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Empower Youth for Work (EYW) is a five-year programme, funded by the IKEA Foundation. The programme focuses on enabling young people (especially young women) in rural climate-affected areas of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Ethiopia to seek and obtain economic independence. To realize these goals, the programme applies a holistic approach to drive young people’s economic and overall empowerment through: 1) working on agency, capacity and skills; 2) linking young people to existing and new economic opportunities, including access to finance; and 3) creating an enabling environment by influencing social norms and policies that facilitate young men and women’s economic and overall empowerment.

In Ethiopia, the EYW programme is implemented in the Oromia and Somali regions in partnership with local implementing organizations and different stakeholders. Among other activities, the programme is working with the government to link youth groups with microfinance institutions so they can receive loans to start their own businesses.

To gain insights into the initial impact of participating in these youth start-ups on the skills and livelihoods of young people, the EYW programme conducted research in the Oromia region. The research findings indicate that although the youth businesses are only at the initial stages of making profit, all individuals and their families are already benefitting in various ways from their newly acquired incomes. In addition, most of the youth have diversified their businesses, indicating that they are developing an entrepreneurial mindset and searching for economic opportunities in their respective areas of work. Moreover, the communities they live in have became more supportive and inclusive towards youth who are participating in the start-ups. The research also shows the important function of youth groups in building the skills of participants.

Although the young people are positive about the training received, we see possibilities for improvement, including facilitating market linkages, ensuring regular follow-up and technical support, and creating linkages with different local and government sectors for field support and to ensure sustainability of the youth start-ups.

The EYW programme in Ethiopia concluded from the research that the youth start-ups show potential, and that the programme’s support to a guarantee fund appears to be an effective strategy to increase socio-economic empowerment among young men and women.

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