Empowering youth

Hand in Hand wasn’t always focused on entrepreneurship. Child labor, not joblessness, drove our creation.

“While travelling in southern India I saw this terrible abuse of child labor,” explains Hand in Hand co-founder Percy Barnevik. “I started to buy them out for about US $150 a child. I was in mind to buy out 200,000 children, which becomes quite a lot of money. I realized that I had to attack the root cause of the problem: poverty.”

Ever since, we’ve been motivated by a simple truth: when parents work, children don’t have to. And that’s just the beginning. An average of five family members benefit from every enterprise we help grow and create – particularly among women, who comprise over 90 percent of Hand in Hand entrepreneurs. That’s more children in school, more parents with access to life-saving medicine and more families with sturdy roofs over their heads.

By the numbers

Child mortality rates are dropping throughout the developing world. Fertility rates aren’t. The result: people younger than 30 now make up half the world’s population. Despite promising growth rates in many Hand in Hand countries, labor markets have failed to keep up. Worldwide, more than 73 million people between the ages of 15 and 24 are jobless.



80% of unemployed Kenyans are between the ages of 15 and 34 – more than 1.8 million people in total



An estimated 28 million children in India between the ages of 5 and 14 are engaged in work



Hand in Hand’s work has improved some 7.72 million lives, most of them children’s

“Entrepreneurship-promotion interventions activate the highest return on productive work for young people, especially when combined with access to finances.”

Solutions for Youth Employment

Youth programs

Our work with young people isn’t confined to our core programs. Increasingly, we’re working directly with youth.

From June to October 2014, Wangu Primary School in Nairobi hosted Hand in Hand’s first Entrepreneurship Club, training 60 students aged 10-16 in the basics of business.

In a country where youth unemployment is considered a ‘ticking time bomb’, the project’s aim was simple: to raise the status of self-employment among young people and unlock the path to success through entrepreneurship. Students completed an income-generating group project making and selling soap to the school, their teachers and the wider community. Not only was the cost of the program covered, club members’ school fees were subsidized by 300 KES. Word spread throughout the school, and dozens more students clamored for a spot in the club.

Today, thanks to generous grants from the IKEA Foundation and Swedish Postcode Lottery, Hand in Hand’s Entrepreneurship Clubs are scaling up to include some 11,800 students from across Kenya. Winners of the Hand in Hand Youth Awards, given annually to the four students with best business ideas, travel to Sweden each year to present their ideas at a national youth job fair. And efforts are underway to advocate for putting entrepreneurship on the national curriculum.

Read about Hand in Hand’s Entrepreneurship Clubs in Kenya’s Star newspaper.

Halima, 18, with daughter and co-worker Irene | DVD rental shop owners | Nairobi, Kenya

Launched in Kenya in 2012, the Young Mothers Program mobilized mothers between the ages of 13 and 30 who, despite lacking skills and training, are major breadwinners in their families. The program combined Hand in Hand’s job creation model with psycho-social support – or, as it’s referred to by participants, “freeing of the mind” – from Clowns without Borders Sweden, a non-profit organization that works to “spread laughter, joy and hope” to people affected by conflict and poverty. The project was funded by the Swedish Postcode Lottery.

“Success is almost guaranteed” to women who completed Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s Young Mothers Program, according to an independent mid-term review conducted by Brinjal, a UK-based consultancy specializing in livelihoods analysis. The program wrapped up in summer 2015, having exceeded its targets. Almost 3,700 sustainable enterprises were created, producing 4,700 jobs. A total 13,000 children benefitted, including 9,000 who gained access to education.

Hand in Hand is seeking funds to expand the program. For details, contact Program Manager Agnes Svensson.

Kanchipuram India people children (1)

Children in Kanchipuram, India

Exclusive to India, a country where bonded child labor remains all too common, Hand in Hand’s Child Labor Elimination Program gets children out of work and into school. As a first step, Hand in Hand staff engage local stakeholders to form Child Rights Protection Committees, charged with raising awareness and identifying working children for education. The vast majority are enrolled in public schools, but in areas too remote for government education, Hand in Hand staff and volunteers establish schools of their own: preschools for toddlers, Learning Centers for children and Transit Schools for teenagers.

So far, the Child Labor Elimination Program is responsible for 204 Learning Centers274,520 children enrolled in government schools and 1,304 child labor-free panchayats.