Shahd walks the pathway to a brighter career
Youth skill-building helps young people to build better futures
Rural Damascus, Syria - “I have taken courses in other places before but never saw real benefit in them. But this course was just amazing,” said Shahd, 20.
While she was preparing for her Grade 12 national exams in 2022, she heard about the UNICEF-supported youth-friendly space in Rural Damascus. The centre reaches adolescents and young people with technical and vocational education and offers them an opportunity to gain and practice entrepreneurship skills. It helps them to engage in activities that can generate income for them and prepares them to transition from student life to employment and active citizenship.
“I enrolled at the centre to improve my English prior to taking the national exams. I also wanted to do something different to feel better. I attended an ‘office management’ course,” Shahd explained. The course covered diverse topics, including English, computer and typing skills, commercial correspondence, accounting, and life skills.
“The trainers were professional, they shared lots of good information and supported me a lot,” she explained, with a smile on her face.
Growing up in conflict, grappling with the impact of displacement and the deepening economic crisis, and facing some traditional family and social norms that affect some adolescent girls in Syria negatively, Shahd has faced hardship despite her young age. It restricted her agency and limited her access to opportunities, critical services and and safe recreational spaces.
“Last year, I was feeling depressed until some friends encouraged me to enrol at a youth-friendly space to help me to get out of that state. It changed my life,” she said.
“I will never forget the time when a trainer asked me to share my story with my classmates. I dared to do it, and when I finished, some of my colleagues teared up, but I did not,” Shahd explained. “I felt free and that gave me a sense of self-confidence, strength, and hope,” she added.
With her determination, encouragement from her family and support of her classmates at the youth-friendly centre, Shahd passed her Grade 12 exam and enrolled in the English Language and Literature Department in Damascus University. She also enrolled in an accounting course at the centre.
“Soon after starting the course, I found a job at a factory as an accountant. I attended the course and then practiced what I was learning when I was at work,” she said. She successfully completed the course in accounting and has a certificate from the centre.
Shahd is now a first-year English Literature student and an accounting trainer at a private centre. She also gives private lessons in English and accounting to support her family.
“I love accounting, and I believe that it shows when I teach it. Some students ask for me by name. I feel privileged to be able to transfer my knowledge. I’ve supported some of my students to find jobs as accountants in shops, malls, or factories to help them earn their living,” said Shahd.
“In five years, I want to have my own youth centre, and in ten, I want to have a group of youth centres across Syria to help young people reach their potential,” she added.
From the beginning of 2022 to date, UNICEF in Syria, has supported nearly 380,000 adolescents and youth with employability skills, including life skills and civic education as well as entrepreneurship skills. Technical and vocational education and training has also been provided to these young people.
The activities were funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the KFW Development Bank; the Governments of Japan, Canada, and Australia; UNICEF’s Global Humanitarian Thematic Fund; and the Swedish and Danish National Committees for UNICEF. These UNICEF -supported activities are also part of the UN Joint Programme to build urban and rural resilience and the conditions for recovery in Syria and they have been implemented with support from the European Union and the Government of Norway.