan Management; Gender; Basic Business; Basic Business Practice; Youth Participation; Individual and Group Business; Human Rights; Communication and Leadership; Business Plans; Conflict Management; and Problem Solving. Using the module, 80 youths in TA Kalolo were oriented over a period of 10 days.
Under this initiative the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO:
(a) Promoted and adapted methodologies for assessing the level of inclusiveness and social sustainability of public policies and regulatory frameworks in Malawi;
(b) Conducted a coordinated and participatory national policy analysis and review, identification of policy good practices and gaps, and formulation of recommendations for policy reform;
(c) Provided technical support and policy advice to the then Ministry of Gender and Community Services and duty- bearers for the operationalization of the policy scenarios, and the design of socially inclusive policies and planning processes that acknowledge and take into consideration the roles and contributions of women and men.