The Power of 1.8 Billion — FARID

(Farid is a fictional character)

Farid is an underemployed college graduate living in the Middle East. He grew up with just his father; his mother died during his birth. The lack of work opportunities has Farid and his father discussing the future, and how Farid can create a fruitful life for himself that is secure and sustainable. While Farid's dream has always been to work as a journalist, just as his mother did, he hasn’t had any luck getting work in the field. He knows that pursuing a second degree in nursing where he can help communities with limited access to quality sexual and reproductive health services will not only secure him a job, but also help prevent women and girls from experiencing a fate like that of his mother.

ICDP Review Report The 5 Pillars

Unemployed and Struggling

Farid is very frustrated. The young college graduate hasn’t been able to find employment despite his education. Even though he is thankful to his father for supporting him, he hates not being able to help out his family financially. Farid is ready to create his own independent life. In the Middle Eastern country where he lives, this is no easy task. The job market is challenging and finding work particularly in his field of study has been impossible.

“The challenge of providing decent work to young people is a concern for both industrialized and developing countries. Of the estimated 197 million unemployed people in 2012, nearly 40 per cent were between 15 and 24 years of age.”

It was around his 10th birthday that Farid decided he wanted to be a journalist, just as his mother was. She passed away while giving birth to him. Although he never knew his mother, she is a woman he admires unconditionally. He knows and feels close to her through her writing and when he is writing. As a little boy, he loved to interview people. He’d practice his reporting on his father, pretending he was a politician, a doctor, a musician, and ask dozens of questions. He was like a detective people would say. Farid loved interviewing people on the street. He’d ask them about their day and would joke with them. According to his father, he is just like his mother. They both found it fun and exciting to discover the interesting details of a stranger’s life!

“Youth comprise nearly 40% of the 197 million people unemployed in 2012.”

Two years after he graduated from college, Farid is still struggling to find a job within the field he studied. Like many of his classmates and young people around the world, Farid is scrambling now to find any kind of work. He and other young people are hungry for whatever paying position they can get, even if it doesn’t match their education level, skills or interests.

“Up to 60% of young people in developing regions are neither working nor in school, or are engaged in irregular employment.”

Farid is considered lucky by many of his peers. He is working part-time as a cashier at a pharmacy. Lucky or not, this is not sustainable. The pharmacy is pretty far away from his home, so he must spend extra money and time on the commute. He’s essentially put aside his big ideas and ambitious imagination so he can focus just on earning a living wage. Because he is unable to utilize his skills and knowledge, Farid feels stifled, and that his potential is limited. Farid’s father, Najeeb, feels heavy-hearted about his son’s predicament. This is not the life he and his wife had envisioned for their child. He didn’t struggle for Farid to go to university and pursue his dreams only to work behind a counter. They discuss the idea of Farid going back to school to get an education within a field that is always hiring. While not ideal, they consider that Farid may have to seek employment in another country. Farid’s big dream was to work in Africa as a journalist covering global health issues, so serving hands-on as a nurse could allow him a version of that opportunity. After all, he can still write about the experiences! Thinking in these terms is both scary and exciting. The reality is that for Farid to access better opportunities, he will have to be away from his father, from his friends, from the life he has always known.

“The economy will need to create over 600 million productive jobs over the next decade in order to absorb people who are currently unemployed.”

Changing his career path and going back to school is a big decision. But it is one that could improve his future and his father’s. Another of Farid’s dreams is to buy his father a little cottage on the beach, since Najeeb met Farid’s mother, Aaminah, on the beach. Before he was born, they would spend holidays at the beach.

Aaminah and Farid’s Story

Farid feels incomplete without his mother. She is a missing piece of the puzzle that is his life. Even though she only exists in his mind and in a few pictures, Farid knows the stories of his mother’s life a thousand times over by heart.

Aaminah was a very beautiful woman who had many young suitors. But she loved Najeeb and married him. She loved his long wispy eyelashes, the same Farid has, “like butterfly wings,” Najeeb described them. She married Najeeb when she was 20 years old and learned she was pregnant shortly after. The way she told her husband she was pregnant was an especially magical night. The eve of Najeeb’s 23rd birthday, she knit a little pair of blue baby boots and hid them under her husband’s pillow. She always knew she would have a boy. And knowing that Najeeb loved the way the cool fabric of his pillow felt on his skin, she watched and waited patiently for him to hug the pillow right before going to sleep. When he found the little blue boots, a smile exploded across his face. Together, they laughed and cried all night, talking about this new life that would soon make their family whole.

