During the past few decades, SYL’s themes for development cooperation have been education, supporting students and increasing the awareness of development cooperation in Finland. The development cooperation work has promoted the principles which we value also in other activities: sustainability, fairness and education. SYL’s development cooperation activities also involve volunteers in Finland, for instance through SYL’s Development Cooperation Advisory Board.
SYL’s development cooperation activities are directed by the development cooperation strategy. The strategy, which has been drawn up for the years 2015–2019, defines the values and goals of SYL’s development cooperation both in Finland and in developing countries. The aim of the strategy is to make better use of SYL’s core competence in our development cooperation work, so in the future our development cooperation will focus more strongly on higher education.
Our vision is that SYL’s development cooperation activities will promote a world where everyone has the required knowledge and skills to influence their own life, society and environment. SYL’s focus in developing countries is to promote the access to and quality of education, give local students opportunities to have an influence, and the realisation of equality, especially in a higher education environment.
The development cooperation strategy was drawn up in 2014 by SYL’s Board, the Development Cooperation Advisory Board KENKKU and the student unions. KENKKU assesses how well the strategy is carried out.
More information in Finnish: SYL’s development cooperation strategy
SYL began our development cooperation activities in Guatemala with the local student organisation AMEU (Asociación Maya de Estudiantes Universitarios) in 1994. The current joint project, which is meant to be the last, has been carried out in 2015–2017. The long-term goal of the project is to improve the social status and income of Mayan women and to reduce income equalities between different population groups.
In its work AMEU makes use of things learned from the previous project and develops new operating practices. At the start of the project four groups for women were founded in four rural municipalities; Acatenango, Parramos, San José Poaquil and Patzicia. We have continued educating groups of women and founding nurseries, as this turned out to be successful during the previous project, and an additional goal is to teach approximately one hundred women skills related to producing and selling avocados. Help will be provided for the women’s group which was founded in Tecpán Guatemala during a previous project in order to sell their avocados. Our partner AMEU will also be strengthened as an organisation. This is important so that AMEU’s work has a stable basis to stand on when the cooperation comes to an end.
The second year of the project has already showed that, in addition to providing financial opportunities, the project also is of great social importance. In Guatemala, and particularly in the countryside, women do not usually work outside the home, and men are expected to feed the family. This also means that women are not offered the same opportunities for education as men, and at the start of the project many of the husbands doubted what use it would be to direct the activities towards women. Now, however, the husbands may even offer to look after the children so that the women can participate in the training. In addition to education in production and sales, the women also receive information about their rights, and they are encouraged to protect the environment. The trees that are planted bind carbon dioxide and prevent soil erosion. The increase in income also reduces the need to chop down the local forests for firewood.
In 2012–13 SYL carried out a development cooperation project in Guatemala which helped to strengthen the Maya community’s risk management capacity for natural disasters. The project was carried out in the department of Chimaltenango, in the municipalities Tecpán and San Andrés Itzapa, and it is the continuation of SYL’s project from 2008–2010 which focused on mapping out the susceptibility to risk and developing readiness to deal with crises. You can watch a video about the project here.
Guatemala is located on the isthmus of Central America, and the country is exposed to various natural catastrophes, such as hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Deforestation cause erosion and landslides and destroy groundwater resources. Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, and approximately 75% of its inhabitants live in poverty. In the countryside and amongst the indigenous people the poverty figures are even higher.
SYL and the student unions’ development cooperation theme week has become a traditional part of our communications and global education work. The theme varies from year to year, and is approached from various points of view to which students can relate
The aim of these theme weeks is to persuade university students to think about global development issues. Students will also be told about ways in which they personally can make a difference.
The student unions who take part in organising the development cooperation weeks play a central part in planning and organising the events. The student unions hire their own local coordinator, who works with a team of volunteers to make the theme week suit their own student union. Every year tens of events are organised during the theme week, and these have seen on average 8,000–10,000 participants.
We have not received any project funding for 2017–2018. In addition to SYL, the following student unions also took part in the project for 2015−2016: AYY, HYY, ISYY, JYY, LYY, OYY, TaiYo and TYY. The project also made social media a larger part of the theme week. During the project a social media guide was created to support the student unions’ communication during the development cooperation week.
During the 2013–2014 project we created a guide specifically for student organisations on organising events relating to development cooperation.
In 2013–2015 we carried out a project to improve reading and writing skills in six schools in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Our partner in charge of carrying out the project was AFORTALECER, which is an NGO in Mozambique that focuses on education.
Children in Mozambique have poor reading and writing skills. There are many reasons for this: there are not enough teaching materials for the children, classes are large, the infrastructure of the schools and the teachers’ teaching skills are insufficient, and parents do not make their children’s education a priority. Even though the government of Mozambique is working to develop the education sector e.g. by building schools and training new teachers, the entire school system cannot be changed in an instant.
