Project Lead(s): Joseph Bangura
Over 70% of youth in Sierra Leone are unemployed or underemployed. The World Bank has funded $20 million in youth employment initiatives, yet many of the business development centres opened under that initiative sit empty, miles away from the slums where young girls engage in transactional sex to feed their families, and young boys and girls alike find short-term work picking trash.
The tremendous competing stressors caused by the struggle for many youth to survive, day to day, are certain to contribute to less than optimal uptake of the Youth Readiness Initiative (YRI) without additional attention to overcoming mental health barriers to participation and sustainability via implementation research.
Our proposal will test the feasibility, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of integrating Youth Readiness Initiative (YRI) into employment programs for war-affected youth in Sierra Leone. To participate, youth must indicate externalizing or internalizing mental health symptoms or impairment, which might otherwise impede their success in youth employment programs.
Successful integration of the YRI into youth employment schemes will consist of demonstrating (a) improved mental health for youth participating in the intervention (b) improved employment performance and livelihood outcomes of YRI participants, both in absolute terms and as compared to a control group that participates only in employment programs (EP) and (c) participant adherence to fidelity of the implementation of the YRI. Analysis will also show cost-effectiveness of the intervention as a supplement to youth employment programs, building a solid reference to scale up the integration of the YRI as a group-focused mental health service into existing youth employment schemes.