The youth education and empowerment project from COBURWAS, Uganda project ‘Unlocking Girls’ and Boys’ Potential in Conflict-Affected Areas’ was nominated by the Washington-based Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE), which helps to fund and promote the work of CIYOTA.

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The judges said: it earned a prize because it recognises the value of education for refugees in Uganda where qualifications generate real and lasting opportunities. The schooling, under pressure in a challenging environment also plays an important role in normalising – while transforming – lives in a huge and challenging refugee ‘settlement’.

COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA) was established by refugee youth in December 2005 in Kyangwali refugee settlement, Uganda. The founders arrived in Kyangwali from Congo (DRC), Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan (CO-BU-RWA-S) along with thousands of refugees fleeing conflicts in their home countries. What began as an inclusive youth-led club to improve the lives of the most vulnerable has now become a model for self-sufficiency for displaced people everywhere.

CIYOTA recognizes the power of quality education coupled with mentorship in leadership and entrepreneurship as a pathway out of poverty, as well as a means to heal conflict, create social cohesion, and spur economic growth. CIYOTA facilitates both school-based and out of school programs for young refugees in both Uganda and DRC focused on improving access to quality, holistic education, supporting leadership and entrepreneurship training and livelihood programs.

The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE) has provided funding to support CIYOTA’s work since 2013.

In addition, The Partnership works to help amplify CIYOTA’s voice and communicate their impact to ensure that others are able to draw from their experiences and expertise.

In addition to providing funding for this specific project since 2016, The Partnership has convened CIYOTA and other funded partner organizations working on providing the most marginalized with access to education in order to ensure that actors on the ground have the space to network, learn from each other, and collaborate more strategically in order to have their desired impact.

Beyond providing access to a safe environment for quality, life-long learning in a context , CIYOTA is providing young people with necessary role models, critical for young people from all walks of life. These young refugees are able to see with their own eyes that while being a refugee may be as aspect of their identity, it does not have to define who they are. CIYOTA’s founders and others who have benefitted from the program have gone on to university and often return to pay it forward, showing their younger counterparts what is possible and that they will not be alone as they work to realise their potential and dreams.

The ripple effect is striking.

Not only do many CIYOTA members and alumni return to help support CIYOTA projects, some have also started similar projects to increase access to early childhood education and primary school. They are playing a key role in shifting the global narrative around refugees from passive recipients of charity to active participants who can and should control their own destinies.