With newspaper headlines focused on violence and political upheavals across the Middle East and North Africa region, it is easy to forget that an annual beginning is also underway. Children from the Mashreq to the Maghreb have started going back to school. Parents are buying school supplies for little ones and millions of teenagers are going down a path that may shape their future careers. This week, Voices and Views presents Back to School 2013 - a series focused on the challenges that both teachers and students face in the region, and the policies and programs that can change a generation.
Children & Youth
Kelvin Doe found that batteries were too expensive for a project he was working on in 2009. He used acid, soda, and metal parts that he found in trash bins in his neighborhood to build his own battery. Doe, then a 13-year-old from Sierra Leone, constructed a generator to light his home and operate an FM radio station that he built. He now employs his friends at the radio station.
Peer learning has great potential as an effective tool for sharing knowledge and good practice. For it to work, the right environment is needed; one that is conducive to learning and knowledge-sharing. In a recent case in Georgia, however, it all came down to the right crowd, a great host and relevant experiences. Good food and nice weather may also have helped some.
From the exhilaration of popular revolution to the tragedy of ongoing conflict, the Middle East and North Africa region has occupied a prominent place in the headlines. Yet there is another, often silent, drama that is not receiving the attention it deserves. It is playing out in both rich and poor countries, albeit in different forms. A series of alarming statistics reveal an ongoing deterioration in the overall health of the people of the region.
“I never thought that a poor family could benefit so much by me giving just a small amount of money,” the old man said with an intrigued yet hopeful expression on his face. We were sitting in a small classroom in Aqaba, Jordan, chosen as part of a behavioral experiment on Social Safety Nets. Although I have worked on social issues for many years, this statement was eye-opening to me.
I am a business woman, an entrepreneur from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. I managed to start and grow two companies and a nonprofit in my lifetime. Does this show gender equality? I was neither welcome nor unwelcome by men into this field of work but I believed in something and made it happen. Can such an attitude contribute to changing the reality for women?
After going through the World Bank’s comprehensive study on gender in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, I have to say that gender equality took on a new dimension in my mind. This study covered all facets of gender equality – or inequality – depending on which part of the cup you are looking at, the half full or the half empty.
Launching a sustainable business goes well beyond learning how to draft a business plan or fill out a financing application. It involves a range of skills, both “hard” and “soft”, such as managing a start-up enterprise, motivating employees, assembling a cohesive team, tailoring a product to a well-defined market, adapting rapidly to fast-changing circumstances and consumer sentiment, and understanding how to convert an interesting technology into a viable business.
Let’s take a second and ponder over the word “Youth,” and play a game of word association. What comes to your mind? Given that I fall into the youth bucket, my list of associations is mostly positive, with a few exceptions. Yet, from a development perspective, youth can sometimes be perceived as the (excuse the word play) “problem child” demographic - What can we do with them, and how do we do it?
Did you know that approximately 1/5th of South Asia’s population lies between the ages 15 to 24? What is more, young adults also comprise 50% of the unemployed in the region. While many may view this as a sad state of affairs, Youth Solutions, the recent collaboration between Microsoft and the World Bank, viewed it as an opportunity for empowerment.
With investments in infrastructure and efforts to improve the business climate, Algeria is focused on creating the conditions for more robust and inclusive growth.