Salvadorean youth become new entrepreneurs

Yesenia became a mother at age 18 and left school. But after an initiative to promote opportunities for young people in El Salvador, she was able to finish high school and open her own business. Photo: UNDP El Salvador

“Lack of employment, lack of resources and limited opportunities to study at the university are some of the realities that we youth experience in Zacatecoluca," said Nubia Yesenia Laínez, a 25-year old resident in the Department of La Paz, in southern El Salvador.

Yesenia left school when she was 18. Unsupported by her parents, she had to work to get by. "I became pregnant with my first child, and after three years I had my second. I am a single mother. Studying was not part of my plans, just working and getting by with my children and my sick grandmother."


  • The programme has impacted the lives of over 600 people since 2013.
  • 330 people have been re-integrated into the world of work and productivity through employment.
  • 80 youth aged 14 to 29 have received life and work skills training.

But through participation in UNDP’s programme "Local governance, rule of law, security and justice", Yesenia finished high school and is opening her own business.  The programme, with support from the municipalities of Zacatecoluca, Ciudad Delgado (San Salvador) and the Government of Norway, aims to support young people with limited prospects to make a better future for themselves.

There are many young men and women who need this kind of support. In El Salvador, 27 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 neither go to school nor work, and most of them are women.

In the past two years, in two municipalities with high levels of insecurity and violence,
the programme has promoted capacity development and socio-economic, productive and educational re-integration initiatives for youth. It has also promoted the development of standards to ensure access to justice.

The programme promoted the creation of a job fair in Ciudad Delgado, which led to 330 people entering the labour market. The initiative has also granted scholarships to 73 children and adolescents in the two municipalities. Similarly, programmes were created to prevent violence and rebuild the social fabric, which has promoted peaceful coexistence and the integration of the communities through joint work for the municipality and through activities on the recovery of public spaces.

Since September 2013, the programme has impacted the lives of over 600 residents of the two municipalities; over 60 percent are youth and 60 percent are women like Yesenia, for whom the programme has not only changed their living conditions, but also those of their families.

"The generation of productive opportunities, especially for youth and women, is essential for the prevention of violence and to increase levels of human development in the communities," said Stefano Pettinato, UNDP Resident Representative for El Salvador.

The programme, in partnership with the municipalities, also boosted business ideas competitions specifically aimed at women. The participants presented a business proposal, for which they were provided technical support for the development of business plans. As a result, 38 women created new businesses in both municipalities.

The UNDP Supplier Development Programme is also implemented in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in El Salvador. This programme provides technical assistance for business expansion to four micro-enterprises and will directly benefit more than 60 people.

Yesenia’s experience has yielded many opportunities. She was selected for a scholarship, allowing her to finish high school, and she graduated with honours. She was also one of the women who entered a business idea competition and obtained technical support and seed capital to start-up her business of typical Salvadoran food.

This year, she has participated in several food festivals. Her son, Fernando, also received a scholarship and has distinguished himself for his good behaviour and grades.

Yesenia dreams that she may continue to grow and is looking for a scholarship to pursue her studies in social work:  "I never thought this moment would come: being a high school graduate and getting support to set up my own business. I am optimistic and grateful. In the future, I see myself as a professional social worker - helping many young people who have been through similar situations and showing them that the street is not an option, but rather, work and dedication are."