The key to ending gender inequality in Haiti is youth empowerment

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A woman at the market selling fruits A woman at the market selling fruits

More than half of Haiti's population is under the age of 25. In the face of chronic fragility and recurrent shocks, Haiti's youth represent a potential source of resilience and a driving force toward Haiti's recovery. And yet, Haiti's youth also represent a risk for further social instability if they face worsening opportunities.

Shocks from climate change and political upheaval have come on top of existing fragilities, such as those related to gender equality, where Haiti has long lagged behind its peers.  Recognizing Haiti's policy and security environment, the World Bank has produced the report Haiti's Untapped Potential: An Assessment of the Barriers to Gender Equality. This assessment sheds light on a series of key gaps and barriers to gender equality in the country. It also discusses short-term policy options that can help narrow those gaps and level the playing field for all, particularly the youth.

Three key findings related to Haitian youth are identified in the report:

  1. Their unique needs heavily influence girls' school attendance, while boys are more susceptible to engaging in risky behaviors.

Girls and young women in Haiti have made significant strides in educational attainment. Between 2012 and 2017, net attendance rates have increased for primary and secondary levels of education in both urban and rural areas, and the increases are higher among girls. However, in rural areas, women aged 15-24 are more likely than men to have no education (6 percent women and 3 percent men). Evidence shows that school attendance and attainment for girls and young women are heavily influenced by their unique needs related to menstruation, negotiating schooling with chores and housework, and sexual harassment that limits their mobility.

Although it is encouraging to see more girls attending school, Haiti - as is the case in other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region- is experiencing an emerging pattern of increased dropout among boys beyond the primary level.   Girls' net attendance rate in secondary for the year 2017 was 65 percent in urban areas, whereas for boys, this rate was 59 percent, a difference that was not there in 2012. In rural areas, this 'reverse gap' is even higher. Increased disconnection from the education system during adolescence might lead to a range of risky behaviors among young men.

Net attendance ratios in secondary. Boys and girls in Haiti. 2012 and 2017


Source: Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) (2012, 2016–17). The net attendance ratio corresponds to the ratio of children of official school age who are enrolled to the corresponding official school-age population. For secondary, this refers to the population ages 12–17 years.


  1. Young women lag young men in terms of labor market outcomes, mostly due to gendered roles.

Low labor-force participation of female youth is particularly concerning because many young women are neither in education, employment, or training (a condition known as NEET), especially in urban areas. Women's roles as caregivers and homemakers present substantial barriers to equal participation in the labor market and society.

Percentage of youth not in employment, education, or training (NEET) by sex and residence (% youth population by gender) – 2019


Source: International Labour Organization (ILO), modeled estimates using data from ECVMAS 2012. Note: Youth is defined as all persons between the ages of 15 and 24 (inclusive).

Women are less likely to be in the labor force with each additional child in their household, which does not hold for men. Looking at the employed aged 15-24 (DHS), men are more likely to work year-round compared to women, and when it comes to earnings, most men are paid in cash (56 percent of them), whereas women are more likely to receive a combination of cash and in-kind wages (47 percent, compared to 33 percent for men).


  1. Limited control over their sexual health and gender-based violence (GBV) threaten young women's agency.

While declining, Haiti's adolescent fertility rate remains higher than the average for lower-middle-income countries (49.5 vs. 40.5 births per 1,000 women 15-19).  Girls in urban areas are less likely to become pregnant than in rural areas, but the rates are still quite high in both areas. This phenomenon goes hand in hand with women being unable to assert control over their sexual health.

Adolescent fertility rate (number of live births per 1,000 women aged 15-19), by residence


Sources: DHS (2000, 2005–6, 2012, 2016–17).

Gender-based violence comes in many forms in Haiti and prevents the full participation of women in society. Women are more likely to be victims of gender-based violence than men, facing security risks at home, in their communities, and in the workplace. Reports of emotional and physical violence increased from 2010 to 2017 for almost all age groups, while reports of sexual violence decreased for all age groups except among women aged 15–19.

The way forward in Haiti

Reaping the demographic dividend from Haiti's young population will require alleviating their constraints regarding human endowments, productive opportunities, and agency.  Both in-school youth, who are at risk of dropping out, and out-of-school youth need targeted programming. Cognitive, socio-emotional, and in-demand technical skills are important for successful school-to-work transitions by young women, coupled with role models and information. In the short term, response to and prevention of GBV can be strengthened by expanding services through existing entities and community-based models. The community level can also effectively tackle gender roles, attitudes, and ideals of masculinity.

The report discusses in depth the areas where policies might be feasible to implement in the current context and near term. We invite you to read it.


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Carlos Rodríguez Castelán

Practice Manager, Poverty and Equity Global Practice in Latin American and the Caribbean

Gustavo Canavire-Bacarreza

Senior economist, Poverty and Equity Global Practice

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