—Mercy Corps dedicates Bushrod Island Youth Center
The Liberia Employment and Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP) funded by the Government of France, through the Agency French Development (AFD) is expected to provide market-driven skills and employment opportunities for11,000 Liberian youth (50% men, 50% women) between the ages of 18-35 who are impacted by unemployment in Montserrado, Margibi, and Grand Bassa Counties.
The LEEP project will be implemented by Mercy Corps Liberia. Mercy Corps had initiated earlier its (LEEP) activities with a kick-off event on February 18, 2020, at which time the first of three youth opportunity centers located on Jamaica Road, Bushrod Island, was dedicated by the Minister of Youth and Sports, D. Zeogar Wilson along with Ms. Mathilde Richelet, AFD Project Officer in Liberia, and Ms. Nina Taka, Mercy Corps Interim Country Director.
Mercy Corps in close partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports will operate the three youth opportunity centers. The Monrovia Youth Opportunity Center will serve youths in Montserrado County while the two other centers will be located in Buchanan for Grand Bassa County, and Kakata, Margibi County to serve people of those counties.
The kick-off event started with LEEP Team Leader, Mr. Mwesigwa Bikie Isharaza, giving an overview of the program. He said LEEP has three interlinked and mutually reinforcing objectives that address constraints to both youth labor demand and labor supply.
“First, LEEP will build the self-confidence of youth by training them to succeed as employees or entrepreneurs. The program will then connect them to formal opportunities in the workforce or to small business development support,” said Isharaza.
Isharaza said LEEP will expand its engagement with the private-sector through business accelerators that will provide support to firms poised to create youth employment opportunities or correct labor market failures. Finally, LEEP will create partnerships that will identify and nurture talent in the nascent technology and entrepreneurship space.
According to him, Mercy Corps had previously worked with the Ministry of Youth and Sport (MOYS) and intends to deepen this relationship which is both strategic and critical in delivering this project and its services to the youth.
Clarifying the direct role of the MOYS, he said, “The LEEP program will provide technical and material support to MOYS to facilitate experiential learning for young people under the National Youth Service Program (NYSP), the Youth On-the-job Training Scheme (YOJT) and selected sports clubs in the targeted counties.”
The National Youth Service Program will support highly skilled young Liberians who have recently graduated from universities to participate in a one-year national service scheme.
The project aims to provide an opportunity for university and college graduates to support the provision of public education, health/ Sexual Reproductive Health, agriculture and youth center management services at the community level through volunteer services.
The YOJT scheme will provide hands-on work experience for young Liberians; while the LEEP will target semi-literate and illiterate youth. Beneficiaries will receive on the job technical apprenticeship training at various technical trade workshops such as mechanic shops, carpentry, welding and metalwork shops.
Ten sports clubs will benefit from material and technical support that will be used to develop critical life skills for the targeted young people.
Mercy Corps Interim Country Director Ms. Nina Taka said Mercy Corps has been working in Liberia since 2002 delivering youth empowerment and employment, energy, maternal health, advocacy, and school feeding programs.
Ms. Taka said Mercy Corps currently has five programs operating in Liberia. She further stated that Mercy Corps will always aim at making a positive difference in the lives of participants.
“While we have specifically youth-facing programs, the majority of our work in Liberia has youth programs threaded into it. Mercy Corps works in close collaboration with the Government of Liberia, civil society organizations. We strongly believe in the power of partnerships to leave a sustainable solution or pattern that government and civil society organizations can carry on to create better living conditions for our participants after Mercy Corps is gone,” she added.
“Partnerships are the only true way, to build a sustainable future for ourselves, and for those, on whose shoulders we all have been given the chance to thrive. The Government of France, through its development agency, AFD, working in close collaboration with the Government of Liberia and civil society organizations such as Mercy Corps are an example of partnerships we all should be proud of. I hope the young people who walk through these gates, and along with our partner Ministry of Youth and Sports, will seize this opportunity to learn, earn and make a difference in their lives and those around them,” Taka said.
She thanked the French Government, (and the people of France), the Government of Liberia, making this occasion a reality.
AFD Project Officer in Liberia, Ms. Mathilde Richelet said she was excited that the LEEP project had kicked off and that activities that will assist youth in generating ideas and creating an entrepreneurship mentality have started.
Ms. Richelet emphasized the need to make the program sustainable to help young people run businesses and, in particular, ensure that women build their skills and self-confidence to compete favorably in the labor market.
She expressed hope that Mercy Corps will work closely with the other programs that AFD is supporting in Liberia in order to leverage efforts and learn from each other.
D. Zeogar Wilson, Minister of Youth and Sports announced that LEEP is the fruit of the discussions that President George Weah had with President Emmanuel Macron during an official visit to the Republic of France in 2018.
Minister Wilson said he was very grateful to see this effort come to fruition since youth employment remains a government’s vital priority.
He stated that LEEP intends to create employment and education opportunities for many young people to become vibrant, resourceful and involved contributors to nation-building.
Wilson acknowledged that youth unemployment in Liberia remains high and added that more than 75 percent of young people who are employed are in the informal sector or could be vulnerably employed.
He reiterated that the government’s Pro-Poor Agenda is designed to mitigate some of the constraints to the professional growth of young people by creating employment opportunities through collaborations between public, private and civil society organizations, and thanked both the Government of France and Mercy Corps Liberia for the partnerships such as these, that are providing meaningful and positive changes to the people of Liberia.
He called on all stakeholders especially young people to take advantage of the services and opportunities being offered.