Meet Dominique, Fionah, Jeremiah, Mercy, and Stephen: five winners of the 2016 Blog4Dev. They are from Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, and represent Africa’s brightest minds and change agents.
I personally felt mental health’s deep-rooted importance when I returned home to Rwanda in 1996, just after my people were traumatized by the 1994 Tutsi genocide. At a time when we needed mental health services the most, there was only one psychiatrist in the entire country.
Inclusion is the new buzzword in international development. From promoting citizen empowerment to fostering pathways out of fragility, it is all about political processes that are more inclusive and representative.
The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals are perhaps the most ambitious articulation of this consensus, with Goal 16 in particular calling for building more “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
And there are good reasons for this call-out. Two findings from research that I undertook for a paper I wrote recently on Political Settlements and the Politics of Inclusion are particularly striking in highlighting the centrality of inclusion:
Most parents in Africa will tell you that their children’s education is the most important investment they can make. Over the past decade, great progress has been made in terms of getting children into school, with countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Rwanda and Zambia recording primary net enrollment of over 90 percent. But across the continent, primary school completion and youth literacy rates remain unacceptably low.
Five of the eight AGI pilots were able to successfully embed a rigorous impact evaluation design. We also had a centralized research team that ensured standardization of the research objectives and methods as much as possible. You can access the papers from the individual pilots on our website, and you can download useful documents such as our evaluation concept notes, list of core indicators, and survey instrument in our Resource Guide.
Here are some key recommendations for further research:
Unbundle evaluation designs and provide cost-benefit information by project component. AGI evaluations weren’t able to compare the relative impact of technical training versus life skills training or measure the impacts of specific project strategies, such as mentoring or placement assistance. Similarly, we can say very little about disaggregated costs of these components.
Have a cash-only evaluation arm. Youth employment interventions of all kinds are under pressure to demonstrate that their impacts are larger than what could be achieved through giving cash directly. See, for example, this relevant blog post from Chris Blattman. As part of this agenda we also need to understand the differential impacts of cash provision on young men and women.
Determine the optimal composition, intensity, and delivery of different mixes of skills. This is particularly true for life skills training, which tends to be much more heterogeneous across contexts and is far less expensive to implement than technical or business skills. Related questions around the appropriate age to focus on different types of skills and whether training works better in sex-segregated classrooms will aid in designing the next generation of youth employment programs.
Test strategies for job placement. Progress has been made in improving the delivery of skills training and in helping youth start businesses, but much less is known about how to cost-effectively assist youth to find and retain wage jobs. Interventions—some implemented in AGI pilots—that deserve more testing include:
- Variations in the length and intensity of job placement support: Most AGI interventions included three to five months of placement support;
- Performance-based contracts for the training providers, as used in both the Liberia and Nepal AGI pilots, though these have not been tested rigorously;
- Wage subsidies, as tested among young female community college graduates in the Jordan AGI, which achieved significant short-term gains but no long-term impact;
- Partnerships with large firms to create custom training programs.
Untangle the relationships between young women’s labor and health outcomes. The AGIs in Liberia and Nepal, using a technical and vocational education and training (TVET) model, did not have significant impacts on sexual behaviors or health outcomes, while the Uganda girls' club-based approach dramatically lowered fertility and increased condom use. One distinguishing factor about the Uganda project was that it worked with younger girls, starting at age 14. Another important question to answer is whether there is an optimal age threshold or whether there are other conditions under which skills training projects can affect sexual behaviors.
This year’s #Blog4Dev topic was about increasing opportunities for young people in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, and more than 1300 young people between the ages of 18-28 from those countries submitted blog posts with their ideas. Of those, five writers stood out:
Ever since the beginning of time, man has proved himself an incredible and strange creature. The cavemen didn’t want to settle for fruits and grass, so he tried meat, he created fire from stones, he created clothes from skins and we can name a lot more. Man has gone to the moon, created electricity, cars and you name it.
Many countries around the world are working to improve women representation in the government.
If you look at the data from the last 25 years to see which countries made significant progress to increase proportion of seats held by women in their national parliaments, these three countries will stand out!
Rwanda, Bolivia and South Africa! See the chart below.
On this International Women’s Day, let’s quickly look at how these countries increased the proportion of women in parliaments.
, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Today, 25 years later, 64% of parliament is occupied by women.
The Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) through its eight pilots taught us a great deal about how to make skills training more female-friendly and support young women's transition to productive employment. In addition to all the lessons we learned about working with young women, the pilots also taught us a lot about how to improve the overall quality of skills training.
Our Top 5 quality enhancement lessons, along with links to more information, can be found online in our Resource Guide and here:
Lesson 1: Skills training projects need to set realistic expectations for self-employment versus wage employment. In contexts with limited opportunities for wage employment, skills training projects should help orient youth to the likelihood of self-employment and develop content suitable to different levels of aspiration in that sphere. In Liberia, for example, we offered a job skills track and a business skills track. We ended up having to gradually reduce the size of the job skills track from 35 percent of trainees in Round 1 to just 18 percent in Round 3 after our impact evaluation showed the employment rate in the business skills track was much stronger. This wasn’t easy—it involved changing the orientation of the client, the training providers, and the girls themselves.
Lesson 2: Involving the private sector can improve the market relevance and overall effectiveness of training. AGI pilots partnered with the private sector in the implementation arrangements by hiring private companies to provide training tailored to the needs of a specific firm/sector—as in the Rwanda AGI—and by hiring private sector training and employment service companies to deliver training and assist with job placement—as in Haiti, Liberia, and Nepal. We also took low-cost steps to engage the private sector throughout implementation. For example, the Liberia AGI organized Private Sector Working Groups to provide routine guidance on project activities and enlisted members of the private sector to inspire the trainees by serving as guest speakers in the classroom.
