The World Cup and developing Brazil’s youth

Published: 12 Jun 2014

Award participants from the Favelas in Brazil.

As the world turns its view to Brazil for the kick off of the 2014 Football World Cup, we explore what the competition means for young people and what role The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award plays in developing the nation’s youth.

More than a third of Brazil’s 34 million young people (aged 15 to 24) are neither in work or study. The World Cup this summer and the Olympic Games in 2016 offer a real opportunity for young people in Brazil, the world’s sixth largest economy. Large-scale investments have been planned in infrastructure and mining.

But, whilst major sporting events like the World Cup can bring short-term opportunities and short-term relief to the problem of unemployment, opportunities for youth need to be sustainable and open to all, especially those who do not have access to education or training.

Award participants from Brazil posing in front of a football goal.Investing in youth

The country’s policy makers have for a while now recognised the importance of investing in youth and there are currently 16 federal youth programmes aimed at preparing young people for work. The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award was introduced in Brazil back in 2006, and Mérito Juvenil Internacional Brasil (as the Award is known in Brazil) has gone from strength to strength since then. More than 7,000 young people have participated in the Award, which develops young people holistically, providing them with social and practical skills for their futures.

With a presence in more than ten states (Brazil has 27), Mérito Juvenil Internacional Brasil underpinned its role in national youth development in 2011 by signing a social policy paper with the State of Brasilia to advance opportunities and programmes for young people. The Award has secured partnerships right across Brazil, reaching young people from diverse backgrounds, including those considered on the margins of society.

One such partnership is with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The UNODC is training Award Leaders as part of its Global Youth Project, which aims to increase youth participation in crime and drug prevention policies and programmes.

The legacy of the World Cup

From its beginnings in Brazil, the Award’s appeal has been the opportunity to engage young people in meaningful activities through sport. The World Cup and other sporting spectaculars provide young people with a positive space to come together and connect, says Development Officer Andre Videira.

“The World Cup in Brazil gives us an opportunity to be passionate about our country and to show the world what Brazil has to offer. It also provides us with a platform to engage more young people with the Award.

“Sport in Brazil is used as a tool for development and integration and through programmes like the Award, we are able to connect with and engage young people into a range of positive activities that contribute to their personal development, not least in improving their physical and mental well-being, but also through the learning of new skills and the understanding of others.”

Connecting young people

Promoting opportunities for young people and investing in their development is one of the legacies the World Cup hopes to achieve in Brazil and sustainable, holistic youth programmes like the Award play a big part in that, explains Andre.

“Partnerships with sports organisations and clubs across Brazil are vital to the growth of the Award here and many of our Award Units are involved in activities around the World Cup. But it’s not just about the football. It’s about bringing young people together and celebrating what makes young Brazilians great citizens of the world. We are keen to encourage them to build their self-worth, learn new skills for their futures and to become active members of their communities, through participation in the Award.”

Watch Award holder Ester’s film on how she aims to raise awareness of violence against youth in Brazil. Ester hopes to use the World Cup as a platform to connect with more young people to empower them to take action in their own communities.

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