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Young Leader’s-SL CEO statement to members

Young Leader’s-SL CEO statement to members

Dear Colleagues, Partners, and Supporters,

29 July 2010 marked the 5th anniversary since Young Leaders-Sierra Leone (YLSL) was officially launched in Sierra Leone by the then President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, HE Dr Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, ably represented by Vice President Mr Solomon Berewa in 2005.  However, the organisation had been in action a couple of years prior this date, since 2003.  Such anniversary could naturally spark a moment of celebration and a lavish party, which of course would have involved you all.  I’m afraid no such party is planned.  But, we just want to use this opportunity to say a VERY BIG THANK YOU to all of you for your help and support over these challenging years.

Young Leaders-Sierra Leone has come a long way and working with each and every one of you, we’ve accomplished great things we couldn’t have achieved without you.

  • Such as the Sierra Leone Youth Empowerment Conferences, which brought Sierra Leonean youth from all walks of lives in Sierra Leone and abroad to a platform where we constructively discussed ways we could all work to participate effectively in the national development of our country.
  • Such as engaging with youth groups, individuals and stakeholders to strongly advocate for policies on youth to genuinely benefit the youth.  One notably example is our partnership with several youth groups in Sierra Leone and the daispora late last year, we launched a nationwide awareness campaign on key aspect of the draft National Youth Commission Bill.
  • Young Leaders-Sierra Leone, along with a coalition of youth groups and key stakeholders launched in 2007 “The Young People’s Youth Manifesto”.  This Manifesto outlined a compendium of recommendations on issues of concern for all young people in Sierra Leone. The objective of the Manifesto was to ensure that the issues and needs of young people were represented in the electorate process and adopted into the manifestos of the key political parties during the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
  • In the same year we lunched the “Youth Development Fund”, aimed at providing funds towards youth development initiatives developed and implemented by young people. The then Deputy Minister of Education Youth and Sports was present to officially lunch this initiative.

The list of the significant work we’ve done, in the area of leadership, advocacy, networking and partnership building, is endless and can go on and on.  Today, as we mark our anniversary, we just want to say to you all that we appreciate so much every single contribution you have made to the youth cause.  But, there is much more work to be done and we must not sit back.

Our colleagues in Sierra Leone continue to face major challenges.  They suffer the most from unemployment; they sleep in the roughest of places; they face deliberate marginalisation; they suffer the worse form of poverty unimaginable; they die young because of poor health facilities.  We must cry out loud that this social injustice and social exclusion must stop! And it must stop now!

It is profoundly disappointing to see a young person who had spent 12 years in school, 10 years of extreme suffering during the civil war, 3 years acquiring higher education, and unemployed at the age of 30.  This is the depressing reality for most of our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone – it is no surprise some people in their forties are happy to call themselves youth.  This is a total destruction of a human being.

There are many ways we can all work together with youth groups, policy-makers and other stakeholders to reverse the numerous problems youth face in Sierra Leone.

You may be aware that the World Bank has recently announced it is committing US$20 million to support youth employment in the country.  While this money isn’t enough, considering the magnitude of youth unemployment and the numerous problems the youth face, it is a step in the right direction.  It is up to us now to make sure that the intended result is achieved in the end.

In Young Leaders-Sierra Leone at present, we are going through reflection processes and building our organisational capacity.  This will make us better able to deal with the many challenges that we face, and also to be better able to capitalise on opportunities to help make a better place for the youth.

One thing is very obvious amongst many young people in present day Sierra Leone.  That is there is a strongly feeling of disillusion amongst them in connection with their standard of living.  However, there is also a strong atmosphere of hope for a better future.  So the question this poses is: How can we all work together to keep this hope alive?

Thank you for your attention and let’s celebrate our achievements and prepare for the future.

With best wishes,

Unisa Dizo-Conteh, President of Young Leaders-Sierra Leone, From 2009 – present.

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