Due to lack of social-economic empowerment, youth today are at risk of being forced into exploitation, early marriage and childbirth, and face negative health outcomes. Many youth are living under poverty due to unemployment, a barrier to their burgeoning potential. Such threats affect their future plans, seriously diminishing their career opportunities and perpetuate the intergenerational cycle of inequality and poverty.
There is increasing recognition that social and economic factors are critical components of each young person’s journey to determining their own future. Economic limitations are frequently referenced as a barrier to a youth’s social mobility. To this end, a set of specific actions are proposed which are both a pathway to greater social and economic empowerment and enablers to help address the economic barriers. When young people are socially and economically empowered, they have the skills to determine their own future and can address the multitude of challenges that face them, such as health, education, and employment.
Many young persons in Uganda are involved in the worst forms of unhealthy employment while others are choking in dire poverty. Millions of these are primary school dropouts while others completed lower secondary “O, level” with a few upper secondary school, “A, level “certificate holders. Issues like these are social and economic in cause, and their multi-layered solutions can be strengthening the focus on social and economic empowerment.
When young people are socially and economically empowered they will be more likely to complete their education, reduce health risks, avoid exploitation and secure a sustainable livelihood. This is important for those working to advance the well-being of young people, including, government, not for profit organizations like Rose Namayanja Foundation (RNF) and private sector entities.
Social-economic empowerment helps young people to self-determine, and to achieve their goals. The application of social and economic capabilities, when combined with access to appropriate financial services, provide the foundation which contribute to a young person’s social agency and financial health. When young people fully develop these two elements, they enhance their social and economic empowerment.
To take hold of economic opportunities and navigate the complexities of modern society, youth have to acquire social, financial and livelihood competencies as they mature into adulthood, including essential skills, positive attitudes and responsible behaviors. Therefore, social-economic empowerment of youth is fundamental for national development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Efforts to increase social and economic empowerment should be embedded across development areas related to children and youth. When this happens there are substantial benefits. Successful youth empowerment initiatives hinge on strong partnerships between government authorities, educational institutions, private sector entities and financial service providers.
The successful empowerment programme will reduce poverty, increase economic opportunities, reduce inequalities and promote peaceful and inclusive societies for current and future generations. It is therefore, the responsibility of government authorities, corporate entities and youth serving organizations to pursue policies and practices that allow young people to be more socially and economically empowered citizens.