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Since 2004, Sharek Youth Forum has assumed a pioneering role in the design and implementation of programmes to enrich youth skills and experiences, and to increase their competitive advantage in the labour market. These successes led to the establishment of the now independent Palestinian Center for Youth Economic Empowerment (CYEE) in 2011.
Structural barriers to economic growth in Palestine, primarily caused by the Israeli occupation, have led to exceedingly high unemployment rates, with young people most severely impacted. Currently 1 in 4 young people in Palestine are unemployed. Sharek believes that gainful employment is a basic human right and underpins all other socio-economic rights. We therefore take a human rights- based approach to our interventions, aiming for long-term structural change. With a recognized gap between the skills learned in traditional education and the actual needs of the labour market, it is clear that young people need options.
That is why we work closely with the private sector and higher education institutions to bridge this gap. At the same we encourage youth to consider non-traditional economic options, such as pursuing vocational training or establishing their own start-up. When there are over 20,000 graduates every year and the market is only able to absorb 5,000, it is time to think outside the box. We place a special emphasis on young women, noting that women are the most marginalised in the labour force.
Through our economic empowerment programmes, we:
- Develop the capacity of Palestinian youth, providing them with technical and life skills\
- Help them to access gainful employment
- Create new start-ups and enterprises
- Expose them to new ideas and opportunities through guest lectures, field trips, and experiential learning
We do this through a mixture of employability and entrepreneurship trainings, experiential learning, and career guidance.
Most critical to our approach is that we focus on young people holistically, taking into account their interests, experience, skills, and ambitions to assist them in developing a long-term career plan. We do not see young people as insignificant in the economic structure, but as essential proponents to growing and developing the Palestinian economy to reach its potential.
Name: Tamayyaz ('Excellence')
Background: Youth unemployment is rife in Palestine. The chasm between the Palestinian labour market and educational system has led to increasingly widening youth unemployment, worsened by the general paucity of jobs in Palestine.
Project Summary: Running for 6 years now, it is the only truly national programme of this nature, developing a network of youth across the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. The programme is implemented in partnership with the private sector, Palestinian universities, and civil society organisations.
Grounded in the 3 pillars of self-development, guided learning, and active citizenship, the Tamayyazprogramme holistically empowers young people to become more employable, active, and engaged citizens. This approach ensures that youth are not seen only as cogs within the labour force, but as individual human beings with their own needs and objectives. Through visits, guest lectures, and trainings, the programme entrenches experiential learning, a key facet of its ongoing success. In contrast to the general situation of youth, over 90% of previous Tamayyaz graduates are employed, volunteering, or continuing their studies.
Name: Women in Non-traditional Industries
Background: Women's participation in the labour force is startlingly low at 18% in Palestine. Out of those 18%, 62% are unemployed. While unemployment is afflicting the entire population in Palestine, women, particularly young women, are among the hardest hit. Through our comprehensive gender strategy, we have learnt that this is further exacerbated by both vertical and horizontal obstacles in the labour market.
Women are both prevented from reaching high positions in their field of choice as well as limited in the fields in which they can even participate. Concurrently, the vocational sector has not yet been explored by young people, especially young women, as a viable option to the traditional educational stream of university. Yet, vocational graduates have the highest employment rates.
Project Summary: A recent initiative, this project aims to encourage young women to consider non-traditional vocations as a viable alternative to traditional sectors. By doing so, the project overcomes both the vertical and horizontal segregation in the labour force, and empowers young women to consider new options that were previously not available to them. In order to do so, we fund gender-sensitised courses for young women in areas traditionally dominated by men. We also pair this with an advocacy campaign, encouraging both employers and young women to rethink their perceptions of what women can do in the workplace.
Name: Step Forward
Background: Palestinian youth have been severely affected by economic barriers in the West Bank, particularly women. Closure of borders, restrictions on movements, and lack of supplies have contributed to the high rates of unemployment among youth in general, and among females in particular because of the limited access to jobs, livelihood opportunities, access to services, loss of productivity potentials and drop in economic activities. Furthermore, a gap between the skills acquired by young graduates at university and those required by the labour force has led to further unemployment.
Project Summary: Pioneering a new approach to women's participation in the labour force, this project contributes to the promotion of women's economic and social rights.Our approach pairsemployment skills training and practical experience, in order to increase women's access to employment, and has shaped our strategic approach to women's economic empowerment. This initiative focuses on improving the 'supply' side in the labour force, by ensuring that young women are appropriately skilled for the market. To this end, young women's employment skills were improved as well as their knowledge of the career options available to them. Furthermore, the intervention helped increase connectionsbetween young women and potential employers. Most importantly, grounded in the findings of this project we have developed a 5-year gender strategy, which will inform Sharek's programming until 2021, mainstreaming gender into all of our programmes.
Name: Ta3mal Employability Platform
Background: Youth unemployment remains high across the Middle East and particularly so in Palestine. The Ta3mal employability platform was launched in 2012 by Silatech and Microsoft to support workplace development across the Middle East and North Africa region. To date, the network has benefited close to 500,000 youth.
Project Summary: We have recently taken over the running of the platform in Palestine, due to our vast youth network and reach across the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza. We will be strongly focused on outreach encouraging more youth to utilise the services of the platform and improve their employment chances. We will work closely in partnership with academic institutions, NGOs, and CSO partners.