YEMEN:

From Change, Tahrir Squares, Redirecting Youths’ Energies Constructively

May 22, 2012

Yemen_Talent_Show

A young contestant performs at the CLP arts competition.

Outside the auditorium at Sana’a’s luxurious Movenpick Hotel last Monday, March 12th, the scene was anything but quiet. Contrasting with the silence inside the theatre, some 50 youth coached one another while waiting their turn before taking a shot at their big moment on stage. The youth are all competitors for the USAID Community Livelihoods Project’s (CLP) talent show. At any moment the judges could call upon anyone of them to perform. From sorrowful folksongs, to break dancing and Hip Hop, they gave their best.

While the winners of the talent show are weeks away from earning their awards, over at CLP’s implementing partner’s offices for the arts competition, Yemen Education for Employment Foundation, artists in training were getting a chance to better their skills. For 21-year-old Tayseer , the certificate she will obtain from CLP after this course will likely give her a jump-start as a professional painter. “There is a huge difference between those who study an art form and those who don’t,” said Tayseer . “Also, competition is the greatest way to communicate between artists, there’s lots of talent here, but we artists don’t know each other, CLP is doing a major part in getting us artists together.”

Eighteen year old, Ali heard about the CLP arts competition by seeing banners about it at Change Square. With a scarf tied around his head and in jeans, Ali could be an aspiring artist anywhere. For, him art is critical. “Once I started painting and calligraphy, it provided a source of peace for me, made me feel compatible with myself. Also, after the competition, I would like to transfer the knowledge that I have gained to others. If you have something, some talent, you must share with others.”

The talent and art competition are part of the CLP Generation of Peace initiative targeting 1,000 youth from all sides of the political and economic spectrum. They have been brought together to participate in the arts, talent competition, civic engagement courses, and a sports tournament that aims to foster peace through volleyball and soccer. These activities are an attempt to redirect youth’s energies from exploding into violence as a consequence of the current and recent political events in Yemen. Those taking part in these contests show the resilience of Yemeni youth when provided support from programs such as USAID’s CLP; these youth exemplify that they are more than willing to cooperate and redirect their energies in a positive way.

At the Al-Bustan Hotel, civic engagement trainer, Marwan noted that youth trainees’ interests centered on democracy and how to promote democratic practices in reality within their families and the larger society. “They ask repeated questions about the reality that they live and the ideal knowledge of democratic systems. It is very confusing to them that many presidents in the region are dictators; they question the difference between practice and theory.”

For that reason Marwan says that the civic engagement trainings are set up to have youth interact with one another and test democratic practices. “For example, sometimes the trainer acts as the authoritarian figure and has absolute power. The youth equate absolute power with absolute corruption, so they try to change the situation by proposing an election.”

Back at the Movenpick Hotel, music, song and dance continued, the scene much like that of the renown American Idol television program in the U.S. The CLP project works with the Yemeni Ministry of Youth and Sports to implement its Generation of Peace activities. “This activity [talent show] is very good and has been from the beginning. A program like this is the future, life – if you’re drowning and find that little straw to hang on to, you save a life because it opens up a window,” said Adulsalam Hamod Atef, deputy minister of Yemen’s Youth and Sports Ministry, who came to view the performances.

“CLP, the whole project is big; the scale is good. It’s not easy to carry out such activities. We [the Ministry of Youth and Sports] have a similar activity every year, the President’s Award, but have found it hard to manage an activity such as this,” said Adulsalam. “CLP is good; it helps people in a real fashion, it’s not just propaganda. When it comes to the real stuff, CLP touches the problem and goes all the way. It’s like when you ask, ‘where’s the beef?’ CLP is the beef.”

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