A better future for vulnerable youth in Albania


"MIRACLES HAPPEN, ONE MUST ONLY BELIEVE IN THEM"

Sidrit Dedja is an amazing person: curious, equipped with a good sense of humor, and a real sense of purpose. He is 25 years old, and was born in the town Shkodra, Albania with a significant motor disability. Despite this, he was able to complete his primary education. For Sidrit, this was when his journey to self-discovery began:

“After I completed eight years of school, I spent my days at home, reading and watching TV programmes, especially ones related to science and computers. Soon I started loving these machines, which seemed to do wonders. I told myself: One day I will learn to use these machines’ - and this became my purpose in life. My friends would share their books and other computer manuals with me. My parents used to worry how I would chase my dream, but I never let my disability bog me down, I just kept working hard towards that end.”

On his 21st birthday, he woke up in the morning to find a surprise: a brand new computer in his living room, a gift from his supportive sister. It wasn’t long before Sidrit was formatting , programming, and making repairs.One day, he heard about an eight-week course offered by the regional employment office in collaboration with the Albania Disability Rights Foundation, preparing people to enter the local labor market.Determined to transform his life for the better, he participated in the programme and subsequently was selected to participate in UNDP’s on-the-job training programme for people with disabilities.After the training, he began working as a computer technician at a civil society organization in Shkoder. For Sidrit, this was nothing short of a miracle:“What I valued most is not only the possibility do something useful but also to feel accepted by my friends and society at large. Disability should not be viewed as inability. Miracles happen, one must only believe in them.”

Highlights

  • Over 500 youth gained new skills through employment programmes
  • Three Regional Employment Boards were established in Kukes, Shkodra and Lezha
  • The project is funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation for a period of 2 years

Sidrit and other young people in Albania face great employment challenges. According to the ILO over 40 percent of Albania’s youth are unemployed. Young employees are also more exposed to the informal economy than adults. In 2009, 46 percent of all young male employees were informal workers.

Young people face a number of challenges when it comes to seeking gainful employment, such as a lack of skills and education to respond to the market needs. These challenges are compounded for youth with disabilities, who have even more limited access to higher education.

Since 2009, UNDP in Albania has embarked on a variety of interventions to address these barriers. The latest project, implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, aims to improve youth employment opportunities in three selected regions of the country where the rates are currently highest: Lezha, Kukes, and Shkodra.

The project works to enable local actors to identify and address youth employment challenges, improve collaboration between local actors as a means to reduce youth unemployment as well as boost the National Employment Service's capacity to provide quality employment services to citizens.As UNDP Programme Officer Eno Ngjela says:

“Employment promotion and skills development needs to be seen as closely linked to private sector needs and to local economic development challenges and opportunities. To this end, UNDP has introduced modalities to improve both private sector participation and the involvement of all relevant actors to address youth employment issues.”

The project is actively targeting youth with disabilities in order to shatter the long-standing belief that people with disabilities can only be passive recipients of social welfare payments. By engendering employment opportunities, the project aims to encourage more than just income generation, but true and lasting social inclusion.

So far over 500 youths have received on-the-job training and have subsequently gained employment. Over 350 men and women have received training on entrepreneurship and business plan development.

This intervention is funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation and is enabling Sidrit and those like him, not just put their skills to good use, but perhaps even more importantly, to have a hope for a better life.