Context: The youth unemployment rate in Bangladesh stands at 10.3 per cent, with significant gender differences: the rate for females is more than three times greater than that for males. The rate of youth neither employed nor in education/training (NEET) is a substantial 41 per cent. However, a worrisome almost two thirds of female youth are NEET, the rate being over five times greater than for male youth. Another concern is that youth lack the skills demanded by the labour market, evidenced by the unemployment rate increasing with the level of education and over 6 in 10 youth being considered as undereducated for the jobs they hold.
Implementation of programme/ initiative: The overall goal of the Youth Employment through Skills (YES) project is empowering youth, especially girls and young women, by strengthening their skills and voices for economic self-reliance and leadership roles in poverty alleviation initiatives. The specific objectives of YES are:
- Developing skills and access to ITC for increasing productivity among young people in Cox’s Bazar and Dhaka districts
- Supporting the access of young people to office management skills in order to enhance their employment opportunities and improve their economic self-reliance
- Strengthening school-based disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction in Cox’s Bazar, a disaster-prone area
The project targets 400 youth people, 60 per cent of whom are young women aged 15 to 22 years old. The indirect target beneficiaries of the project are 2,430 family members. The project started in July 2016 and some ground activities and training have been already completed. YES is implemented by YPSA (Young Power in Social Action), a non-profit social development organization in partnership with HOPE’87, an Austrian NGO that supports youth employment initiatives worldwide. YES is funded by the clothing and accessories manufacturer ESPRIT in collaboration with the YOU Foundation-Education for Children in Need (Germany) and the Austrian Development Agency.
Main challenges: One of the main challenges faced by YES is attracting young women. Women are often confined to the domestic domain and involved in homestead unpaid jobs. The unequal access to economic opportunities among girls and young women is compounded by issues like violence, sexual harassment, discrimination, early marriage, malnutrition, health crises and high drop-out rates from education. Addressing violence against women remains a critical challenge in the context of ensuring their participation in economic activities.
Parents often do not allow their daughters to travel long distances to go to school, training and/or work. YPSA also notes that many girls are less interested to attend training due to social and religious barriers.
A further challenge is gaining financial support for young women trainees. Financial institutions want to ensure that they get returns all of their loans and thus pressure women to start working soon after they are trained.
Results achieved: Before the start of the project, YPSA identified market-driven training needs among young people in Cox’s Bazar and Dhaka. Subsequently, YPSA disseminated information about its training course through its web site and poster display in different colleges and schools and received 183 applications. Since July 2016, YES has already delivered six management skills training course to 80 youth, three ICT courses to 30 youth, two English language courses to 30 youth, one office management and secretariat course to 10 youth, and one basic accountancy course to 10 youth. Besides, 128 youth have received 5 life skills trainings, which have helped them to enhance their self-confidence, knowledge on life related issues, skills on interpersonal relationships, leadership qualities, problem-solving capacities and ability to cope with different situations. Currently, YES offers one hotel management course, one tourist guide training and two ICT courses, with 10, 10 and 20 youth participating, respectively.
The project is aware that young women usually earn less and work in more unstable jobs than men. They also lack access to resources and skills demanded by the labour market, and this prevents them from developing entrepreneurial capacity or the ability to secure a job. This has led YES to provide help for young women in order for them to get market-driven training. Young people participating in the training report that they learn considerably from the course and believe that it helps them to develop skills to build their career and improve their economic self-reliance, and thus contribute to reducing poverty in their families. As an added benefit, local governments have been very cooperative and positive towards YES.
Moving Forward: YES plans to strengthen and expand its life-skills development courses. Life-skills training is helping participants to enhance their self-confidence, knowledge on life-related issues, skills for interpersonal relationships, leadership development and problem-solving capacity.
A major goal for the near future is to advocate among local communities for higher participation of girls and young women in economic empowerment, which will also contribute to reduce gender inequality as well as poverty in the future. These young women will become agents of change in their community and thus help maintain the project impact.
In order to strengthen the sustainability of the project, YPSA also seeks to increase the involvement of key actors at the local level, like authorities of schools and colleges, parents, local authorities, local media, community-based organizations, employer’s associations and formal financial institutions. YPSA will liaise with the government’s Youth Development Department and other financial support provider organizations so youth can acquire training and financial assistance from them. Another matter is that the introduction of socially acceptable training fees will further strengthen the financial sustainability of the project.
Replicability: YPSA plans to share the good practices and lessons learned from the project with representatives of other NGOs in the country as well as with government officials in order to ensure that other organizations can replicate the model across the country and potentially elsewhere.
Background Information on Bangladesh school-to-work transition. Bangladesh School-to-work Transition 2013 Survey (2016). Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and International Labor Organization (ILO).
YPSA official web site: http://ypsa.org/
YPSA Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/pg/YPSAbd/about/?ref=page_internal
This good practice was kindly prepared by Dr. Antonio Postigo
Date: April 18, 2017