What are Y&Y Fellows doing to promote youth economic empowerment?

Written by: Marcela Lessa

One in four people alive today is a young person aged 15 to 29: that’s nearly 1.8 billion in total, of whom close to 90% live in developing countries. 621 million young people are not in education, employment or training, and other 75 million young people are trained but have no job. The youth unemployment rate has remained high since the global financial crisis, a profound economic impasse which has cast a shadow on the prospects of youth in many nations. The record rates particularly hurt people who don’t go to university and gain qualifications and skills to navigate the fast-changing modern economy. Whether or not youth are enrolled in school, receiving training or working, has important implications for future economic growth, development, and stability. If overlooked, youth unemployment has the potential to have serious social repercussions even leading to social exclusion and unrest.

In 2015, the world signed up to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, an ambitious set of targets to be achieved by 2030. Be it ending poverty or pushing back climate change, getting close to these goals will depend largely on the ability of today’s global youth to rise to the challenge. Yunus&Youth Fellows Larissa Moreira and Osama Bin Noor come from two completely different parts of the world but have both realized that there is a way to help young people acquire the skills they need to get into the workforce and are relentlessly working to create bridges between opportunity seekers and opportunity providers for mutually beneficial development through sharing free information.

22-year-old Larissa Moreira is a Brazilian social entrepreneur from Betim, Minas Gerais. Her mother, a public school teacher, has always encouraged her curiosity and eagerness to learn. When Larissa was in High School, she learned about the Young Ambassadors Program an initiative by the Embassy and Consulate of the United States of America in Brazil through the Brazilian Department of Education’s website. The program receives applications from all over the country and targets students who are examples in their communities, in terms of leadership, positive attitude, volunteer work, and academic excellence. There was only one obstacle between Larissa and the opportunity to spend three weeks in Washington D.C. participating in meetings with public and private sector organizations, visiting schools and social projects, and joining workshops on leadership and young entrepreneurship: her knowledge of the English language. During an entire year, Larissa was determined to better her oral and written English communication skills and in 2014, she was one of the 37 public school students selected between 12,000 applicants. This was an eye-opening opportunity for her, she had just discovered how much she had yet to learn.

Back at her hometown, speaking at a school to promote the Young Ambassadors Program, she realized that most public school students don’t even know such opportunities existed. Because of so many people and organizations are involved, the information about great programs take a long time to reach the most interested audience: the students. She realized then that the best way to promote learning opportunities was through the internet directly to the students. Larissa mapped other two great barriers for low-income students not having access to more educational opportunities: first, even though there are many opportunity platforms worldwide, less than 3% of the Brazilian population speaks fluent English and second, Brazil is one of the most socially unequal countries in the world, and the majority of public school students end up being left out of opportunities because of lack of financial means.

Larissa Moreira, together with co-founder Álex Filipe Santos, created InspiraSonho, an online platform entirely in Portuguese that connects students to meaningful learning experiences outside of the classroom. InspiraSonho empowers youth educational journey by providing information on completely free extracurricular activities or scholarships, preparing students to application processes, and training teachers to support students on their development. There are more than 10 thousand registered users on the platform, and other 55,000 who check opportunities regularly. The Ambassadors Community Program has a network of 85 young people who are able to reach out to more than 5,000 students in all Brazilian states.

27-year-old Osama Bin Noor is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur from Dhaka who started YouthOpportunities (YO) as a Facebook Group back in 2012 when he was still in school. Osama believes that discovering new opportunities is what young people need to unlock their potential. When more than 30,000 people joined the community in less than a month, he realized it was time to make a greater move. In 2014, Osama took a loan from a friend and created the website. Four years later, YO is the largest opportunities discovery platform for youth across the globe. The Bangladeshi government has supported the social business develop a mobile app and Bengali language website.

Before founding Youth Opportunities, Osama was no stranger to social development and positive impact organizations. Growing up with a philanthropist father, he spent his childhood involved in volunteering programs and is a proud blood donor, having contributed more than 20 times. Osama is passionate about helping people and worked for Volunteer for Bangladesh for over seven years promoting volunteerism.


Interested in connecting with Larissa and Osama?

Visit https://www.inspirasonho.com.br/ and https://www.youthop.com/.

Or drop an email at larissa@inspirasonho.com.br and osama@youthop.com.

Applications for the 2019 Yunus&Youth Fellowship Program are now open!

Click here to apply! Deadline: February 18th, 2019 11:59 EST