Frank Ruben, 20 was a Youth Challenger in 2007. With the support of Youth Challenge International (an Oxfam Australia partner) he learnt vocational and life skills which helped him get a construction job at a church in Pango. (Frank is pictured at work). Photo: Andrew Read/OxfamAUS

Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s young people are living through difficult times. About 70% of the population is under 25, and high unemployment and poverty are taking their toll, with rising rates of drug use, HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and crime.

We’re working with young people and local partner organisations on Efate, Santo and Pentecost islands to give young people the skills and opportunities to build a vibrant future for Vanuatu.

Building healthy communities

Working with local partner Wan Smolbag Theatre, we’ve established youth drop-in centres and health clinics In Port Vila, Santos and Pentecost Island.

At the centres, young people take part in training and workshops and access free sexual health services through clinics run by specialist nurses. These clinics offer counselling and family planning services and provide testing for HIV and STIs.

Kency Bang, 18, has attended one of centre’s HIV and AIDS workshops. “We learned … how to prevent AIDS and how we can help those who are victims of AIDS,” he says. “It helped my knowledge to understand how AIDS causes harm to human lives.”

Creating opportunities for youth

Another local partner, Habitat for Humanity, trains young unemployed people in building, carpentry and furniture-making.

So far, more than 50 graduates have found work in the construction industry. Others have used their skills to build homes for their families.

Twenty-year-old Alice Johnny is one of 50 women who have graduated from the program since 2004. “I feel so excited that I have joined a team to build a house. I’m very proud of myself that I can do it.”

The program is teaching young people vocational skills but it’s also helping to improve housing in Vanuatu. Participants are taught how to make concrete interlocking blocks to construct earthquake- and cyclone-resistant buildings – vital technology for a country prone to natural disasters.

Supporting young leaders

Oxfam International Youth Partnerships (OIYP) is a global network of 300 young people working for peaceful, equitable and sustainable change in their communities. Vanuatuans Andrew Williams, Aminio David Rarua and Leitare Marie Joel are part of the network.

We also support Youth Challenge Vanuatu which provides opportunities for young local people to volunteer with international volunteers on community development projects, and Vanuatu Young People’s Project which helps young people to influence their government and community leaders on issues that matter to them.

Partnering with the Pacific

Vanuatu, along with other Pacific Island states, is confronting a series of trade negotiations over the next few years – including with Australia and New Zealand through the Pacer Plus negotiations. We believe Australia must use its aid and trade policies to help fight poverty in the region and negotiate a fair trade deal with our Pacific neighbours.

Fast facts

Life expectancy:
63.61 years
Adult illiteracy rate (% aged 15 and older):
22.7%
Access to safe water:
60%

Source: UNDP, UN DESA, UNICEF, CIA World Factbook

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