Djibouti is one of the major transit points for migrants who want to reach the Middle East from the Horn of Africa. Eleven per cent of the migration flow are children and most are unaccompanied. Djibouti is also a refuge for many people from conflict-affected and food-insecure countries. Many children, especially migrants, have few learning opportunities and also face severe protection risks. Many of these children live in the streets, vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and trafficking.
In this context, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with support from Terre des Hommes (TdH), opened a fabrication lab – a space offering computer-controlled tools and digital skills training – in Djibouti’s capital city.
Housed by the University of Djibouti, the space is unique in that it is designed to cater to the needs of vulnerable youth on the move, particularly those at risk or left behind. It has been set up as a conducive and safe environment where children and young people can learn, invent, create and make friends. The lab, named ‘Espace Créatif’, promotes learning of new technologies and vocational skills while fostering social inclusion. Children and young people can also make their own projects come to life with support and guidance to develop their idea, acquire technical skills to take the idea forward and create a prototype.
THE FIRST WORKSHOP AND NEXT STEPS
Espace Créatif opened its doors on International Migrants Day, 18 December 2019, to a wide audience of potential supporters, government, local businesses, academia, humanitarian organizations and young people visiting from IOM assistance programmes. The space operates an open-door policy. Participants come from diverse backgrounds and different countries and have varying levels of education, so training modules and activities are tailored to learners’ different literacy, numeracy and language needs. Skills development relates to growth sectors of national and international economies, with a focus on the digital economy.
The first workshops with unaccompanied minors and homeless children took place in February 2020. Fifteen children participated, ranging in age from 12 to 18 and many of whom had low levels of literacy. The children learnt to use computers, 3D printers, laser-cutting machines and other devices and technologies that helped them transform their ideas into physical models.Many of the children had not previously used a computer and only have primary level education. By the end of the workshops, they had learnt the basics of typing on a keyboard and building their own prototypes from scratch. All students developed or strengthened their interest in the digital world and, more importantly, in learning.
To increase female participation, the lab partners with a local NGO, Femme TIC Djibouti, which promotes the inclusion of women and girls in the information and communications technology sector.
The mission of Espace Créaif is to support children and young people to boost their creative thinking, technical and social skills, increase their access to vocational training and education and strengthen integration within host communities. The lab partners will work to create clearer referral pathways to other support services and create longer term learning and development opportunities for the participants.
The lab is investing in a generation of change-makers, young entrepreneurs and future employees and students who will have a greater say in shaping their future and contribute ideas and solutions to social and economic challenges within their own or host communities. The space will achieve impact in a number of areas: providing inclusive and participatory vocational training; supporting entrepreneurship among young people from countries affected by high levels of youth unemployment, poverty and disaster; and, building social inclusion.