Lesson 3: Post-training support is critical and must be planned and budgeted for early on. Even Getting the training up and running always seems like priority number one, but over the course of implementing the AGI pilots we learned that we needed to do a better job planning and budgeting for more structured and intensive post-training support from the very beginning of each project. The AGI pilots provided three to six months of post-training job placement assistance—such as internships, job search coaching, and so on—or business advisory services—such as business mentoring and check-ins, linkages to micro-franchises and business capital, etc. The exact balance of classroom training versus placement support hasn’t been rigorously tested, but our experience suggests this support can really help trainees put their new skills to use in the labor market. An extended follow-up period may be particularly important for young women just entering the labor market or breaking into non-traditional trades.
Lesson 4: Improving the monitoring and verification of employment outcomes is essential if we want to improve employment outcomes in skills training projects. Many projects don’t monitor attendance or performance during training, let alone keep track of participants after training ends. AGI pilots monitored business and job performance and verified employment outcomes up to six months after classroom training ended. The pilots relied on self-reporting by service providers, then verified these claims among a random sample of trainees (about 25 percent) by talking with employers, local women, and community members, and by accessing the trainee’s business records. The percentage of employed youth in the sample was then extrapolated to the population that the training provider claimed to be employed. In Liberia and Nepal, where pilots implemented results-based contracts, this extrapolation was used as a basis for the final payment. Any inaccurate claims by training providers proportionally reduced their payment and could jeopardize eligibility for future rounds of training. In the Resource Guide, you can download the employment/business verification strategy from the Liberia AGI, as well as tools for monitoring and placement verification.
Lesson 5: Performance-based incentives are operationally feasible—even in fragile settings—and seem to improve outcomes, though this is an area for more rigorous testing. We used results-based contracts for training providers in the relatively small program in Liberia, targeting 2,500 young women, as well as in the Nepal AGI, which was embedded in a larger program that trains 15,000 youth annually. Both projects achieved impressive results and we hypothesize that the performance incentives for the service providers accounts for this in part.
A forthcoming and final blog in this series will address recommendations for future learning and research from the AGI.
From 2008-2015, we implemented pilots in eight countries, with the aim of supporting young women’s transition to productive employment. The AGI marked the Bank’s first experience working with this population—adolescent girls and young women—on this topic—skills and employment. We learned a great deal lot along the way, which we have collated in an online Resource Guide to share with other teams.
We tested two main program models—a classroom-based Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) model that delivered job and business skills plus life skills, and a Girls’ Club model that delivered life skills and short livelihood trainings in community-based safe space clubs. Both significantly impacted economic outcomes for young women, though the Girls’ Club model was far less expensive.
In Liberia, for example, the Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG) project—a TVET, classroom-based program—increased participants' employment by 47 percent and earnings by 80 percent. In Uganda, meanwhile, the Girl's Club program raised the likelihood of girls’ engagement in income-generating activities by 35 percent and had large impacts on risky sexual behaviors and the girls’ experience of violence.
A recent meta-analysis of Active Labor Market Policies (ALMPs) suggests that average program effects tend to be larger for females, and that training and other human capital interventions are particularly effective among women. This suggests that both AGI models—classroom-based vocational training and community-based Girls' Club training—should continue to be implemented and tested across a variety of settings.
So what made the AGI projects effective for young women?
First, AGI worked hard to get girls into the projects and to keep them there—which is challenging in itself, especially for younger girls. We know that attrition from training programs is high, but we don’t really know the magnitude of the problem because so many projects don’t monitor or report individual attendance. When projects do report attrition and disaggregate by sex, they often find young women drop out more than young men and for different reasons. AGI pilots were able to successfully recruit young women and maintained completion rates above 90 percent.
Here are some of the steps AGIs took to recruit young women and retain them:
- Consulted directly with girls in a vulnerability assessment to identify their constraints and needs;
- Budgeted time and resources for specialized communications and recruitment campaigns targeted to reach girls;
- Held morning and evening sessions in safe, accessible locations and took steps to prevent and respond to cases of gender-based violence;
- Provided free on-site childcare so young mothers could participate;
- Provided access to mentors inside and outside the classroom who helped follow up when girls missed training;
- Incentivized good attendance with stipends tied to participation, small completion bonuses, and trainee commitment forms, and facilitated access to savings so that participants could safely retain their stipends and earnings; and
- Incentivized training providers to help girls transition to jobs through results-based financing schemes.
Providing girls with accurate information about the returns to various male- and female-dominated trades is a first step. An experiment in Kenya provided such information and was able to get young women to sign up for training in male-dominated trades, but later on they were no more likely to complete training or pursue work in those trades than young women who had not received the information.
Qualitative work in Uganda among women who successfully "crossed over" into male-dominated fields found the presence of male role models early in a young woman’s career was an important factor, suggesting further that information alone isn’t enough.
Here are some things AGIs did to break occupational segregation:
- Conducted local labor market assessments that intentionally explored market demand in non-traditional trades for women;
- Included an orientation period to educate participants about their training options;
- Encouraged women to enter non-traditional trades in groups;
- Supported participants with mentors, other role models from the community, and careful monitoring for potential unintended consequences.
So what’s the bottom line?
Being intentional about designing and implementing projects that work well for young women requires more planning and resources up front, but the results are impressive—making the investment worthwhile. A single program doesn’t have to do it all—strategies for making training female-friendly need to make sense in the local context.
Forthcoming blogs will explore broader "good practice" lessons from the AGI—not specific to young women—and highlight recommendations for future research and learning.