How three RSA Fellows are fighting global inequalities standing in the way of young people
Many young people, repeatedly told they cannot look forward to the security of jobs, home ownership, or a functioning planet on which to procreate, were struggling even before the pandemic. This issue’s Global profiles the projects of three young RSA Fellows all focused on improving the quality of life for young people by rectifying inequality of access, of representation and of information. Or, put another way, each seeks to rectify the inequality of hope.
Sharmi Surianarain, FRSA, is Chief Impact Officer at the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, a not-for-profit social enterprise creating solutions for youth unemployment in Rwanda and South Africa. Johanssen Obanda, FRSA, is the Executive Director of Jabulani Youths for Transformation (JAY4T), where he works to co-create social enterprises with young people in Kisumu, Kenya. The Green Line, a Toronto-based online news source with a unique core editorial model, is the brainchild of Canadian journalist Anita Li, FRSA.
Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator works with government, the private sector, civil society and more than 1.5 million youth partners to support opportunities for young people in Rwanda and South Africa. During the pandemic, it was forced to find innovative ways to use technology to bridge the gap between youth and earning opportunities. After shifting online, Harambee developed multiple channels of support for youth to engage with its work, including radio shows, WhatsApp chatbots, traditional landlines, and learner management systems. In 2021, it launched SAYouth, a ‘datafree’ website (its content is available to users without mobile data costs) connecting young people across South Africa to local earning and learning opportunities.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, JAY4T helps young people to navigate the economic and environmental challenges present in Kisumu, where six out of 10 youth are unemployed, homeless, involved in criminal activity or problems at school, or abusing substances due to increasing socioeconomic uncertainties, including the impact of Covid-19. JAY4T uses a ‘Positive Youth Development’ approach, which optimises the constructive development of young people within their communities, with an emphasis on co-creating ways of working. The project is hosting a series of ‘mind-shift camps’, which help young people to engage in skills learning with an overall goal to “transform Africa and live up to their lives” and enable young people to work together to take action and create sustainable solutions.
The Green Line is an online news source dedicated to serving “Gen Zs and Millennials, as well as other underrepresented communities”. After two decades in journalism, founder Anita Li set out to create a more self-aware, inclusive, equitable and community-driven local and solutions-oriented outlet in Toronto. The Green Line approaches issues with an innovative four-step editorial process: the ‘explainer’ sets up the problem or issue in clear, easy-to-understand language; the ‘feature’ provides a deep dive into the issue; the ‘event’ brings together writers, sources and community members to connect and brainstorm ‘solutions’, which are then published in article form. The Green Line focuses on hyper-local reporting and the use of nuance and bridge-building to combat polarisation. It seeks to empower people, particularly younger people, with knowledge as a means of generating actionable ideas and solutions.
Leah Clarkson is the Editor of RSA Journal
Follow Leah Clarkson on Twitter here: @LK_Clarkson
This article first appeared in the RSA Journal Issue 2 2022.