The aim of the project is to improve literacy among first and second year pupils in primary school. To achieve this, we have bought 2,628 textbooks and other teaching materials and developed the pedagogic skills of 64 teachers. This is particularly important as the teacher training for the first few years of primary school in Mozambique only requires a few years of study after secondary education. The pedagogic skills often play a minor part in teacher training as the students focus on learning the content of their subjects. The teachers in the project schools estimated afterwards that the project activities had supported children’s learning and particularly improved their motivation.
It was also emphasised to the parents of the pupils how important their support is for their children’s education and future. The pupil’s enthusiasm for reading and writing was supported e.g. by starting fairy tale groups in the project schools. Our partner AFORTALECER also began carrying out advocacy work to improve the quality of education in Mozambique. The organisation was able to awaken an interest for the project’s operating model amongst the local education authorities.
Picture of the classroom during the now completed project in Mozambique
SYL carried out development cooperation projects with the Mongolian Information, Education & Communication Centre (IEC) in 2007−2014.
For a long time IEC has worked with poor, secluded communities. The organisation focuses particularly on promoting education and democracy in regions with inadequate social and economic structures. Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, and around half of the population have a nomadic or semi nomadic lifestyle. The nomads still spend part of the year moving around from place to place with their yurts and livestock. The nomads living in the Mongolian countryside are exposed to changing weather conditions and the destruction of the environment caused by e.g. mining. This makes it difficult to carry on this traditional occupation and causes unemployment both in the cities and in the countryside. The population in the most secluded regions also have very limited possibilities to access information to improve their conditions.
The project of 2012–2014 aimed to intervene in these issues in two different areas; the Songino Khairkhan district of Ulaanbaatar and the Arkhangai province in the countryside, by founding community groups. The groups start businesses who offer services from felting to garages and nurseries. They also bring initiatives to local decision makers in order to develop communities. The groups are still in operation, but they still need support to become official businesses.
KENKKU, i.e. The Development Cooperation Advisory Board, is a group of volunteers who represent different student unions. The advisory board is in charge of managing SYL’s development cooperation projects together with the SYL board member in charge of development cooperation and the development cooperation coordinator. KENKKU’s responsibilities include e.g. planning new projects, monitoring ongoing projects, writing annual reports and monitoring the budget. KENKKU members also share information about the projects within their student unions and on the blog.
KENKKU’s term is from September till the end of August. KENKKU is made up of both new and continuing members to ensure that information is passed on every year. New members are chosen from candidates put forward by the student unions based on predefined criteria. Applications for KENKKU take place annually in April–May.
New members: Continuing members:
Riikka Aartola, JYY Sanni Isometsä, HYY
Anu Ahonen, JYY Samuli Miettinen, ISYY
Veera Alahuhta, OYY
Akin Alaka, AYY
Alex Cisneros, JYY
Pietari Keskinen, AYY
Maarit Malkamäki, Tamy
Noora Mäkelä, TYY
Liisa Nerg, HYY
Riina Pursiainen, TYY
Laura Pylvänäinen, JYY
Kaisa Rahko, HYy
Salla Uusitalo, Tamy
KENKKU members can influence SYL’s choice of development cooperation projects, they gain great experience in managing development cooperation projects, and get to know people working with development cooperation in other student unions.
Would you like to support SYL’s development cooperation activities? You can do that by transferring a sum of your choice to SYL’s fundraising account. 85% of SYL’s international projects are funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the remaining 15% are funded by SYL. 7.5% of SYL’s contribution is made up of voluntary work, which consists of the work carried out by the Development Cooperation Advisory Board (KENKKU). KENKKU’s members are students representing different student unions. The remaining 7.5% of the budget is made up of funding from SYL, which is collected through voluntary donations from students. That is why it is important for you to donate to SYL’s development cooperation projects!
LICENCE NUMBER: RA/2017/68, granted 20.1.2017
LICENCE GRANTED BY: The National Police Board
LICENCE GRANTED TO: National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) ry
DURATION AND AREA: 20.01.2017–31.12.2018 all parts of Finland, with the exception of Åland
ACCOUNT NUMBER: IBAN FI04 8000 1501 1968 45, DABAFIHH
REFERENCE: Donation for development cooperation
The donated funds will be used for development cooperation activities of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) during 2017–2019 Specifically, the funds will be used to cover SYL’s share of the funding for the project supporting women’s groups to produce and sell avocados in Guatemala, which has received funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the costs of communication and global education events, as well as the salary of the development cooperation coordinator as it relates to planning new project. In addition, the funds can be used for direct monitoring, planning and meeting costs in Finland which are caused by the project work and other development cooperation activities.