“As a University student from the middle class, I had to look for a job to cover my tuition fees and needs during the four years of college. My constant search for jobs and opportunities brought my attention to the gap between university students and fresh graduates and Palestinian companies in search for interns or part time employees. That is how the idea of Cerati came to life”.

Yafa Abdel Rahim is a 23-year-old Palestinian entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Cerati, a Palestinian start-up that works to connect university students and fresh graduates with companies in search for young talent.

“After launching Cerati, I started connecting my friends and colleagues with Palestinian companies. Many experiences led me to realize that it is not just job opportunities youth need, it is the opportunity to enhance their skills as well. That is when I decided to add trainings and learning resources to Cerati, and to also look for programmes and opportunities to develop my own skills”.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, youth constitute about 23 percent of the Palestinian population. The unemployment rate among Palestinian youth reached 45 percent in 2019, and approximately 52% among youth graduates.  

In 2018, Yafa participated in the Youth Leadership Programme (YLP). After attending a number of sessions and participating in trainings and the national competition, she was selected to represent Palestinian youth in the regional forum that took place in Tunisia that year. “That experience helped me open a number of doors as it was my first time presenting Cerati to an international audience. It also provided me with lots of connections from around the Arab world, expanded my knowledge on the Sustainable Development Goals and thinking skills and inspired me to use my energy and expertise to support my community and make real change,” said Yafa. After participating in the YLP, Yafa was invited by the UN to participate in the ECOSOC in New York. She became a youth representative in a number of conferences and forums, and her last participation was in the presence of  66 international ministers.

UNDP’s Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) aims to support and provide innovative young women and men changemakers with the needed tools to make a real impact, and to help them face challenges related to their economic, political and social integration in their societies. YLP’s mission is to invest in young women and men across the region to unleash their potential to become social innovators, leaders, thinkers and a powerful force for change in their communities, countries and the region at large.

“Cerati’s work was hugely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, as many businesses stopped their operations, the need for new interns and part-time employees also stopped, which led me to think of a new way to reach out to youth and keep our work going. With the help of youth ambassadors that Cerati has recruited in every university in the West Bank, we were able to organize a series of webinars targeting university students and youth to continue our mission to empower and guide them to kick-start their careers. Our webinars focused on entrepreneurship and creative thinking and essential tools to find a job, specifically CV writing skills. These webinars also included enhancing students’ and fresh graduates’ technical skills, like accounting for non-accountants and utilizing online resources and courses to develop and improve skills”, Yafa added.

To further empower and develop their skills, Yafa motivated youth ambassadors recruited by Cerati to lead these sessions, as she hopes this initiative will help spread hope and positivity despite the unprecedented crisis the world is facing.  More than 50 students participated in the first webinar on entrepreneurship, as participants were introduced to the concept of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial opportunities and challenges.

“Our second webinar will be on the Sustainable Development Goals. We want participants to understand the link between the SDGs and entrepreneurship.  We will continue working online and organizing webinar sessions. Our next step is to launch online courses presented by experienced youth to other youth. These courses will feature mini-workshops led by aspiring students to train other students online on specific topics”, Yafa explains.

Since its launch in 2015, YLP was able to reach more than 10,000 youth in the State of Palestine. UNDP has partnered with multiple youth serving organizations through trainings and capacity-development for youth through workshops, innovation camps, hackathons and other activities.

“Integrating business ideas to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals is the most amazing thing I have learnt during my participation in YLP. I hope to empower and help more students, to improve our education and employment systems, and encourage other youth to be real change-makers in their community,” says Yafa.

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