“An estimated 800 women in the world still die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications each day. […] In 2010, developing countries accounted for 99 per cent of all maternal deaths globally.”

It was exciting for Najeeb and Aaminah to plan for their new baby. As young, soon-to-be new parents, they tried to be extra careful to keep Aaminah and the baby safe and healthy. This wasn’t so easy 25 years ago in Farid’s country. Aaminah logistically was only able to attend two antenatal care visits during her pregnancy; medical professionals recommend at least four. Although her clinic was free, accessing it was very difficult for her and Najeeb. Transportation wasn’t reliable, and often could be completely unavailable. Also, her husband had taken another job to save extra money for when Farid would arrive. Because he was working a lot, he couldn’t go with her to appointments. (At that time, women could not go to the clinic unless their husbands came with them.)

“800 women continue to die every day from preventable pregnancy-related complications.”

During her second antenatal care visit, she learned her blood pressure was higher than normal. She was told if she took the medication the doctor had prescribed to her, she would be fine. Thankfully, Najeeb managed to buy the medication with extra money from his second job. Aaminah started taking it as suggested. She felt a bit strange and nauseous from the pills. Sometimes she’d experience severe headaches. Najeeb and Aaminah figured that they were normal symptoms during pregnancy. As time passed, Aaminah and Najeeb prepared to deliver the baby at home. They decided this because that was the way their mothers and their mothers’ mothers had delivered. Also, the clinic and hospital were not conveniently located where they would make it in time anyway. In their community it was very common for women to deliver their babies in their own home, surrounded by family.

When the big day came, Aaminah went into labour. Everything seemed to be going well until things suddenly started going very wrong. Farid’s arrival was taking too long, and Aaminah was exhausted. After 24 hours in labour at home, she began convulsing. Najeeb found someone in their community to drive them to the clinic. When they arrived, the doctor was not there. The neighbour who brought them to the clinic then rushed to find the doctor, who lived nearby. Unfortunately, it was too late. Farid was born, and Aaminah was dead.

What Aaminah and Najeeb didn’t know was that she had developed pre-eclampsia during her pregnancy. It went unnoticed because she had only attended two antenatal care appointments. The eclampsia developed during her prolonged, obstructed delivery, and resulted, tragically, in her passing away shortly after delivering Farid.

Twenty-five years later, the health system in Farid’s country has strengthened significantly. So many of the health issues his mother faced are no longer a problem in his country. More women have access to both antenatal care and skilled birth attendants. This access alone has significantly decreased maternal mortality since his birth and the passing of his mother. While Farid likes to write and report about health care, dreaming of one day covering big global health stories in Africa, he realizes he can adjust his goals and work as a health professional in places in dire need of help on issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights. With these issues so sensitive in Farid’s life, and recognizing that weak health systems remain, he is determined to help prevent these avoidable health scenarios in other parts of the world where the lack of maternal health services devastatingly persists. He doesn’t want young people to have to grow up in the shadow of such tragedy and loss as he did.

Healing in Another Country

Refocusing his career path as a medical professional, rather than reporting and writing about health issues, has Farid inspired by the sense of value and reward he will feel during and after nursing school abroad. Finding work where he can help women, their spouses and their children avoid maternal mortality is an empowering and motivating force.

Najeeb is very touched by his son’s motivations. He supports Farid as he sends out applications to pursue a nursing career.

“Emigration of highly skilled and educated segments of the population in search of decent work is a social and economic challenge.”

A few months later, Farid receives his acceptance letter and a full scholarship to pursue his studies in nursing at a prestigious university. Moving to start this new chapter feels like the most powerful decision of Farid’s life. This feeling is confirmed as his classes start. He has absolutely made the right decision.

Studying alongside other international students, Farid feels part of a larger community, full of passionate young people who want to make significant changes in this world. Just like him, many of his new friends were motivated to start nursing school for personal reasons. They, too, find meaning in helping others.

“Young people make up 28% of the global population.”

Thanks to Farid’s experience working at the pharmacy and his extensive social media network, he is able to find part-time work in a clinic close to his school that serves refugees. This makes him feel helpful, pushing him to work even harder. He is now part of something bigger than himself, growing as a person while helping others. When he graduates, his new plan is to find work in a sub-Saharan African country where maternal mortality levels are still extremely high.

Because Farid is on a full scholarship and working part-time, he is able to send some money home to his Dad. Even though it’s not a lot, any little bit is still helpful. He likes making his father proud of the man he is becoming.

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