Giving voice to rural youth: young woman from Tonga attends the Youth Forum in Apia

By Antonella Piccolella 

August 28, Apia, Samoa. Today young people from the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific gathered together at the To’oa Salamasina Hall, Sogi, Apia for the second and last day of the Youth Forum as part of the preparatory activities for the Third International Conference for Small Island Developing States.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is committed to enhancing opportunities for rural youth in small island developing states and has supported the participation in the Forum of Aulola Silua Toomeilangi ‘AKE, a young M&E coordinator for the Tonga Rural Innovation Project, implemented by MORDI Tonga Trust.

Aulola Silua Toomeilangi ‘AKE attending the Youth Forum,
Apia, Samoa. Photo: IFAD/Antonella Piccolella
Aulola is enthusiastic about her participation in the Youth Forum. On the first day of the Forum she took part in an advocacy and lobbying workshop where she noted that “rural youth is often left out of the discussion.” She highlighted the importance of context. Rural youth have different needs in comparison to urban youth - due to their remoteness. “Urban and rural youth have different opportunities and different resources. For example, rural youth often do not have access to quality education and this discourages them.” This is the core issue. Aulola believes that “it is not possible to talk about entrepreneurship and employment opportunities without giving access to quality education.”

Participants at the Youth Forum, Apia, Samoa.
Photo: IFAD/Antonella Piccolella 
The MORDI project staff have completed community development plans together with men’s and women’s groups as well as youth groups. In this process Aulola noted that the lack of access to technology (i.e. computers) and ICT skills was a key hurdle for the rural youth in Tonga. The main take away message for Aulola is that “we need to work more with youth and integrate their needs in Tonga, also through the MORDI project that provides a framework for doing so." Because of the way it is structured MORDI offers opportunities for bringing in a bottom-up perspective. Often work on youth-related issues is very top down and the Regional Youth Councils only work with national representatives.

The thing that Aulola loved the most about taking part in the Youth Forum was the South-South learning experience. She was really interested in an initiative from the AIMS region and she will be in touch via e-mail with the AIMS representative. “The best was that we did not stay within the Pacific circuit but were able to interact with people from the different countries”.