Youth-led solutions help build a sustainable future in Tajikistan
UPSHIFT forum highlights how investing in skills development can drive innovation
Innovative ideas, passionate young people and bright prospects for change was what participants experienced at the National UPSHIFT (PESHSAF) Forum in Dushanbe, Tajikistan recently. Adolescents and youth from all over the country came to celebrate World Youth Skills Day by showcasing innovative social-entrepreneurship solutions to issues affecting their communities.
The issues they explored included hygiene, improving access to education for people with disabilities, environmental protection, plastic waste reduction, agro-processing, efficient use of water, and many others.
Solutions to these issues were developed during a 4-day bootcamp followed with 3 months mentorship with the UNICEF-supported UPSHIFT programme at the Adolescents Innovation Labs in different parts of the country. Social innovation programme UPSHIFT gives young people the opportunity to develop a wide range of 21st century skills and create social enterprise to address broad range of issues from use of IT for learning to waste management.
With the assistance of mentors and access to the expertise of ten Innovation Labs at the government-led Centers for Additional Education and Youth Centers across all regions of the country, 4,500 young people developed their skills, 60 sustainable innovative solutions and business ideas were developed, 5 of which were awarded at the forum and are presented below.
The winning team presented a mobile app providing online learning opportunities for adolescents and youth with a special features to facilitate access for adolescents with disabilities. Young people can access courses on a variety of subjects, with visual and audio aids available for each course.
Team Green Trio
The team presented eco poufs called “Second life” - made from recycled plastic bottles. Their project aims to reduce plastic waste while creating a modern furniture piece and employment opportunities for youth.
From Tajikistan’s Asht district Team Mahorat presented the “Simple Apricot Picker (SAP)” – an innovative solution that helps farmers by making collection of apricots easier and cheaper. This solution is particularly relevant to northern districts of the country, where apricot collection is primarily done by female members of the households.
Ahmad, 17, from Rudaki district, member of Team Javonon presented his sand and gravel-based water filter. In remote rural areas where access to clean water is an issue, Ahmad’s filter provides a scalable solution. His filter was installed in his own school in Rudaki district, where it provides access to clean drinking water to 1,300 students.
This team from Danghara University had previously entered the semi-finals of the global Generation Unlimited social-innovation competition with their offline tablet-based application designed to help children and young people with disabilities both develop skills and have opportunity to build their own businesses.
I was feeling desperate and close to losing hope, but since I got involved in this project, I became independent and financially secure. I do not have to ask my family for money to cover my education and living costs any longer and it makes me extremely happy. I feel excited that I can cover all my expenses myself.
UPSHIFT programme contributes to the global partnership on youth empowerment Generation Unlimited by helping young people in Tajikistan develop skills for the future of work. The Government of Tajikistan acknowledged PESHSAF programme as one of the successful skills building and innovation programmes and requested further support in expanding the coverage of adolescent and youth with it.
UNICEF is committed to working with the Ministry of Education and Science and Committee on Youth Affairs and Sports in providing access to skills development opportunities to adolescent and young people through the UPSHIFT and Adolescent Kit for Expression and Innovation at new Innovation Labs across the country.
Note: PESHSAF is a social innovation programme in Tajikistan modeled on the global USPHIFT programme supported by UNICEF in 15 countries of the world. In Tajikistan PESHSAF reached about 5,000 adolescents and youth with skills-building up to date and enabled creation of 60 innovative solutions by adolescents from across Tajikistan, including adolescents from vulnerable groups.