Youth unemployment affects young women more than young men in almost all regions of the world: only 37 percent of young women participate in the labor force, compared to 54 percent of young men. Gaps in these labor force participation rates are due to several factors, including fewer opportunities for women to combine work and family duties, perceived lower value of women’s economic contributions, differing perceptions of the types of jobs appropriate for young women, the risk of gender-based violence at work or while commuting to work, and barriers to entering traditionally male-dominated fields (e.g., science, technology, engineering and mathematics). When young women are excluded from economic opportunities, gender inequality is reinforced and women are less able to invest in their own health, education, and safety – and that of their children.
In early 2018, USAID’s YouthPower Learning project launched the Young Women Transform Prize competition for innovations that help to remove barriers such as these to young women’s economic empowerment. Youth-led and youth-serving organizations in low-and middle-income countries were invited to submit innovative solutions to address this issue. At the YouthPower Annual Learning Network Meeting on September 18, USAID’s Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Economic Growth, Education, and Environment Michelle Bekkering announced the eight winners of this competition, selected from among 365 applicants. From Kenya to Colombia, these prize awardees will support women’s economic empowerment through a range of innovative programs.
Read on to learn more about some of the winners – their missions, what they do, and what they will achieve through this Prize:
Mashinani Hub, based in Kenya, is dedicated to inspiring, creating, and connecting the next generation of sustainable communities in Africa through the provision of business training, incubation, and the development of cooperatives that help girls access the marketplace directly so they can command better prices for their products. .
Mashinani Hub has introduced different projects to support women in their community, and one of those innovative projects is the Sustainable Bees Program for Rapid Economic Empowerment. The project identifies young women from the rural farming communities in Nyamira and trains them on basic computer skills and financial literacy, and then equips them with honey and poultry farming products from which they are able to farm and earn profit. The women’s groups’ farm bees and hens in their homes, engaging in an economic activity which helps create resilient and sustainable communities.
The Biz Nation
The Biz Nation’s Young Women Productive Education Program addresses barriers to young women’s economic empowerment in impoverished regions of the Caribbean coast in Colombia by providing young women entrepreneurship, innovation, and vocational training. Engaging young women is the key mission of this young women-founded and -led program. The Biz Nation partners with local educational institutions and organizations to provide young women with computers, internet access, and training free of charge in underserved communities. In the last 12 months, 150 young women (90% aged 10-29) completed this program, and another 250 women are on the waiting list to enroll.
With this prize, The Biz Nation will create a course for its online platform about education in marginalized communities. This will allow them to share lessons both locally and globally while simultaneously collecting feedback and ideas to adapt programs. The Biz Nation will also build on its successful record hosting convenings to facilitate international events with educators, partners, and organizations working in young women’s education and empowerment to present its program findings, outcomes, and lessons learned.
Safeplan Uganda is a youth-founded and -focused organization addressing the challenges youth face in finding employment. Its goal is to empower young people through basic skills training (reading and writing) and awareness raising on economic empowerment and health to support them become responsible citizens. The organization uses economic empowerment activities as a tool to provide a lifelong source for sustainable livelihoods.
The Budongo Women Bee Enterprises initiative led by Safeplan Uganda was established to address women’s economic needs through cooperative bee farming, where women are supported with basic skills and tools to address climate change through environmentally friendly activities. Through the prize, Safeplan Uganda will document the learnings from its experience by recording success stories, producing video footage of the training program, and writing brochures and articles for print and online publication. Safeplan Uganda also proposes to produce a bee training booklet for its program, so that other communities may adapt the trainings and implement similar models.
The Asante Africa Foundation
Asante Africa Foundation educates East African youth to tackle life’s challenges, thrive in the global economy, and catalyze positive change. The organization’s areas of focus include keeping girls in school and on the path to success, ensuring strong academic learning and student-centered teaching, and supporting young people develop a life plan for themselves with job readiness and small business skills.
The Prize enables Asante Africa to conduct a system-level evaluation of their Girl-Led Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurship Program. Critical focus is placed on the longer-term impact of the program in the areas of leadership, job readiness, and entrepreneurship skills of youth. This is achieved through extracurricular, collaborative, and hands-on activities, as well as active community engagement by encouraging youth to share their new-found knowledge within their communities.
The Dream Factory Foundation
The Dream Factory Foundation empowers youth from marginalized and underprivileged backgrounds to transition successfully into adulthood and make a full contribution to society. The Creation Prize will support the innovative Emergent Business and Coding Academy, which combines computer science, digital, business, and job-readiness skills training with actual job experience. The business component of the academy is accredited, providing participants with a post-school qualification–-the first such program in South Africa–that allows traditionally underrepresented young women to tap into the growth potential in the digital sector in South Africa.
The activity will contribute to eliminating the causes of poverty on a grassroots level by providing socio-economic support and economically empowering young women so that they may become economically active and independent citizens, thereby lowering their degree of vulnerably to contracting HIV. Dream Factory Foundation also expects to provide young women the opportunity to develop their personal and professional skills, enhancing the likelihood that they are able to obtain jobs in the traditionally male-dominated technology and computer science industry and/or start their own sustainable entrepreneurial initiative.
Kibera Community Empowerment Organization
KCEO’s youth-led Young Mothers Incubation program in Kibera, Kenya provides a safe space for young mothers living with disabilities and for those who have been subjected to stigma, discrimination, and sexual abuse. This safe space allows these young women to share and interact with each other; meet successful women with disabilities and human rights advocates; and explore the opportunities available for women with disabilities in Kenya such as relevant social services and platforms for empowerment through linkages with the National Disability Society.
The Young Mothers Incubation has received the Recognition Prize for its innovative work empowering young mothers with disabilities to rebuild their self-esteem; improve their literacy; and hone their leadership, digital literacy, and entrepreneurship skills; and for its efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination facing these young mothers through its engagement with the local community.
Visionaria Network is a non-profit with a mission to activate visions for sustainable development. Visionaria programs combine hands-on learning experiences and a “Visionaria” (female visionary) mindset to empower young people and entrepreneurs around the world to envision and dictate their own futures, and the future of their communities.
The Young Women Transform –Creation Prize will enable over 500 girls to participate in the Visionaria for Schools program in 2019, support the Visionaria team to design student portfolios that demonstrate students' growth in core employability competencies through the program, and host a new employer-focused Job and Employability Fair in Cusco, Peru.The Visionaria for Schools program (VfS) in Peru, spurs young women to be change makers in their own lives and communities. It does this by enabling youth to develop agency, critical thinking, interpersonal and higher-order thinking skills; and by engaging youth in sustainable development projects with other leaders in their communities.
Disabled Women Empowerment Center
Disabled Women Empowerment Center (DWEC) Kaski, is an organization run by and for Nepali women with disabilities. They encourage full participation, inclusion, and contribution of women with disabilities in the community and run programs to protect their rights, and to improve their social, political, educational, economic and psycho-social status. The Young Women Transform – Creation Prize will support their work with the proposed project, “Accessible training and entrepreneur incubation project for girls and women with disabilities” in the Pokhara, Kaski district of Nepal.
This is just an introduction to the winning organizations, some of which have already begun implementing their work through the Prize. Stay tuned throughout the next year for more updates on these projects and what they’ve accomplished.