From June to November 2008, the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children conducted an assessment of educational and skills training opportunities available to displaced youth in Darfur. This report looks at the challenges and opportunities young people face; examines existing services targeting youth; identifies programming gaps; and provides recommendations on how donors, policymakers and field practitioners can more effectively support displaced youth in Darfur.
Almost six years into the current conflict in Darfur, there are very few education and skills building opportunities to meet the needs of a large and growing population of young people. The research found that the few programs that do exist are able to serve only a very small number of young women and men. According to available information, there are no secondary schools in the camps for displaced people and traveling to town to attend school is almost impossible due to school fees, travel distance and insecurity. Meaningful employment opportunities are sparse for young people as the conflict has disrupted traditional livelihoods and livelihood coping strategies across Darfur.
The study showed that while vocational and technical training programs do operate in Darfur, very few humanitarian agencies specifically target young women and men. Out of 124 local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), youth groups and UN agencies reviewed for this report, only 15 explicitly target youth (15-24 years old) and of those that did, 14 focus on education and/or livelihoods. Training programs that do exist face many programmatic challenges, including operating under increasingly insecure conditions and attempting to match longer-term education needs of young people with shorter-term donor funding cycles. Young women, rural youth and those with disabilities, in particular, have more difficulties accessing programs and services that do exist.
Within the UN humanitarian coordination system, no specific working group or sector is responsible for vocational training and/or youth. Reports indicated that attention to challenges facing young people and cross-organizational coordination is minimal.
Despite these challenges, information gathered highlighted how many young people continue to contribute to the welfare of their communities, such as volunteering to teach younger children and leading information campaigns.
With approximately 1.2 million young people in Darfur, a more coordinated and comprehensive approach to meeting their needs is required. Young women and men are a critical asset to the reconstruction and development of their country. If youth are not supported and do not see any opportunities for employment in their future, it can lead to negative coping strategies such as violence, alcohol abuse, involvement in illegal activities or recruitment into armed groups. Providing young people with educational opportunities, appropriate skills training and safe conditions in which they can learn and develop these skills will help to ensure that they are well-equipped to be active participants and leaders in the rebuilding of Darfur.