Heidy is a 22-year-old living with her parents in Guatemala and is the single mother of a toddler. She’s also a driven entrepreneur and community leader who’s working to build a better life for her family.

Seeking financial stability, Heidy joined a Women Empowered (WE) group. The WE program provides training in record keeping, savings and lending, and entrepreneurship – skills that are helping to transform her family’s future.

Heidy initially didn’t want to participate in a WE group, viewing the meetings as another responsibility that wouldn’t benefit her or her family. Distrust and uncertainty also surfaced when she learned that the program involved pooling money in a common fund that’s managed by each WE group in order to provide loans to group members.

She realized in time how the savings sessions worked and decided to join. As the WE group developed, she became increasingly involved in each of the activities, and for her, the group became a safe space of trust.

Weekly WE group meetings provide an opportunity for social support, knowledge sharing and individual leadership development. Members gain business skills and learn how to start sustainable businesses of their own. Heidy also discovered new abilities, interests and strengths by participating in the program. She was even nominated by her fellow group members to serve in multiple leadership positions.

“I never imagined that I could hold a post in the community, I thought they would not have confidence in me,” says Heidy. “I have changed since I started participating in the group, I am more confident, I am not afraid to speak in public and I have high self-esteem.”

Today is International Youth Day, and we’re celebrating young women and men who are shaping their futures and achieving personal growth and success despite challenging circumstances. Given support and training, youth can become solutions to poverty, poor health and vulnerability for their families and communities.

Today, there are 1.8 billion young people in the world, representing significant opportunities for economic growth and a more prosperous future for developing countries. Youth participation – from both women and men – is crucial to achieving sustainable development. And we’ve seen first-hand how young people can be true agents of change in their communities if given the proper tools and resources needed to succeed.

Botswana-Osego-Youth-member-2015-08-07Along with the WE program in Guatemala, we’re working with four youth-focused WE groups in the Chobe district in northern Botswana.

Since joining the Chobe Arts WE group in Botswana, 26-year-old Osego has transformed into a confident and outspoken entrepreneur. Not only did she gain valuable business development skills from participating in the WE youth group but she also received emotional support from her new friends. Equipped by WE training in financial skills, she took out two loans to improve her living situation and has dreams of becoming an auto-mechanic with her own shop.

For most youth in rural communities in Guatemala and Botswana, job opportunities are scarce. But WE groups are giving young entrepreneurs the confidence and skills needed to build thriving businesses and become influential leaders and mentors in their own communities.

Learn how our Women Empowered program is empowering young people around the globe.