Young Women Transform Prize Recipients Tackle Unemployment with a Holistic Approach
Soft Skills, Technical Skills, and Mentorship Essential to Young Women’s Success
In partnership with Standard Chartered Bank and Volvo, USAID awarded Young Women Transform Prize grants to eight youth-led organizations across the developing world to support economic empowerment for young women. In July 2019, USAID visited two of the grant recipients to gain insight into what methods produced the best outcomes and collect lessons learned about how other organizations might incorporate youth-led approaches in their program design. The two programs visited were:
- Kibera Community Empowerment Organization’s (KCEO) Young Mothers Incubation Program
Located in the Kibera Slums in Nairobi, Kenya, KCEO helps disabled, stigmatized, abused, and otherwise marginalized young mothers shape the future of their lives by developing skills to run their own social enterprises and providing economic relief for themselves and their families.
- Safeplan Uganda’s Budongo Women Bee Enterprises (BUWOBE)
Buwobe is a cooperative beekeeping enterprise that provides young women with the skills to produce honey and beeswax products, along with training that promotes savings and income generation for women.
While these programs are different and serve different populations, they’re both able to effectively change the lives of hundreds of families integrating four key approaches:
1. Building Soft Skills
While Safeplan Uganda focuses on the practical skills, such as carpentry and beekeeping, needed to successfully harvest the honey that BUWOBE produces, the organization also teaches soft skills (like positive self-concept) through women’s empowerment sessions, communication through business marketing, and goal orientation around sexual and reproductive health. In an interview with one of the beekeeping entrepreneurs, a young woman declares herself a “businesswoman,” not simply a beekeeper.
Hear the interview in the “Women’s Employment Solutions” episode of the Young Women Transform PodcastListen Now
Similarly, KCEO in Kenya provides training on leadership development, linked to positive self-concept and higher-order thinking skills (ie. problem-solving), and communication skills. KCEO also provides mentors who encourage aspiring program participants to gain confidence in their ability to expand their businesses.
2. Engaging the Local Community
Safeplan Uganda staff work with local stakeholders, including the parents of participants, to promote local ownership and buy-in. Annet Birungi, the director of Safeplan Uganda, was inspired to further her own education by her mother, who supported her to stay in school. She still lives in the community she serves. She’s now a leader in engaging community members who provide venues for training, drinking water when needed, and local knowledge that informs program design and ongoing assessments.
The level of community support for Safeplan’s work is a direct result of intentional relationship-building. An example of community support is evident in a story shared about a woman who was in training while with child. When she went into labor, her father observed a training in her place because he didn’t want her to miss any of the trainings. Despite persistent and deeply entrenched beliefs that women are less valuable than men, this father’s belief in his young daughter is a sign of progress. You can listen to that story in this podcast episode.
3. Responding to Local Needs
In Kibera, Kenya, KCEO primarily funds social enterprises that address education, health, and environment issues. By supporting young mothers who are disabled and their families, which are often seen as a burden to the local society, the organization helps to combat the stigma of community members with disabilities.
KCEO’s efforts help break down barriers and build the confidence of these young women. One example is taking advantage of an existing local tradition called a community baraza. KCEO uses these existing community gatherings, where local leaders and other engaged citizens congregate to discuss local issues, to include the disabled population and advocate for their needs. You can learn more about this approach in this podcast episode.
4. Including Beneficiaries in the Program Design
A primary reason these organizations were chosen as Prize winners is because they are truly youth-led. By making young women a part of the process in determining how program works, it is more likely they will be self-sustaining and achieve greater uptake.
Safeplan Uganda allows participants to choose which trainings they participate in. They offer a wide variety, largely based on stakeholder input. Even during implementation, Safeplan’s staff, some of whom are former training participants, solicit input from the young women as they develop and fine-tune the programs.
Both of these grantees under the Young Women Transform Prize demonstrate the value of a holistic approach that includes engaging the local community, including participants in program design and implementation, and offering a variety of training that addresses a range of skills important to the long-term improvement in the lives of young women.