It is a pleasure to be here this morning to recognize the partnerships under the Government of Guyana’s Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) initiative; the enterprises established and sustained as a result of the program; and, most importantly, the numerous lives transformed under SLED.
In a budget speech in 2015, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, mentioned the government’s intention to use the SLED initiative to provide opportunities for the disadvantaged and youth. He said that “…communities will be encouraged to create viable economic interventions which would at the local level stimulate sustainable employment opportunities.” Today we see the fruits of these efforts.
The SLED objectives are consistent with the U.S. government’s development efforts in Guyana, particularly those pursued under the $7.7 million USAID Skills and Knowledge for Youth Employment (SKYE) program. This was the central reason for the establishment of a partnership between SLED and the SKYE program.
The SKYE project has been doing important work since its inception in 2011. Young men and women successfully received support in numerous ways including guidance and mentorship. As a result of the project, over 230 youth have improved literacy skills; approximately 2,200 have improved work and life skills; 970 are employed; and approximately 150 youth are new business owners.
The SKYE program’s efforts in juvenile justice reform worked with magistrates and local organizations to increase the use of alternative approaches to custodial sentences for persons who committed minor offences. The program supported over 120 youth through the alternative sentencing process and improved rehabilitative services at the New Opportunity Corps. Many of these youth come from difficult personal situations. With the support of families, the SKYE program, and our partners, however, they are transforming their lives and are involved in positive community activities that strengthen their chances of long-term success.
I am impressed with and encouraged by the Guyanese government’s commitment to and investment in its youth and the wide support from partners across the different sectors within the Guyanese society for youth development. This commitment from a wide array of partners was essential to the successes achieved under the SKYE program.
I want to thank the Minister of Communities and his team for recognizing the value of the program and for your financial investment to continue and expand this important work. When partners support, adopt, and use approaches that are proven to be successful, it increases the effectiveness of our development work. Additionally, the Government of Guyana’s strong backing assures sustained benefits to the citizens most in need of these services well beyond the donor’s contribution. This is the true test of successful development partnerships.
The U.S. government’s support for development in Guyana has a long and productive history in a variety of sectors. Projects include: road construction and sea defenses; supporting value added exports, tourism, and the economic environment; strengthening democracy and governance; environmental protection through improved management practices; improving health systems and services in the fight against HIV/AIDS and citizen security.
This assistance will continue into the future, particularly in the areas of HIV/AIDs and citizen security. While the implementing organizations may change, the principles of partnership, mutual respect, and collaboration will continue to guide our work. I look forward to leading those efforts for the remainder of my tenure in Guyana.
To the young entrepreneurs who benefitted from the SLED and SKYE projects, congratulations for taking such a bold step and I wish you every success in the future. I look forward to the day when I can visit your business enterprises and interact with you, not only as business owners but as successful members of your communities, providing encouragement and support to other youth and aspiring business owners.
A significant investment in model youth development manuals, improved curricula and other related tools have been made and these resources are now proven to positively impact youth and facilitate successful transition to adulthood; preparing youth to become successful adults capable of leading productive lives and contributing to their families and communities. We urge you to make full use of such resources.
I would like to close by encouraging more partners to support the USAID SKYE program as a model for youth development and empowerment. Significant investment in model youth development manuals, improved curricula and other related tools have been made and these resources are now proven to positively impact youth and facilitate successful transition to adulthood; preparing youth to become successful adults capable of leading productive lives and contributing to their families and communities. These approaches are documented in manuals, improved curricula, and other related tools. We urge you to make full use of such resources.