60% of the world’s young people—750 million under the age of 25, live in the Asia-Pacific region. This is also where two-thirds of the world’s poor are concentrated. How can young people from impoverished Asian communities acquire the skills and education they need to become future leaders in an increasingly global world? How do they become a part of the prosperity that the Asia-Pacific region is enjoying today?

Empowering the People

In a recent article, Devex interviewed some of the Asia Foundation's 2016 Development Fellows about their collective mission: promoting social and economic sustainability in their countries, and bringing innovative solutions to the Asian continent. The program seeks to strengthen disadvantaged populations, especially Asia’s youth, so they can improve their lives and partake in their countries’ economic success story. 

The Fellows currently working towards these goals with the Asia Foundation include: Ruby Hembrom from India, leader of the social justice organization Adiivaaani; Sushil Adhikari from Nepal, an activist for youth and disability rights; and Nangyalai Attal from Afghanistan, an employment expert with the International Labor Organization.

Entrepreneurship Can Sustain Communities

One of the greatest obstacles to development across the region, according to the Development Fellows, is a lack of access to and trust in governance and policy-making. They believe that the best way to bring meaningful change to their communities is to put more power into the hands of local populations. More specifically, these youth development advocates cite entrepreneurship as an effective vehicle for change. 

Adhikari, who has been blind since age 11, believes that entrepreneurship transforms challenges into opportunities. He is involved in initiatives both in Afghanistan and Nepal, working to break down entrenched inequalities in access to income, power and governance. For Attal, who heads an Afghan organization focused on improving access to education and achievement for girls, entrepreneurship means finding human solutions to problems through collaboration and interaction. He feels that if young people can become entrepreneurs and succeed in the marketplace, sustainability can be created in the most disadvantaged of communities. 

It is these hopeful, inspiring messages and the important work supported by organizations like the Asia Foundation, that can transform the prospects of so many young people living in poverty in Asia today.

For the full Devex article, please click here