Gladys Boka speaks at SPC Youth@Work event.
Photo: Ruth Amos

‘God never gives you a challenge that you cannot overcome; that’s my personal motto’, said Gladys Boka.

When the Pacific Community (SPC) started its youth employment programme – Youth@Work – in Honiara in 2013, Gladys was one of the first to take part.

In Solomon Islands, around 70 per cent of the population of around 550,000 are under the age of 30, and the competition for jobs is intense. Many come to the capital from rural areas for study and work; however, even those with those with strong educational qualifications face difficulties finding employment. This is where Youth@Work steps in, with a range of youth training, mentoring and internship programmes that are key to building a career.

For Gladys, Youth@Work helped her unlock her natural talents as an administrator and youth worker.

I’m a secondary school dropout, having experienced the same challenges that my peers are currently facing. I’ve engaged in volunteer work with various non-government organisations, but had not been able to find a solid job. I heard of SPC’s Youth@Work programme in 2013 and I decided that it was time for me to get up and have a taste of real formal job experience so that I could get on a career path.

Gladys was placed as an intern for 20 weeks with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and had the opportunity to work with their human security initiative for tensions reduction, reconciliation and rehabilitation in Solomon Islands.

‘After that I was lucky that my employer took me on board and signed a contract with me for a permanent job.’

After working for UNDP for a year, Gladys returned to Youth@Work, this time as a staff member and Group Leader for the Young Entrepreneurship Programme and Youth Market.

As her skills developed, she gained a new role with UN Women, as administrative assistant for three programmes in Solomon Islands.

Gladys enjoys her work with the UN. ‘It’s interesting to work towards women’s empowerment and for programmes that deal with the problems that women face.’

She is keen to develop her career and plans to undertake further studies. ‘My dream is to work hard and excel in work in organisations that further social issues. I think of my kids; I’m a young parent. When you succeed, your kids, your community and your country benefits. Reset your priorities and goals.’

Young people who drop out of education must believe that their situation is not the end, Gladys said. ‘My personal situation didn’t allow me to finish my education after secondary, but I still have passion … some might look on this with regret; for me it’s a stepping stone.’

 Highlights:

Gladys went from secondary school dropout to youth worker through the Youth@Work programme
‘You must believe that your situation is not the end’, Gladys tells school dropouts
Her life experience gives her the passion to pursue further study and work on social issues.