How young leaders are preparing Haiti for future natural disasters

Helen Frost reports from Haiti where she witnessed young people taking the lead to change their communities so they are more resilient to natural disasters.

‘She’s too young’. Just one of the things said when Mhairi Black became a Member of Parliament in the UK in 2015. Could a 20 year old really be an effective Member of Parliament? Did she have the knowledge, experience and expertise to be able to deliver as a leader?

During my recent visit to Haiti I got thinking about these questions and how they related to the young people we’re working with. Can young women and men be strong leaders and create change in Haiti? Yes, they can and the need for them to do so is great!

Before the earthquake in 2010, a third of the population over five years-old had no schooling. Since the earthquake, the education, living conditions and poor health experienced by young people and their families has become even worse. 1.5 million people became homeless after the earthquake, 300,000 were injured and an outbreak of cholera affected more than 250,000.

Young people across Haiti are learning skills to fight natural disasters and pass on their knowledge to their peers and others in their communities, empowering them to be active citizens and increase community disaster resilience.

In Haiti nearly half of the population is under the age of 21 yet these young people have little influence on decisions which will affect their lives. The Haitian Constitution prevents anyone under the age of 25 taking an elected post.

We’re building young people’s leadership skills so they can form campaign groups in their communities, and lobby local authorities and improve resilience to flooding, landslides, earthquakes and hurricanes.

65 per cent of young people we spoke to said that their views are rarely sought or listened to by their communities. Only 28 per cent of young people take part in any decision making. They are barred from such activities because of their age and their vulnerable position in their communities.

Yet, despite these barriers young people are confident in themselves and the skills they have and they believe that they can create a more positive future for themselves and those around them.

Y Care International believes that young people can be brilliant leaders and create a long lasting change. Over the next two years, we’re hoping to reach almost 500 young men and women in Haiti to grow and develop their skills, so they can lead and empower those around them.

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