When it comes to helping young women in Africa with both economic and social opportunity, what does the evidence tell us? Broadcaster Georges Collinet sat down with researchers and policymakers to discuss the hard evidence behind two programs that have succeeded in giving girls a better chance at getting started in their adult lives.
Adolescent Girls Initiative
Each month, about one million people enter the labor force in Africa. Another one million start looking for work in India. Add to this millions of others around the globe, and worldwide, some one billion people will enter the labor force between now and 2030.
Why is that date important? That’s the deadline World Bank Group President Jim Kim has set for ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Making this happen will require not only a healthy and skilled labor force, but also requires creating ample job opportunities, and ensuring that young adults can find productive work.
In Haiti, recruiting young women to train for what has traditionally been perceived as predominantly masculine disciplines is a challenging task. Our team discovered that many families wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to educate their daughters, yet they were hesitant because the training being offered was in non-traditional roles.
These female students were going to learn professions attributed to tradesmen such as masonry, carpentry, heavy machinery maneuvering, plumbing and electrical wiring. Fathers and especially mothers were fiercely opposed to having their daughters do this type of work but for different reasons.
Fathers often asked the question: “Why you don’t teach them to do something more respectable, more suited for a girl, to be a secretary, or work in a hospital?” Mothers countered the idea with safety concerns, afraid that their daughters could become easy targets for unscrupulous men in what are clearly male dominated professions.
What comes first to your mind when you think about girls’ education? There may be a good chance that you remember a particular girl you met who could not go to primary school. Or perhaps you will visualize one of those great pictures of smiling and studious girls attending primary school in a developing country thanks to a particular project or intervention.
Both pictures are correct, but they account for only a small part of the story.
For almost a year, the World Bank has been supporting the Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) in Haiti, where much of the country is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake. Through this program, 1,000 low-income Haitian girls between the ages of 17 and 20 who did not complete secondary school have been able to receive vocational and technical training in areas of work not traditionally open to women.
The program seeks to ensure that these young Haitian women can enter the labor force with skills and experience. Internships are an integral component of the training they receive. In this context, the acquisition of technical skills suited to labor market needs and a change in mindset are critical to altering this situation in tangible ways.
I had the opportunity to go to Port-au-Prince when the program was launched and meet the future beneficiaries. I returned a few weeks ago to observe the progress made.
“Should only men be allowed to be builders, heavy machinery drivers, or electricians? No—I want to be able to do these jobs too.” The young woman expressing this opinion is Edelène. She is 17 years old and dropped out of school in the third grade because her family could no longer afford to pay her school fees.
With her mother’s assistance, she is raising her one-year old son. We met her during our visit to the APROSIFA Carrefour-Feuille association in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince. Surrounded by roughly ten other young women from her neighborhood, Edelène shares her hopes for the future.
“We have a situation on our hands and the clock is ticking. We have fifty million twelve-year-old girls in poverty,” the opening video proclaimed. The solution is simple and profound, the Girl Effect, “an effect that starts with a 12-year-old girl and impacts the world.” Despite the catchy rhyme, I was skeptical. Can you blame me? It seems that we women have been getting the shaft since that damn snake in Eden.
The list of superwomen who addressed the over capacity crowd at the “Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI): An Alliance for Economic Empowerment” event on October 6th read like the World Bank, White House, Hollywood, Philanthropy, Business and the Catwalk list of Who’s Who. The crowd craned their necks from the hallway to catch a glimpse of World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and World Bank Director of Gender and Development Mayra Buvinic; White House Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett; Actor, Anne Hathaway; President of the Nike Foundation, Maria Eitel, and Supermodel Christy Turlington.
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Youth for Good Governance
- Youth Adult Participation Project
- young women
- world bank
- White House
- Valerie Jarrett
- The Girl Effect
- Ready to work
- Nike Foundation
- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
- New Lessons: The Power of Educating Adolescent Girls
- Millenium Development Goals
- Mayra Buvinic
- Maria Eitel
- IDA 16 special themes
- Girls Count
- Gender Gap
- Gender Equality is smart economics
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
- economic returns
- Dilma Rousseff
- Christy Turlington
- Anne Hathaway
- Adolescent Girls Initiative
Helping girls and young women in developing countries transition from school to work isn’t always an easy path. In many places, early marriage and childbirth prevent girls from pursuing an education, putting their earnings potential—and future prosperity—at significant risk.