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Owen is Hub Director of Restless Development Sierra Leone. He wrote about the Restless young people he works with ahead of International Youth Day 2019.

Young people make up 80% of Sierra Leone’s population. This motivated and diverse group are facing big challenges, from making a decent living to realising their sexual rights.

Restless Development are delivering seven innovative programmes across every district in the country. We’re working with over 1,000 volunteers this year, who are reaching over 110,000 people.

At Restless Development, we believe that change only happens when individuals not only deliver work in their communities but also influence and inform society. We are using our model for change, supporting young people with opportunities, tools, and skills to achieve it. Our community-led approach means we have gained the trust of communities across the country, and are embedding expertise in communities themselves, which will last far beyond the end of any programme.

From 50 young researchers leading on research and action on fighting malaria (the biggest killer of under 20s in Sierra Leone) to 180 young community mobilisers increasing people’s awareness and use of family planning, we’re seeing impressive results from these inspiring young people.

Owen at the Makeni office in Sierra Leone

When you consider the capabilities that young people have, it could shock you that 60% of young Sierra Leoneans are unemployed. However, the level of poverty (60% of people are living in extreme poverty) seriously affects this young population. That’s why we work with young people to not just become more employable or create a small petty-trading business, but to start thriving businesses that also create jobs for more young people.

In my first six months as Hub Director, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of these young people who are leading development with Restless Development.

In Bombali, I met some of the ‘Youth Accountability Volunteers’ on our Strengthening Accountability, Building Inclusion (SABI) programme. These volunteers are working closely with communities to give them a voice in advocating for better services in their community. By spending their time working alongside communities to understand their needs, communities have come together to build their own schools and hospitals and demand better health and education services – all because these young people helped advocated for changes. With the power of youth, these communities have learned that they can make decisions that can improve their communities by campaigning for change.

There are some big challenges facing the people of Sierra Leone. But I believe that if we can unleash the power of it’s young people to lead development, then we will see change.

To read more about Restless Development’s work in Sierra Leone, you can follow our work there on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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