One of the participants at the leadership skills workshop mentioned in my last blog was Inês Domingos, our Gender and Social Equity Focal Person in Mozambique. Rather than return home immediately, she continued to Nepal for a study tour of our vocational training projects. This opportunity was timely, as next year Inês will become the Project manager of a new youth vocational training programme in Mozambique named HOJE (Habilidades mais Oportunidades resulta em Jovens com Emprego). With her experience in supporting gender and social equity throughout the Mozambique country programme, Ines has a particular eye for such matters, so I asked her what had been the most useful things she had learned from Nepal. I received an extremely long and enthusiastic email in return, but here follow three key points. They correspond to the three key issues identified in a Gender and Vocational Skills Guidance Sheet prepared for SDC by some of my colleagues in the Skills Development and Education team.
Being pro-active in recruiting trainees
Training institutions in our partner countries generally receive far more male than female applicants; thus pro-active efforts are needed to recruit young women. Inês writes “I was impressed that the government of Nepal recognises this fact – indeed, officials from the Ministry of Education told me that they had learned in this respect from the Employment Fund [a large project that we implemented on behalf of SDC, DFID and the World Bank]. In Nepal, the cultural expectations around women’s roles seem very much linked to the home, as in Mozambique – so women tend to look for training in skills such as cooking, sewing and becoming a maid. I saw how in advertisements for training courses, women and men are encouraged to apply for training in all sorts of professions, not just stereotypical ones. This helps young women change their mind-set about what is possible. A further good approach is to work at community level, so that attitudes are changed, and young people – both women and men – are encouraged by those around them to go for a training.”
Ensuring gender-friendly training facilities
“In a training centre I visited, accommodation was provided so that young people from poor backgrounds living in more remote areas had a place to stay during their training. This was separate for women and men, and seemed much appreciated. On the other hand, I also visited a place where people were receiving training in earthquake-resistant house construction following the earthquake. Here the training was on site, but the trainees were local people from the immediate locality – so they could stay at home at night and be trained during the day. This was also a nice approach.
Another good experience shared in Nepal was supporting those who have been trained to train others. I saw how training centres recruit some of the women they have trained to become trainers themselves – this of course gives them immediate employment. It also builds the self-confidence of the trainees, seeing such women trainers as role models”.
Linking training to employment
“The Nepal examples impressed on me the importance of making a market study to ensure that the training provided fits the demand in the job market. Also, the training centres are supported in making specific links to employers, and in offering additional business training to those who want to become self-employed. Thus the young trainees do not just walk out of the training centre without knowing where to start. It was also interesting to see how these young people are tracked in the monitoring system to see that they have a job and that they remain employed. This follow-up is really good to validate the usefulness of the training.”
And how does Inês relate what she saw to her new job? She anticipates many challenges ahead. “Unemployment in Mozambique is very high, particularly amongst the youth – and this pushes many of them onto the street doing small businesses that undermine their dignity, or getting into crime. Also, most children don’t even finish primary school and have limited literacy. Young men learn how to become a carpenter, mechanic or plumber whilst young women learn to do some small business such as preparing food for sale from their parents, a friend or somebody else in the community. So we need to evolve from that situation, to find ways of teaching skills to those who are poorly educated, and also link to the job market. For young women it’s particularly hard because they tend to get married, have children early, and get involved in caring for the family. So even they have interest to undergo training, it’s difficult. But we can follow some of the examples from Nepal with regard to gender-friendly accommodation and working with the community to change attitudes. And it’s clear that making a study of the labour market right at the beginning is crucial. Generally in Mozambique, training centres simply do not make this connection.”
For the photograph, I am grateful to my colleague Ram Sapkota in Nepal, who accompanied Inês and other colleagues (from Kosovo) in their study tour. He adds, “I learned a lot from Inês about Mozambique, and realised that gender discrimination in our two countries is very similar. Such exchanges are really interesting; we have agreed that we will keep in touch and share good practices through email or by Skype”.