14 Latin American-Caribbean youth projects awarded grants

Fourteen projects from youths in the Latin America and the Caribbean were recently awarded US$365,000 in grants from the Development Marketplace Competition 2010.

The competition, which aims to support and recognise young entrepreneurs, is supported by the World Bank, the Organisation of American States and the Inter-American Development Bank. The grants will support their innovative projects and ideas to reduce poverty and improve standards of living for Latin Americans, a press release from the World Bank said.

The winners of the competition were selected from among 44 finalists from 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries who were previously shortlisted from a field of 530 participants. This year’s event focused on young entrepreneurship from private and non-profit sectors as well as civil society organisations. The aim of Development Marketplace 2010 was to identify ideas with the potential to create job opportunities for youngsters, while generating related benefits for communities and society in general, the release said.

Winners came from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Peru. Among the winning proposals from Argentina was one that promotes education through art as a mechanism to encourage social transformations; another that intends to fight youth unemployment through soccer, giving back to young people their respect for social norms and moral and ethical values; another proposal which promotes the creation of jobs through the implementation of a network of companies offering opportunities to the young and another which promotes the creative development of the potential of people with disabilities through work, sport and culture.

The winning proposal from Chile aims to generate sustainable sources of youth employment by facilitating access to information and communication technologies in vulnerable neighbourhoods while from Ecuador, the Silueta X Feminie Group, which fights for the human rights of young people and transsexual women, sexual health and environmental care, won.

From Colombia, the wining proposals included one that aims to set up a production firm with a view to training 40 youngsters in the art of making audiovisual products while expanding a production centre to generate income for younger generations and another which is working to build a regional model for labour inclusiveness.

Two projects from Jamaica were awarded and these were one which seeks to improve the competitiveness of small and medium-sized companies and increase the value of their exports and another which has a specialised training program aimed at people with different degrees of disability. From Guatemala a project which increases educational opportunities in rural areas enabling poor indigenous people to attend school and receive quality information on improving their lives, won while from Nicaragua the winning project intends to improve the competitiveness of small scale coffee growers in an area and link producers there with buyers abroad. Two projects from Peru promoting the production and marketing of various fruits, won.

The release said that the competition focused on three issues: marketing bio-diverse and agricultural products that are produced locally without degrading their source environments; innovative approaches to income-generating opportunities for at-risk youngsters in violence-prone urban areas and social and economic initiatives that specifically contribute to the well-being of vulnerable groups.

Finalists presented their projects to the general public and to members of the jury during an event held in Bogota, Colombia from April 11 to April 14, which included activities aimed at exchanging knowledge and building capacities and opportunities. Proposals were evaluated by a multi-national jury composed of 26 experts from international agencies, NGOs, Colombian authorities and private sector representatives.

“As well as being full of energy, the Development Marketplace allows us to identify different and innovative ideas. These projects prove that young people can make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable,” Elizabeth Adu, the World Bank Director of Operational Services for Latin America and the Caribbean was quoted as saying. “We need to involve young people early in the process, making sure that we capture talent, helping them develop”, she explained.

Winners of the Development Marketplace with receive up to US$35 000 in seed capital, as well as technical guidance and support as their proposals are implemented.

The release said that beyond the monetary aspect, all participants had the opportunity to improve their project-design skills, participating in knowledge and skill development sessions. These meetings were designed to help them become better development professionals once the return home whether they win or lose, the release said.

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