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Embrace volunteerism to tackle youth unemployment

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Added 5th December 2017 03:05 PM

Uganda is ranked the youngest population in the world, with 77% of its population being under 30.

Embrace volunteerism to tackle youth unemployment

Uganda is ranked the youngest population in the world, with 77% of its population being under 30.

OPINION | VOLUNTEERING

By Geoffrey Kaweesa

Today (December 5, 2017), marks 32 years of the 'International Volunteer Day' (IVD). The day which is celebrated on every December 5 was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985.  IVD provides volunteer organizations and individual volunteers with the opportunity to raise the public awareness of their contributions to economic and social development at local, national and international levels.

The Day, is celebrated worldwide with thousands of volunteers involved in a range of events as diverse as the volunteers themselves.  Events include clean-up campaigns, conferences, exhibitions, morning teas and many other activities all aimed at highlighting the role of volunteers in their communities.

According to Wikipedia, Uganda is ranked the youngest population in the world, with 77% of its population being under 30 years of age. Being a young population, it faces a number of challenges including, but not limited to Unemployment; 
Uganda's unemployment rates are among the highest in the world, with reports indicating that 32 per cent of young people are out of work. After youth-led revolts across the Arab world, some warn that sub-Saharan Africa, need to improve young people's prospects to avoid social unrest.

According to statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (U.B.O.S) and Uganda Investment Authority (U.I.A), of the more than 400,000 young Ugandans who enter the labor market each year, only about 113,000 are absorbed in formal employment, leaving the rest to settle for jobs in the informal sector.

Research also shows that the majority of youth are not only jobless but unemployable as well, noting a disconnection between what is taught in school, and what employers look for among their would be potential employees. Despite policies aimed at enhancing the quality and availability of gainful employment, youth unemployment has remained a major problem to the country.

Available data shows that youth unemployment is worse in urban areas, at about 40 per cent. Only 21 per cent are in paid employment. In the slummy areas of Makindye Division that include:  Katwe Kinyoro, Nabisaalu, Nsambya Kirombe, Nsambya Kevina, Ndeeba and Namasuba among others, Youth unemployment is recorded at over 90 percent, and this pushes young people in these areas into committing crime. In an effort to earn a living and survive in the city, young people are forced to engage in organized crime through which they robe people. Groups such as: KIFEESI is one of those operating in Makindye Division.

Although the government of Uganda has made "investing in young people" one of its fundamental social obligation - by making it the fifth pillar of Uganda's Poverty Eradication Action Plan (Expired in 2008) which was the country's overall national planning framework, the soaring unemployment among young people is an indicator that it still has a lot of ground to cover.

The report is a product of an e-discussion with the youth and representatives of youth-led organisations on the transition from schools and training institutions into the world of work.

Respondents mentioned that corruption and preferential family and political connections pose a disadvantage to most youth, as only those people who are well placed in society appear to have access to decent jobs.

According to the report, Youth unemployment poses a serious political, economic, and social challenge to the country and its leadership.  The cycle is making it increasingly difficult for Uganda to break out of poverty. Young women also more often have to stay at home in a maternal role at a very young age which limits their ability to work, and contribute to national development.

To avert such challenges, young people therefore need to shift their goal posts by presenting themselves to their would-be employers as agents of social change and development within their communities. This will not only enable them acquire relevant skills that will make them employable, but will also enable the country (Uganda) breed socially responsible citizens who will fully participate in the development of their respective communities, and the country at large.

You can do volunteer work from your home, in your neighborhood or in almost any setting around the world. This flexibility makes it easy to find projects that are convenient and suit your life goals. Volunteer from home and develop your knitting skills to make caps for premature babies. Or build your professional and personal skills in locations far from home with volunteer organisations that work exclusively overseas, and through this experience, you will gain the following benefits among others:

Volunteer work is an important part of your resume. A history of volunteering demonstrates your commitment to the community and a willingness to work for the betterment of others. Many businesses have their own volunteer program, or support local programs. Employees who volunteer build a positive reputation for their business in the community's eyes.

Volunteer work is important for your health. The Corporation for National and Community Service says that volunteering improves psychological and physical health. Volunteers reap the benefits of feeling a personal sense of accomplishment while building social networks that, in turn, support them in times of stress.
The more we give, the happier we feel. Volunteering increases self-confidence and self-esteem. Knowing you are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity.
 
There are a huge range of skills and opportunities you can acquire through volunteering, starting with: Industry-related skills, the ability to work in a team, leadership skills, problem solving and adaptability skills, communicating with clients and stakeholders, the ability to plan and prioritize work, sales skills, time management skills, report writing skills, improved interpersonal skills, self-confidence and motivation, making a difference, meet new people.

And make new friends, thus, useful contacts, be part of a community, learn new skills, take on new challenges and overcoming them.  Volunteering is a way to gain a lot of skills that can be transferred into a workplace. These skills include; confidence, communication, responsibility, teamwork and innovation. Becoming a volunteer will also provide you with experience which is great for personal gain, but it will also be a good addition to your CV as it will help you to stand out, as it has allowed you to network and meet new people and more opportunities.

Most importantly, from the process of volunteering, young people will gain a sense of personal satisfaction gained by assisting another person which will enhance their social awareness. Volunteering to help others less fortunate illustrates a depth of care and compassion for others which many employers and college admissions boards appreciate.

In order to get started volunteering, you will need a few things:
1. Determine a need or interest in your community.
2. Consult with the people already in charge of that area
3. Volunteer your time and talents to improve the need.
These collective experiences can be added to your work/volunteer history that you may cre ate for subsequent work, as well as college/ University applications.

Volunteering also offers a way to re-connect with the working world after a break, and an opportunity to supercharge your existing talents. Unlike paid work, the requirements for volunteering are more likely to be linked to your passions and interests, rather than extensive work experience.

Volunteers are the most important resource community organizations have. The ability of people to work willingly together for the betterment of their community and themselves is a valuable resource. The image of the volunteer has changed over time.

By becoming a volunteer in your community you can make a change by letting your voice be heard within society, allowing you to express your thoughts and opinions on certain issues that have occurred that you have previously not been given a say in. This could inspire more events or services that could gradually assist more people.

Volunteers also have an enormous impact on the health and well-being of communities worldwide, which allows society to thrive due to the assistance of young volunteers. From volunteering, the community will also gain a generation of young people who care about where they live and are willing to make a commitment to improve society (Socially Responsible Citizens).

As a Volunteer though, you are advised to pay attention to the following roles and responsibilities; Be punctual for your volunteer duty or shift, Understand the role of the paid staff, maintain a smooth working relationship with them and stay within the bounds of the volunteer role, Keep sensitive organizational information confidential, Comply with the policies and procedures of the organization, among others.
The writer is the managing director of Volunteers for Change Uganda

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