The final impact evaluation of the Motivated and Entrepreneurial Youth (MEY) – Leading Stars for the Future project in Zimbabwe was conducted in March 2020. MEY is a three-year project running from April 2017 to March 2020. It received 7 million SEK in financing from the Postcode Lottery.
• Improved health status and awareness among schoolchildren aged 15-18.
• Improved sense of self and motivation among young unemployed persons aged 18-35.
• Entrepreneurship and livelihoods
The MEY project was run jointly by four civil society organisations: Hand in Hand Sweden, Star for Life, Hand in Hand Zimbabwe, and MASO, the Midlands Aids Service Organisation. 85 % of young people aged 18-35 in Zimbabwe are unemployed. Running a business is a route to an income. The project was implemented in the districts of Shurugwi and Chirumanzu, in close co-operation with relevant ministries.
The project was successful in integrating three components: entrepreneurship, life skills/motivation, and health. The components complemented each other in an effective way. A microfinance component was added to support entrepreneurship.
All youths participating in the project became engaged in some type of income-generating activity. This included gardening, poultry production, and goat farming. Small businesses have begun generating incomes. Many of the young people that did not start their own business, found employment in the other participants’ businesses. Lack of access to capital was the greatest obstacle among those that had started a business. The project contributed to the start of 1,654 small businesses and the creation of 1,907 jobs. These results well surpassed the project’s goals – by 165% and 190%, respectively.
The impact evaluation concludes that the young participants gained a better sense of self and became more motivated after the training. They have also improved their knowledge of health issues, reduced engagement in risky sexual behaviours, and learned to take better care of themselves (several were afflicted by AIDS).
The young people interviewed in conjunction with the evaluation confirmed that they had gained knowledge from the courses, built self-confidence, reduced engagement in risky behaviours, and improved their financial management. They also maintained that the project had given them the strength and opportunity to start their own income-generating ventures. Young women gained a stronger voice in the family and the local community.
MEY is a pilot project, testing a method for working with both schoolchildren aged 15-18 and unemployed youths aged 18-35 that have left school. The project incorporates entrepreneurship, life skills/motivation, and health. A unique combination that has proven to be relevant and successful.
A similar, scaled-up project should be implemented for a longer period of time. There is room for improvement as regards the training, manuals, and workbooks. The educational materials used should also be published and made available as reference materials to all those working on youth programmes in Zimbabwe. Gender mainstreaming should also be integrated into the programme. It is also important to recruit and maintain women within project planning and implementation.