Azerbaijan Youth Fund Program

Program Goals:

To help youth improve their quality of life in rural communities of Azerbaijan, through developing the professional skills of youth in the regions and placing tangible resources directly into their hands, enabling them to benefit their own communities and ensure that young people’s priorities are being met.

In today’s world, there is a recognized need to promote youth civic engagement. The lack of social and economic power due to major social-economic and political change, economic hardships and underdeveloped social services negatively impact youth’s ability to be valid contributors and supporters of Azerbaijan’s development. Adapting a unique approach to local community development first used in Northern Ireland, the Azerbaijan Youth Fund program launched in December 2005 is an innovative micro-grant program which provides much needed funding to support the initiatives of young people.

Since the establishment of the first five youth-led grant committees in the Ganja, Goychay, Sheki, Guba and Lenkaran Regions of Azerbaijan, each grant committee has undergone a series of capacity-building activities and workshops which have developed their ability to capably operate a small grants program. Each respective committee is accountable for all steps of the grant-making process including conducting community assessments, outreach, soliciting, evaluating and selecting candidate project proposals, assessing project impacts, and conducting follow-up monitoring and financial reporting.

With increased assistance from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, the Lodestar Foundation and Garadagh Cement Company, EPF expanded the Azerbaijan Youth Fund Program to six additional regions of the country. As a result of an extensive research and outreach campaign, the regions of Barda, Bilesuvar, Devechi, Mingechevir, Sahil Settlement, and Zaqatala were selected as sites for new youth fund committees.

The Azerbaijan Youth Fund expansion includes a certification program to prepare veteran committee members to act as future trainers and mentors to new grant committees, the organization of a formal steering council and the implementation of numerous community based youth-led projects in 11 rural communities of Azerbaijan.

Currently the Youth Fund Program is generously supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

Impacts:

* 77 Youth Fund committee members (40 males and 37 females) acting as an independent informal group, gained practical experience in implementing a small grants program for young people in their communities. * Young people implemented 59 youth-led community projects addressing gender, environmental issues and other social needs or promoting cultural traditions. Projects included the founding of a youth newspaper, drug abuse campaigns, computer courses, painting exhibitions, and ecological camps. The projects reached approximately 400 young people in Ganja, Goychay, Sheki, Guba and Lenkaran. * 17 Youth Fund committee members received new or improved employment opportunities as a result of their Youth Fund experience and training. * 20 new jobs have been created as a result of youth-led community projects, 50% of which have been filled by young women. * 34 media products have highlighted the Youth Fund program, including 12 regional television appearances by local committee members. * Ganja Youth Fund committee was awarded a grant from Council of Europe’s European Youth Foundation and conducted a co-financed event with Ganja’s “Bridge to the Future” public union. It also won a grant as part of the “Youth Initiative” competition announced by the Open Society Institute-AF to implement a “Street Law” project. * The Azerbaijan Youth Fund hosted the first international conference of Youth Bank Leaders in the Caucasus. As a result of this initiative, an International Youth Bank Network called “Global Youth Initiatives” was established. Georgian Youth Banks visited Azerbaijan in order to learn from the successful practices of the Azerbaijan YF and discuss sustainability of the YF model; the visit also helped promote regional networking. * The Azerbaijan Youth Fund was one of the initiators and organizers of the “4th Global Youth Employment Summit” in Baku; 30 of the 100 young participants who represented Azerbaijan at the summit were Azerbaijan Youth Fund members. * A Shaki YF committee member was invited for an interview for a position with USAID; several committee members received opportunities to study abroad; Lenkeran, Ganja and Sahil members found employment. * The Azerbaijan Government is supportive of the YF; the Azerbaijan Youth Fund enjoys strategic support from the Azerbaijan Ministry of Youth & Sports.

Main Activities in 2009

Approximately 55 community based youth-led projects will be implemented by Youth Funds in eleven communities across the country, ten Youth Fund committee members will be certified as the future trainers and followers of Youth Fund and the National Network of Youth Fund will be enhanced in Azerbaijan.

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