Entrepreneurship and productive capacity-building with at-risk youth in El Salvador

August 17, 2016

The districts of Nueva ConcepciĂłn and Ilopango share two particular characteristics. Both towns are located in the midst of breathtaking water landscapes: the Lempa River and the Ilopango Lake. And although they are surrounded by peaceful scenarios, both Nueva ConcepciĂłn and Ilopango, are located in one of the countries with the highest homicide rates in the world: El Salvador.

In 2015, homicide rates in El Salvador reached a historic high for the post-war period, of 116 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. In this context, Interpeace’s programme is working to strengthen the capacities of people involved and affected by this conflict, in order for them to define the problem, and gain a sense of responsibility and ownership of the solutions that can generate peaceful transformations in their communities. Interpeace firmly believes that this objective can only be reached through the inclusion of all social groups, not only governments and political elites, but also through the participation of civil society.

Interpeace’s programme, entitled “Comprehensive initiatives to prevent violence in El Salvador,” developed with the support of the European Union, is being implemented in ten districts throughout the country. The project seeks to work with at-risk youth between the ages of 18 and 29, with the objective to build capacities for entrepreneurial activities. This programme entails three specific steps: the first is to provide young adults with the necessary tools and methods to peacefully transform conflict. The second step, consists on training these young adults in the field of entrepreneurship. And lastly, the third step involves overseeing the establishment of productive associations and providing seed capital, specifically for materials and equipment to enable the implementation of their entrepreneurial ideas.

Ilopango, El Salvador. Photo credit: Interpeace

The programme is already underway and throughout July 2016, two workshops were developed focusing on the second step of the project. On July 14, 19 young adults from the district of Ilopango participated in a training session where they identified the enterprises they would like to implement in their community. The next day on July 15, a similar workshop took place in the district of Nueva Concepción. In both towns, the risks and opportunities of each enterprise were discussed and participants engaged in recollecting information to better define the implementation of each project. It’s important to highlight that these participants will ultimately choose the enterprise they want to initiate, as a way to consolidate the local ownership of the process. During August 2016, similar workshops will take place in the other 8 districts established by the programme. At the end of this phase, these young adults will participate in training sessions, aimed at implementing their enterprises.

Offering productive opportunities to youth is a key strategy to preventing violence. Empowering youth through these processes, helps decrease their involvement in threating activities and turns them into agents of positive change within their communities.