Meaningful youth engagement

Young refugee leaders demand more decent work opportunities

ILO PROSPECTS and the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth collaborated with the Global Refugee Youth Network (GRYN) to organize a virtual experience-sharing event to disseminate innovative solutions promoting decent jobs for forcibly displaced youth

News | 01 September 2023

“Structures, systems and policies need to become more inclusive to allow young refugees to access decent work opportunities and live a life of dignity,” asserted Deline Ramiro, a young refugee advocate and Operations & Partnerships Lead at the Solidarity Initiative for Refugees.

She was speaking at the virtual coffee chat, “Young Refugee Leaders Speak Up: Promoting Meaningful Youth Engagement”, co-organised by ILO PROSPECTS, the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth and the Global Refugee Youth Network (GRYN).

The event brought together young refugee leaders from around the world, offering them with an opportunity to share their stories, aspirations and hopes for the future. Through this virtual event, informal yet insightful dialogues unfolded with these leaders, effectively representing forcibly displaced youth in their respective communities.

In terms of outcomes, the event effectively captured ideas from these young thought leaders regarding how multilateral organizations like the ILO can ensure the incorporation of young individuals' needs and aspirations into youth employment interventions. Furthermore, the discussions delved into empowering these youth to achieve self-reliance and safeguarding their rights.

Milagros Lazo Castro, Youth Employment and Participation Officer with the ILO, elucidated, "The coffee chat was the culmination of a two-month-long virtual thematic discussion on the meaningful engagement of forcibly displaced youth, which took place on the Youth Foresight Community Forum to celebrate World Refugee Day 2023."

Throughout this two-month series of discussions on the forum, young refugees, youth employment practitioners, and broader stakeholders engaged in exchanging potential solutions and addressing challenges related to accessing decent work opportunities for forcibly displaced youth.

Rahildaris Marchena, a Venezuelan refugee and Digital Artist and Communications Specialist at GRYN, highlighted, "The lack of proper documents poses significant challenges for refugees attempting to integrate into host countries. They often face stigmatization and are denied access to education and employment opportunities."

Barthelemy Mwanza, a young Congolese refugee and member of the GRYN echoed this statement, stating, “Refugees often do not have the financial means to pursue higher education. Some have educational certificates from their home country, but they are not recognised while trying to access jobs in the host country, forcing many of them to engage in informal work.”

The coffee chat built on the discussions emerging from the Youth Foresight Community Forum. Makonda Ngenyibungi, a Congolese national and Gender, Diversity, and Education Advocate with GRYN, said, “Most refugees arrive in developing host countries, which have undersized formal labour markets. Moreover, skills mismatch makes it difficult for young forcibly displaced to enter the formal jobs. Without documentation and access to banking and financial services, entrepreneurship opportunities get restricted as well.”

Faridah Luanda, Gender and Diversity Coordinator at GRYN said, “Young refugees are vulnerable to exploitation, including forced labour and child labour. The degree of vulnerability further increases for young men and women with disabilities. Often, young refugee women are at a high-risk of facing gender-based violence.”

Amidst outlining these challenges, the young refugee leaders also shared pragmatic solutions they are actively implementing within their communities.

“We are leveraging the power of social entrepreneurship to support young refugees in becoming self-reliant and living dignified and meaningful lives,” highlighted Victor Mafigi Turatsinze, a young Congolese refugee and Co-founder of UNLEASHED, a refugee youth-led organisation in Nakivale settlement of Uganda.

Being assertive about their right to access decent work opportunities, Faridah added, “We need to invest time and resources in building the skills and capacities of refugee youth. Listen to young refugees and engage with them. We do not seek sympathy, we seek action.”

While the young refugees had diverse life experiences and perspectives, a shared sentiment united their appeal to the global community: “Young refugees and other forcibly displaced youth must be meaningfully engaged in shaping youth employment policies and programs that will impact their lives.”

Simon Marot Touloung, Networking and Advocacy Coordinator at GRYN summed it up by saying, “Refugee youth inclusion and their meaningful engagement cannot be an afterthought. Organizations should be resolute and committed to making this endeavour successful.”

As the voices of these determined young leaders reverberate globally, their stories, challenges, and solutions serve as a compelling call to action. It is imperative that organizations and societies at large heed their message and prioritize the meaningful engagement of forcibly displaced youth in shaping policies and programs that pave the way for a brighter tomorrow.

Know more about the PROSPECTS initiative on “Advancing Young People’s Engagement and Meaningful Participation”.