World Bank Essay Contest 2010

María de los Ángeles Lasa has taken part in SABF 2009 and is a SABF Delegate at Universidad Católica de Córdoba. This year she decided to participate at the World Bank International Essay Competition 2010 and was awarded with the second prize.

Here is my story: I finished my course of studies (International Relations at Catholic University of Córdoba, Argentina), and I started looking for a job but I didn’t find anything, so I started to feel depressed and worthless. Unfortunately, the situation did not seem improve, but then I remembered a story I had once read: The Princess’s Hand.

I would like to share this beautiful story with you, but I prefer you to read it by yourself. Meanwhile, I want to continue telling you that the Princess´s story helped me to change my perspective, and motivated me to start this social project to help me and other young people in the same situation as I was. That´s when Todo Jóvenes was born, an informative website that publishes academic and work opportunities for youth between 15 and 30 years old, and that today has six volunteers, including three SABFers I met in the SABF Fifth Edition: Karina Cáceres, Patricia Fernández Bugna and Mariana San Martín.

Towards the end of last year, the website –in spite its meek design–, received more than 200 visitors each day, and we received letters from young people telling us how Todo Jóvenes had helped them to improve their academic and employment situation. Because of this, when in January the World Bank opened the call for submissions for the International Essay Competition 2010, I thought it would be a good idea to tell my story. I entitled my essay Todo Jóvenes: from a nearsighted Princess to a change in focus.

Imagine my surprise when in April I got a job, and in the very first day at my new job, I received an e-mail from the World Bank European Office notifying me that I was one of the eight finalists of the Essay Competition. It was a great surprise and I was so excited for I was the only finalist from Latin America, and because I would be able to share the story of the situation of many young people in Argentina with the whole world.

After booking my flights, left to Stockholm (Sweden) on the 29th May.  The Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics 2010 (ABCDE 2010), was held from the 31st until 2nd June, and it was in the extraordinary environment of that conference that I had the opportunity to attend the Final Jury of the International Essay Competition.

My participation at the conference was amazing. First of all, I had the privilege to attend the dissertations of Nobel Prize Laureates such as Elinor Ostrom and Joseph Stiglitz, authors of books and papers I studied at College. As for the Jury –composed of twelve judges from different countries–, I had the honor to defend my essay on 1st June. It was a unique experience I took with confidence and passion, and which resulted in my being awarded the second prize with Maureen Omoro from Kenya.

After having been to that beautiful city, after having attended a high level Conference, and after I got to know beautiful and moving stories of other young people, I returned to Argentina on 7th June. I know that most of what I had the opportunity to experience does not show in the certificate, nor does it appear in my passport, nor even in any of the picture, but I can assure you that my experience proves that it doesn’t matter how simple our idea is, nor the resources we have or don´t have to put it into practice, what counts, what is really important, is our conviction, our willpower and our strength to rejected the notion of limitations in our abilities to make the world a better place, and to attempt changing it where we think it needs to be changed.

María de los Ángeles Lasa


Topics: essay competitionmaria lasaworld bank

In the 2010 World Bank essay competition, young people around the world were invited to submit essays and videos responding to the following questions:

  • How does youth unemployment affect you, your country, town or local community?
  • What can you do, working together with your peers, to find a sustainable solution for job seekers through youth entrepreneurship? Think specifically about the barriers youths face in the labor market and how to tackle difficulties in accessing capital for business startups.


Now the Bank’s essay competition team has put together a great report summarizing the main ideas, insights and analysis from the more than 2,000 young people who participated (pdf).

Participants wrote in English, French and Spanish and came from over 130 countries (with 95% of submissions from developing countries), with the largest participation from Nigeria, India, Indonesia and Kenya. They wrote about how unemployment affects a young person’s life, from leading to crime, violence and drug use, to causing depression and feelings of worthlessness. They explained that sometimes the burden of finding a job goes far beyond a young person’s individual job search; rather, the entire extended family—who has pitched in to fund their education—is now depending on them for an income, resulting in even greater stress, humiliation and guilt when the young person cannot find employment. 

In terms of the causes of unemployment, a lot of youth cited the mismatch between what one learns in school or university and the needs of the labor market. A lack of entrepreneurship culture in academia and society was another sore point for many, who said the emphasis is on earning wages rather than creating wealth. Others said that jobs are often given to those coming from well-connected families, with regard to public sector positions in particular.

But youth did far from just citing problems. The essays and video were rife with optimism and practical solutions to unemployment. A huge number of participants incorporated social responsibility with innovative ideas. According to the summary report (pdf), “youth want to create businesses that can earn a profit and create jobs for themselves and others while having a positive impact on their communities; they are keenly aware of the need to incorporate socially and environmentally responsible practices in their business plans.”

Many also insisted that entrepreneurship training should be incorporated into university curricula. The idea of returning to agriculture was a popular one; many felt that the agriculture sector has huge potential but is currently underdeveloped in their country. Another recurring idea was having small savings or tax programs: students would contribute a small amount of money for each year of study to an investment fund. At the end of their studies, the money is returned to them with allowing them to leave school with some seed money to start their own business or project.

You can check out the winning essays and video on the competition website. Youthink! will also be publishing the top 20 finalists’ essays, starting this week with Taiwo Orogbangba.

And be sure to let us know: Do you agree with these views on the impacts, causes and solutions to unemployment? What would you add about unemployment in your country?

Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank

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