What I’ve Learned as a Youth Think Tank Member

2015-2016 Youth Think Tank member, Anne Mapendo, writes about her experience.

In partnership with Restless Development, the 2015-2016 MasterCard Foundation Youth Think Tank consists of 15 young women and men between the ages of 15-24 from across East Africa. What unites them is a commitment to contributing to their communities and understanding the challenges and opportunities facing young people as they enter the labour market. This is one of their stories.

As part of the Youth Think Tank, I learned how to lead and conduct research and analyze data. I gained communication, listening and self-awareness skills, while also improving my confidence. What surprised me about the research was finding that youth are not always aware of the opportunities that have been established for them.

It is important to engage youth in research because youth are most familiar with all activities that concern them.  It is easier for youth to communicate and share ideas with their peers.

Youth are tomorrow’s leaders, so they need to be trained now and engaged in different activities for them to be prepared sooner rather than later.

Based on what I learned from the research I conducted, my recommendations to improve youth economic opportunities are as follows:

  • Work with youth to help them truly understand their passions. If they know what they are passionate about, then they will have a direction and goals to work towards.
  • Balance youth economic opportunities in rural and urban areas.  Our research found that youth in rural areas aren’t as engaged in opportunities available to them as those in urban areas.
  • Youth also need to look for and be informed of all opportunities that are available to them. Young people can’t sit and wait for something to fall into their laps. They need to engage themselves in various activities in order to generate income and ask for help when they need it.
  • All Youth Think Tank members should continue to network and connect with each other. Alumni should help each other by sharing information about different opportunities and ideas for youth empowerment, employment and entrepreneurship.

By sharing our findings from the research, I hope that young people will learn a lot and help them to change and improve their lives.

The skills I gained as part of the Youth Think Tank are ones that I have started applying in my everyday life. I will continue to use these skills because I know they will lead me to the best performance in my work.  For example, I will use my communication skills to share with others what I’ve learned from my research. And there is nothing I can do if I don’t have self-confidence. So I will apply all the skills I gained as a Youth Think Tank member in my day-to-day life.