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PRESS RELEASE

'Youth Solutions!' Empowers Youth Led NGOs in South Asia

May 22, 2013

Shilpa Sayura Foundation from Sri Lanka, YPSA from Bangladesh, YUWA from Nepal, Live & Learn Environmental Education from the Maldives were the winners of the competition.

Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 21, 2013 Four innovative Youth Solutions were selected winners at the Regional Grant Competition, jointly organized by The World Bank, Microsoft Sri Lanka and Sarvodaya-Fusion. The competition titled ‘Youth Solutions! Technology for Skills and Employment’ was held at the Cinnamon Grand, Colombo on 21st May, with youth led NGOs from four nations- Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka participating.

Shilpa Sayura Foundation from Sri Lanka, YPSA from Bangladesh, YUWA from Nepal, Live & Learn Environmental Education from the Maldives were the winners of the competition that sought ideas from youth on how to use innovative and creative methods to promote Information Technology (IT) skills amongst youth, helping them to secure gainful employment.

Eight NGOs, two from each country, presented their shortlisted projects with the aim of being selected for the grant program.  A total of 80 project proposals were submitted, all  based on using ICT to address present day challenges faced by youth, such as lack of skills development and unemployment.

Each winning project received a grant between $15,000 and $20,000 to carry out a youth-led project for one year in duration, with the possibility of being scaled up via other public or private sector initiatives.

The high profile panel of judges comprised of Gabriela Aguilar, Senior Communications Officer for World Bank, South Asia, Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Country Manager of Microsoft Sri Lanka, Anurag Kak, Managing Director, Lafarge Mahaweli Cement (Pvt) Ltd., Ms Moji Akingbade, General Manager of Avery Dennison Lanka (Pvt) Ltd and Gaurav Mishra, Asia Vice President of Insights, Innovation & Social at MSLGROUP.  Innovation and creativity of methods to promote Information Technology (IT) skills amongst youth helping them secure gainful employment, capacity to demonstrate solutions to challenges faced by youth and encouraging innovation, learning and sharing were taken into consideration when assessing project proposals.

The project proposal submitted by Sri Lanka’s Shilpa Sayura Foundation, an organization aimed at empowering youth through ICT skills was to empower youth to produce 10 high impact films on current social issues. The project titled “Digital Rainbow” will train at least 100 youth to become film makers, a still developing industry in the country, which will offer great potential for interested youth.

Young Power In Social Action (YPSA), an organization dedicated to support and empower socially marginalized groups in Bangladesh, presented a proposal titled “Empowering Youth with Disabilities through market driven ICT skills.  It aimed at supporting the smooth transition to work of people with disabilities through the use of ICT training, internships on ICT, relevant job search support and producing Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) products.

The winner from Maldives was Live & Learn Environmental Education, an organization aimed at reducing poverty and working towards sustainable development with strong partnerships.  Their project aims to improve production and marketing of craft through an online portal. Youth will be engaged in training that would equip them with the ICT skills to make profitable employment through linking the segregated handicraft industry with the market.

YUWA, a Youth led organization with a mission mandate of empowering Nepali Youth for gainful employment presented a winning project which would use comprehensive e-learning methodology to equip youth with relevant ICT skills to improve employability. It will use blended technology organized in a comprehensive Learning Management System including new media, such as YouTube and podcasts to educate youth.

Replication of useful ideas throughout the region, improving public awareness on innovation and investment in ICT education for gainful employment, developing sustainable youth partnership for development impact and effectiveness, employment for youth and using ICT as a vehicle for promoting development objectives were important factors in the selection criteria.

Gabriela Aguilar, Senior Communications Officer for World Bank, South Asia said “This grant program conducted by The World Bank and Microsoft is an exciting opportunity to find and fund new solutions to youth unemployment in this region. South Asia is home to a large youth population, with over 1 million entering the labor force every month.”

According to The World Bank, South Asia created nearly 800,000 jobs per month between 2000 and 2010. However, despite growth, the region is still home to the largest number of the world’s poor - half a billion people. Since labor is the primary asset of the poor, having more and better jobs is the key employment challenge facing the region.

“We are confident that the solutions to many of the challenges facing the youth can come from within themselves, and we exceeded our expectations with the outcome,” Aguilar added.

Janakie Karunarathne, Manager, Community Affairs of Microsoft Sri Lanka, speaking on the programme, says that Microsoft is proud to have collaborated with the World Bank in this effort to capture the youthful enthusiasm and innovative aspirations of four countries.  “The youth NGOs chosen today from each respective country would work towards alleviating the challenges, such as lack of skills and unemployment in their individual countries through the use of Information and Communication Technology,” she added.

She also extended her gratitude to Sarvodaya-Fusion, the ICT for Development arm of Sarvodaya, the largest local Non-Governmental Organization operating in Sri Lanka, for the support they received in implementing the program adding that Microsoft shares a great rapport with both World Bank and Sarvodaya.