Creating jobs for young Colombians

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: November 24th, 2017

The international youth development NGOs Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) and Restless Development held a youth council meeting October 18-20 in Bogotá, Colombia. EARTH University was represented by graduate Julio Cordovilla (’15, Colombia), a member of the council’s working groups. Julio tells of his experience below.

How did you first learn of the assembly and decide to participate?

Someone from EARTH’s Office of Development reached out via email, informing me and other Colombian graduates of the opportunity. The problem of youth unemployment, in both my region and Colombia as a whole, is very complicated. The chance to study or to get a job is very scarce. I saw this event as an opportunity to contribute ideas that would represent rural youth, so they too have a voice in the decisions that affect them and can be part of the solution.

What did the workshop involve?

It convened young leaders between the ages of 18 and 30 to collaborate in a three-day workshop organized by Restless Development, an international nonprofit that fosters youth leadership to support the achievement of local and global sustainable development objectives, and by S4YE, a youth coalition that’s been around for 15 years with the clear goal of creating 100 million new youth jobs by 2030.

The workshop set out to respond to the following questions:

  • What solutions to youth unemployment are young people currently involved in or leading?
  • What’s the vision of young leaders regarding young people’s participation in the coalition S4YE?
  • What role could technology play to better comprehend or improve young people’s participation within the S4YE coalition?

What did you work on?

During the three days, we worked on sessions, such as:

  • Understanding the issue: reasons Colombian youths are unemployed; different economic, social, governmental barriers to employment; and possible solutions.
  • Mapping of the youth ecosystem: where youth initiatives – from NGOs, the public and private sectors and civil society – are being executed.
  • The participation ladder: the presentation of case studies identifying youth participation and empowerment in different situations, in which the first rung signifies the young people without participation in decision making, and the last rung includes the young people who must influence and direct the decisions in any and all sectors.
  • The role of technology in the transmission of information, knowledge and learnings.

Will you continue working with S4YE?

After the events in Colombia, South Africa and India, a six-member team was formed with two people from each of the countries. I am one of the Colombian representatives. As the S4YE Youth Review Team, we will oversee the making of recommendations to the final document, itself a product of the events held in the three countries. We will also bring different petitions before governments, NGOs and private companies, among others.

In an email, you mentioned that this meeting felt like returning to EARTH. Why is that?

For the intercultural exchange of knowledge and experiences between young people from different areas of the globe. I had the opportunity to meet incredible young Colombians, including Agner Quiñones, a young leader from Tumaco who works in silver jewelry projects; Maria Helena from Valle del Cauca, an entrepreneur with a venture called Belleza Negra (Black Beauty in English) that specializes in hairstyles celebrating Afro-Colombian culture; Claudia, a food-processing businesswoman; Lina Camacho from Casanare and Ximena Guerrero from Bogotá, who work in a creative sustainability agency called Rainbow Connection; Sebastián Perdomo from Bogotá, who works in the national congress; and Carolina Paredes of the foundation Save the Children.

What have you done since graduating?

From 2016 until mid-2017, I was working in the mayor’s office of my municipality (Sandoná) as director of the Municipal Technical Support Unit for Farming and Environment, where I was in charge of coordinating activities.

I was part of the construction of the municipal development plan, selected as one of the best in Colombia. With support from other state entities, we organized producer trainings, exploring aviculture, artisan crafts, horticulture, ecological agriculture and worm agriculture, among others.

In regards to the environment, we executed reforestation campaigns and started diversified waste collections (composting, recycling, etc.) at large events.

Just this month, I linked up with the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia) for a project called “New forest ranger families for prosperity”, for which I oversaw the environment in five municipalities where the project was implemented.

Why are you so passionate about working with young people and rural communities?

I hail from an agricultural area, of mainly coffee and sugarcane producers. Thanks to the trainings and experiences I had at EARTH University, I feel I can contribute to my community’s development.

At EARTH, you once said, “I came with a suitcase full of dreams, and now I have it full of experiences and learnings.” After having been graduated for almost two years, how have you applied the learnings you took home?

I had the opportunity to shape myself into a professional and grow as a human being at EARTH. I have been able to apply what I learned in many ways: from the humanism I use in my work with rural communities to the professionalism I employ in contributions to my region’s sustainable development.

Julio Cordovilla (’15, Colombia) (in the upper lefthand corner) with other S4YE event participants.

Julio Cordovilla (’15, Colombia) (in the upper lefthand corner) with other S4YE event participants.

Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) provides leadership and resources to serve as a catalyst for the creation of gainful employment for young people. The coalition brought together interested parties from the public sector, private sector and civil society to bond with one another while coordinating action to identify, study and develop successful solutions, while also scaling effective policies and investments to improve the situation.

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