Over two decades ago, no one would have imagined that a small initiative aimed at rehabilitating a group of girls to overcome the difficulties of the educational stage would turn into one of the oldest and most famous civil society organizations in Yemen, and contributed to the rehabilitation of thousands of youth elites. Quite a few of them are now occupying leadership and senior positions, in both the private and public sectors.
That was the Youth Leaders Development Foundation, whose first seed was born 22 years ago, from a small initiative, known as the "Girls' World Initiative", which was established in 1998. The initiative formed the nucleus of what later became a non-governmental organization, concerned with community affairs in Yemen in general, and with the youth category. (of both genders) in particular.
In the cradle of that first breakthrough, the concept of “civil society” was different from what it became later, as NGOs were not very well known at the time, despite the actual emergence of some of them, their activities were not in the form they are today.
After years of work and accumulated experiences, and the implementation of strategic planning, the Foundation's vision has changed to promoting active, highly skilled and qualified youth to play a leading role in society and contribute to change for the better, by raising the participation of young people in all aspects; Social, economic, and political skills, and providing them with professional, communication, leadership and life skills, according to the needs of society and the labor market.
Pioneering projects started with one step
Two years after the establishment of the "Girls' World" initiative, the idea developed into what was then called the "International Language Center for Girls", which also lasted for two years, after which a new, more comprehensive phase began, launched in 2005, with the implementation of the first project that included young people of both sexes, followed by the stage of openness to the social and human side, relying on the balance of experience accumulated over the years, leading to the exceptional success that has become as it is today.
Despite the difficult conditions that Yemen is going through, the Foundation seems more determined to continue to consolidate its leading role in the field of community development, and to consolidate concepts of human rights, gender equality, and equal citizenship among Yemeni youth.
In the beginning, the "The Young Leaders program for High School Graduates" was the first specialized project, which was launched with the aim of refining the skills of girls who have recently graduated from high school, and qualifying them to pass the university level, in terms of achievement, preparing academic research, English language, using computer programs, and Effective Internet searching tools, along with a host of other life and social skills.
Due to the great success of the program, it was later expanded to include both genders, after it was limited to girls. Although the format of the program has changed several times, it has continued at its pace over a period of 20 years (from 2002 to 2022).
Among the most prominent projects of the YLDF are the Youth Economic Development Center, in addition to the Human Rights Information Center, in addition to the Youth Civic Participation Program (involving youth in civil society), with the aim of creating youth leaders who can contribute to the development of their societies.
In addition to the establishment of the “Youth Advisory Council” in 2007, and the subsequent programs that achieved tangible success, such as the “the fabric of Yemen” program aiming to build the capacities of Yemeni civil society organizations and youth groups, as well as the “Voice of Youth” Camera program, which lasted for years. The program aimed at spreading community awareness through the camera, in addition to the “Khadija” program, which contributed to qualifying a group of young trainees (of both sexes), on self-employment skills, and activating their role in the future of economic development in their local communities.
Leaps towards comprehensive development
Over the years, the YLDF has been concerned with citizenship, and has implemented many projects, training and advocacy campaigns in this aspect, perhaps the most prominent of which is the “Promoting Citizenship 2011” project, which is one of the regional projects implemented on an Arab level in eight countries (Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon, Morocco, Iraq) as a multidisciplinary curriculum, using interactive teaching aids and collaborative teaching strategies, and focusing on critical thinking skills, problem solving and decision-making, 40 schools from Yemen participated in it.
The Youth Leaders for Development Foundation has also worked to enhance the political awareness of young people in Yemeni society, and to remove the misconception about the fact that politics belongs to the elites rather than the society, through the rehabilitation of young political leaders in political development, political legitimacy, political reform, and everything related to strengthening political awareness. Through the "Young Political Leaders" program (2012-2014).
Moreover, the Youth Leaders for Development Foundation also worked to enhance the political awareness among young people in Yemeni society, and to remove the misconception about the fact that politics belongs to the elites rather than the society, through the rehabilitation of young political leaders in political development, political legitimacy, political reform, and everything related to strengthening political awareness. Through the "Young Political Leaders" program (2012-2014).
Based on the successful experience of the “Sharakah” project in the Middle East and North Africa, which was implemented by the Foundation from 2013 until the end of 2015, the Young Leaders Development Foundation has promoted the social and economic participation of youth, especially young women and marginalized groups within their communities, to participate more effectively in order to advance democracy, equality, and fundamental rights and freedoms, by implementing the “Bridges” project in building leadership among youth to promote human rights in Yemen.
Through the “Together for Children’s Rights” program (2013-2016), the Foundation sheds light on the issues of early marriage, dropping out of education and the issue of physical punishment in schools, and raising the awareness of young men and women about the importance of child rights issues, by linking the civil society workers in the environment of education and technical skills, and encourage civil society workers to work to express everything related to the rights of the child.
The YLDF was at the forefront of civil society organizations that adopted the "Youth Empowerment Strategy" program, starting with the "Apprenticeship" program in 2014, with the aim of reducing unemployment, targeting disadvantaged youth, those with low or medium skills, as well as women and urban and countryside youth, and workers in hazardous environments, with a total of five projects, implemented in several Yemeni governorates, until the end of 2021.
In addition to its role in enhancing the role of women in the field of political participation, by strengthening communication between active players in the political field, YLDF has contributed to alleviating the consequences of the humanitarian crisis that has afflicted Yemen as a result of the war in the country, since March 2015. Moreover, the Young Leaders Development Foundation decided to respond to the needs of the population in light of the humanitarian crisis due to the war in order to contribute to alleviating the burden on the poorest groups, by focusing attention on emergency aid for food security and protection, increasing livelihood opportunities, contributing to reducing rural poverty, and developing the ability of the most vulnerable to manage and respond to risks, and protect the rights of vulnerable groups, especially women and children.
Local and international recognition
In appreciation of the remarkable role played by the YLDF during the past two decades, it received international and local honors, most notably the honor of the League of Arab States, in January 2011, in appreciation of its contributions to supporting policies and youth programs in Yemen.
In 2012, YLDF was selected, by RGP, as one of the NGOs that received basic training and advanced training, working towards ISO-9001 certification.
Further, The Foundation also received an award from the Canadian organization Equitas (International Center for Human Rights Education), in recognition of the exceptional work it does; To encourage its members and enable them to create positive change in their communities, through the participation of some of the Foundation's members in the Equitas International Program for Human Rights Training in Montreal, Canada.
On March 11, 2014, the Yemen Liquefied Gas Company awarded the Young Leaders Development Foundation the annual "Bilqis Prize" ($20,000), as a pioneering institution in the field of Yemeni women's development.
Despite the difficult conditions that Yemen is going through, the Foundation seems more determined to continue to consolidate its pioneering role in the field of social development, and to consolidate the concepts of human rights, gender equality, and equal citizenship among Yemeni youth, and to raise the capacities and awareness of young people in the field of child rights, in preparation for their role as social activists and human rights trainers.