UNDP Around the world

Economic empowerment puts youth in driver’s seat

 Mohammed on his motorcycle taxi
With earnings from in a UNDP emergency jobs project, Mohammed Alshouthmi purchased a motorcycle and now supports his family by working as a motorcycle taxi driver. Photo: UNDP Yemen

At just 22 years old, Mohammed Hamood Alshouthmi is the main breadwinner for his family. But the conflict in Yemen has made it all the more difficult for Mohammed to support his parents and four siblings. Like tens of thousands of Yemenis, Mohammed lost his job and was struggling to pay for rent, food and other necessities.

“Life has been dark for us since the beginning of the conflict,” Mohammed recalls. “My family and I stopped working, except for one day or two a month. It became more and more difficult to feed my family.”

Mohammed is one of 250 young people who took part in a UNDP cash-for-work project between September and November 2015 in Sana’a. The emergency employment programme is funded by the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid to address the immediate needs of conflict-affected communities and strengthen their ability to cope..

Highlights

  • UNDP works with local and international partners to build resilience in Yemen and help communities lay the foundation for long-term recovery and stability.
  • The emergency employment project has provided short-term jobs for 4,500 workers; the Women’s Economic Empowerment Project has provided support and training to 1,270 women.
  • 500 women have established businesses in the dairy sector, improving their own livelihoods and guaranteeing the supply of key foods.

The cash-for-work scheme is just one component of the UNDP response to the crisis in Yemen. Working with local and international partners, UNDP helps communities build resilience and lay the foundations for sustainable recovery and long-term stability.

The Economic Resilience Unit addresses the high levels of youth unemployment, seen as one of the root causes of conflict in the country. Activities focus on giving disadvantaged youth the social and economic tools to create sustainable earning potential.

With funding from Japan, the Women’s Economic Empowerment Project is helping 500 vulnerable women establish businesses within the dairy value chain in the conflict-affected governorate of Taizz. The micro-businesses produce and sell milk, cheese and laban, and the women entrepreneurs receive start-up grants and critical training in business skills and financial literacy.

More than 100 of the women presented their products to potential customers at a March 2016 bazaar at the University of Taizz. “The bazaar was a good opportunity to promote our products,” said Fathi Mohammed, a 28-year-old from Ash Shamayateen. “I am extremely happy that I have sold all quantities that I produced and for attracting new customers.”

Before the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, Yemen imported about 95 percent of its dairy products. That supply has been disrupted by import restrictions, market closures and other disturbances.

Helping women start dairy sector businesses not only improves the livelihoods of the women, it also enhances food security by ensuring the availability of these staple foods. This is expected to benefit more than 60,000 people in 50 villages and neighbourhoods in the targeted districts.

For Mohammed and other participants in the cash-for-work programme, the emergency jobs offer short-term respite, allowing families to address urgent needs. This also gives participants some breathing room in which they can devise longer-term strategies.

“Obtaining a job was a dream,” Mohammed says. “I was extremely happy to participate in the project. However, I felt scared about what will happen after sixty days of work with UNDP. At that moment, I decided to think about obtaining a sustainable source of income.”

The key to establishing a sustainable livelihood was a clear goal and careful planning. “I divided my income into three parts,” he explains. “The first to spend on my family, the second as personal expenses and the third for savings. I was able to save 70,000 Yemeni rial (US$325). I decided to buy a motorcycle to work and have a stable income, so I do not go back to my previous state.”

The money Mohammed saved from his short-term job wasn’t enough to pay for the motorcycle. To make the purchase, he also had to take out a small loan. But he says the income he earns as a motorcycle taxi driver has more than repaid the investment.

“Working as a motorcyclist has enabled me to earn enough money to pay off the loan, support my family and retain my dignity.”