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In this piece, A-Level student Anna Yang profiles her experience of a youth employment initiative in Seychelles, focused on sustainability and the Blue Economy.

During my A-level studies in the Seychelles, I was lucky enough to participate in an amazing initiative called ‘Prosperity & Environment: Promoting Sustainable Development Opportunities for Youth in the Blue Economy Sector.’ This project was initiated to deliver on the environment agenda of the 10th Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF). It was organised by SIDS Youth AIMS Hub (SYAH) Seychelles, and funded by the British High Commission and supported by the Commonwealth Youth Council.  

It was fitting that the Seychelles was selected to implement this CYF outcome. Seychelles’ current economic plan is the Blue Economy, however many people are still unsure what it means, and school-leavers are unaware of the type of career choices they have right in front of them. Part 1 of the programme was therefore to educate the participants on what the Blue Economy is, as well as intern with an organisation that forms part of the Blue Economy Sector for two to three weeks. I interned for two weeks with Seychelles Petroleum (SEYPEC), a company that has six tankers that travel around the world transporting fuel and fuel-related products especially to Seychelles and its inner islands. It was an enlightening two weeks to learn about one pillar of our economy, and to see with my own eyes a petroleum company’s efforts to be environmentally-safe and responsible. Other organisations that hosted interns included: PetroSeychelles, Indian Ocean Tuna, SOCOMEP, Seychelles Coastguard, Seychelles Air Force, Blue Economy Research Institute, Seychelles Ports Authority, Seychelles Maritime Safety Administration, Seychelles Bureau of Standards, Seychelles Energy Commission, Seychelles Fishing Authority, Wise Oceans and Island Conservation Society. There was a lot of diversity, from education, conservation, fisheries, research and safety and security. During the internship participants also wrote blogs to share their knowledge with other youth.

For Phase 2, 14 were chosen from the group of interns in view of their blogs, their evaluative forms from their respective organisations and their ability to meet deadlines. With the 14 interns and 2 chaperones, we travelled to Mauritius to learn about the country’s ocean-based economy, both learning from them and teaching them what we had learned. We were also joined by other Mauritian youth who had an interest in the Blue Economy aspect.  During the nine days, we visited Mauritius and viewed many sites that are related to the Blue Economy, like the salt basins, as well as various organisations that are involved in the ocean-based economy, like SYAH-Mauritius with their ‘Seeing Blue’ project, Indian Ocean Commission, Faculty of Ocean Studies at University of Mauritius, WiseOceans, Environment Protection and Conservation Organisation’s Barachois Project (save the mangroves) and its reconstruction of artificial reef for octopus, Reef Conservation, Mauritius Oceanography Institute and Indian Ocean Rim Association. Nine of us also embarked on a two-day training course for Blue Economy with Delphinim Ltd, as we were lucky enough to get funding. It was an insightful nine days; even with the limited time on our hands we still found time to write blogs and bond with each other. Good news soon followed as fellow Mauritians are initiating the process to replicate this initiative there.

For the final phase, Phase 3, we created presentations on various topics, such as a business proposal to fill in any gaps we identified within the Blue Economy, proposed mechanisms to attract youth to take up jobs in the organisations that participated in Phase 1, and developed a project proposal related to the Blue Economy. These presentations will be showcased on the closing ceremony in February 2017, in front of all of our sponsors and the organisations that hosted us in Phase 1, showing them what we learnt as well as our creativity. After Phase 3, as ambassadors for the ocean we are planning a yearlong agenda of activities such as talks in schools to raise awareness, sponsored hikes, beach cleans and workshops.

I would like to applaud SYAH-Seychelles for implementing this initiative. All of the interns have learnt so much about the Blue Economy, about our country and even about other countries. I am proud to say the experience changed us for the better, encouraging us to be more proactive, more confident in our power as youth as well as creating new friendships. Some of us through this program have even found our calling in our respective career fields, whilst others are pledging to reduce their negative impacts on the environment. For more information about all of our experiences, read our blogs and see our vlogs on syah-seychelles.weebly.com/beblogs.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Royal Commonwealth Society.