Making Cents for At-Risk Youths in Guyana by Derise Williams.

SiddiqaSiddiqa Shabazz, a 21-year-old school drop-out became a single mother at the age of seventeen and now has two children ages three and two years old. These days her main sources of income are braiding the hair of friends and neighbors and operating a trampoline on weekends.

After the loss of her mother in 2016 who was her main support, Siddiqa found herself depressed and struggling to provide for her two children.  It was at this point that a village leader told her about a business entrepreneurship program being launched to target at -risk youths in her community of Sophia. Sophia is a former squatting settlement which still is characterized with high levels of crime despite having been regularized over ten years ago. It was for this reason that Sophia was selected under the IDB-financed technical co-operation, Support for the Implementation of the Citizen Security Strategy as a community that can benefit from the intervention.

From Risk to Opportunity

The Youth Entrepreneurship Program, popularly called YouthBiz592 [1] because of its focus on youths in business was implemented through a collaboration among the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Business. The program provided entrepreneurship and life skills training to 87 young people considered to be at-risk from various communities in Guyana with an aim of providing support towards reducing negative behavior and to provide economic empowerment to this specific population group. Under this three-month program, participants received coaching on starting a business, and benefited from opportunities for work attachments with established firms. Networks were developed between students and with trainers and moral support and guidance were provided for persons who felt they did not have the skills and behavior to contribute meaningfully to society.

Birth of an Entrepreneur

In April 2017, Siddiqa’s journey started under the program. Although she facedFun Park 2 challenges such as being unable to work during the period of training and time away from her children, she was able to persevere thanks to the financial support and childcare provided under the program. Based on her business proposal, Siddiqa benefited from a US$1,500 grant which she used to expand her “Kids Fun Rental” business with the purchase of additional trampolines and a generator that allowed her to increase her working hours. In addition to the grant financing received, Siddiqa opined that the skills learnt on business strategies, socializing, empowerment and even parenting have been instrumental in expanding her business.  She now is not only able to comfortably afford her living expenses but also making a difference to someone else by hiring an employee who helps her with her business.

From being overwhelmed with the responsibilities of providing day to day for her family, under the program Siddiqa has transitioned to a life full of zest. Her self-confidence has dramatically improved. Currently she is in the process of applying for another grant to further expand her services to a full party service and rental. She has even decided to continue her schooling and will taking a few subjects inclusive of English and Mathematics at the next Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC) exams. “I would recommend such a program to anyone, said Siddiqa, “since it changed my life.”

At its closing, the program was deemed successful with 85 out of 87 beneficiariesFun Park 2 completing with an attendance averaging over 83%. 84 business plans were submitted, out of which 72 were approved and 66 beneficiaries receiving grants of up to US$ 1,500 to start their business ventures. The program was able to institutionalize a business model on youth entrepreneurship within the Small Business Bureau since this was the first such program implemented in Guyana. The success of the program has led to its replication where at-risk youths in 20 communities across Guyana will benefit from entrepreneurship training under the Citizen Security Strengthening Program.

About our Blogger

Derise WilliamsDerise Williams is a Senior Operations Associate at the Inter-American Development Bank Country Office in Guyana.  Since joining the Bank in 2007, Derise has worked in the Operations Department with responsibility for supporting the supervision of the Bank’s portfolio of development projects in the areas of transport, institutional strengthening, public sector management and housing and urban development. She also worked in the Procurement Division at the Bank’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Derise has extensive experience in operations, project and procurement management which she readily applies and has helped to drive the successful completion of several Bank operations which continues to improve the lives of Guyanese. Working at the IDB provides her with the opportunity to be innovative and creative in delivering results especially in the areas that she is most passionate about, that is, justice, security, youths and the poor.

Previously, she was a Commerce Officer at the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce from 2004 to 2007 with responsibilities for domestic trade and creating a conducive environment for business. She also lectured at the University of Guyana in the Department of Economics. Derise holds a Bachelor Degree in Economics with Distinction, Post Graduate Diploma in Development Studies with Distinction and a Master’s Degree in Project Management from the University of the West Indies.


[1] 592 is in the international dialing code for Guyana

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