Helping Adolescent Girls Succeed in Rwanda: A Knowledge Exchange between the Adolescent Girls Initiatives in Rwanda and Liberia
The Government of Rwandawanted to improve employment, incomes, and empowerment of disadvantaged young women through improved access to educational and entrepreneurial opportunities. It lacked the capacity to formulate and coordinate appropriate policy and training to achieve these goals. During a knowledge exchange between the Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) projects in Rwanda and Liberia, the countries shared challenges and good practice approaches.
Rwanda’s Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF) and the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) were looking for opportunities to improve employment, incomes, and empowerment of disadvantaged young women. Both agencies were facing a steep learning curve with regard to policy formulation and coordination in MIGEPROF and providing training to vulnerable adolescent girls in WDA. Accomplishing this goal would require enhancement of planning and project implementation capacities among Rwanda government officials responsible for skill development and entrepreneurship among young women. Only 13 percent of young women in Rwanda attend upper secondary school, limiting the number of young women who qualify for vocational training and can thereby secure higher-paying incomes. With the Adolescent Girls Initiative launched in 2012, the Government of Rwanda began a project to improve the employment, incomes, and empowerment of young women in Rwanda, with a specific goal of enrolling at least 2,000 young women in Vocational Training Centers.
The AGI Rwanda team was first inspired to pursue further knowledge sharing with Liberia following a 3-day workshop organized in Monrovia by the World Bank’s AGI team in August 2012. The AGI projects in Liberia and Rwanda have much in common. Both strive to empower young women (16-24 years of age) economically and socially. Both are government-led institutions operating in post-conflict, sub-Saharan African countries.
The AGI Liberia project was rebranded with a new name, Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG), with a catchy EPAG motto, “When you lift a girl, you lift Liberia!” Rebranding helped give the girls and EPAG Liberia high visibility, credibility, and local respect. EPAG Liberia is well known, even by the President of Liberia herself. This brand recognition is a deliberate strategy developed by the EPAG Liberia.
The exchange took place in February 2014 between the Rwanda AGI project team and EPAG Liberia. The exchange proved to be a practical learning tool for senior policymakers and the technical project implementation team to enhance planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation capacities. The Rwanda AGI project team gained practical knowledge of the “girl-friendly approach” used by EPAG Liberia—inclusive education that utilizes gender-based teaching methods and enables teachers to provide young women with the support, guidance, and counselling needed beyond the technical training area. This approach provides young women with safe spaces, clean ablution blocks, sanitary towels, a young women’s room with available counselor, childcare, coaches, and women business mentors.
The exchange involved a series of workshops, meetings, onsite field visits with creative activities and art and craft products from the trainees and graduates. EPAG Liberia shared all technical aspects of implementation of its projects. The EPAG Senior Program Advisor, Mr. Dala T. Korkoyah, travelled to Rwanda for one week to share his expertise and provide training to AGI Rwanda on strengthening their monitoring and evaluation systems.
- The Rwanda AGI project team gained an awareness of the girl-friendly programming approach as implemented by EPAG Liberia.
- The Rwanda AGI was able to enhance and operationalize its M&E system with support from the EPAG Liberia a project database and enhanced M&E reports.
- The Rwanda AGI team gained a better understanding of the transition to work module of the AGI program and how it contributes to the overall success of the project. In response, Rwanda AGI hired mentors in August 2014 who helped form 69 cooperatives with a membership 1,511 (85.2 percent) of all graduates.
- Senior policymakers from MIGEPROF and WDA consulted with their counterparts in Liberia, who have developed and institutionalized gender policies to create an Adolescent Girls Unit within the Ministry of Gender and Development in Liberia. After hearing about the work of the Adolescent Girls Unit, the Rwanda AGI team were prepared to formulate a Women and Girl’s Empowerment Policy and Strategic Plan.
- The EPAG curriculum development specialist provided implementation support toward the updating of the curriculum, training manuals, and training components of the ongoing Rwanda AGI.
- The EPAG Liberia, in a mutual exchange, was interested in several aspects of the Rwanda AGI project, including a component on scholarships for adolescence girls and young women who dropped out to resume formal education.
- Adults learn best from seeing. Previously the World Bank had shared documents with Rwanda AGI on girl-friendly programming to no effect. The ability to witness the first-hand effectiveness of the Liberian project helped overcome barriers for change.
- EPAG Liberia identifies itself as a job creation program, with the training component being a means to achieve this objective. This approach was crafted in response to traditional vocational training programs, which have had a low success rate in transitioning trainees from training to jobs or businesses.
- Service providers are tasked with ensuring that the girls are competently trained. The service providers are compensated based on the assessment levels of the girls and their transition rates into employment.
Through the South-South Facility, the World Bank funded the study tour with US$48,850 going toward travel logistics, knowledge sharing, and technical expertise. Further, the World Bank Group Regional offices in Kenya, Rwanda, and Liberia were conveners responsible for logistics for the study tour, a trusted intermediary, and technical advisor.
- AGI Rwanda team
- Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF)
- Workforce Development Authority (WDA)
- Imbuto Foundation shared lessons from AGI Rwanda and implemented lessons learned after the exchange.
- Government of Liberia
- EPAG Liberia, Ministry of Gender and Development (MOGD), and Ministry of Youth Development provided logistics and lessons for exchange visit.
Liberia Nongovernmental organizations:
- International Rescue Committee (IRC) Liberia
- Liberia Entrepreneurial and Economic Development (LEED EPAG)
- National Adult Education Association of Liberia (NAEAL), and EDUCARE – Liberia provided technical support for exchange.
As a follow-up activity under the South-South collaboration, the Liberia EPAG M&E Specialist provided technical assistance toward the transfer of advanced M&E knowledge and skills to the M&E Officer in MIGEPROF, WDA, and Imbuto Foundation during March 2014. This support comprised three features: an assessment of the status of the M&E system used by the Rwanda AGI project, a training workshop to impart advanced M&E skills to the project team, and the enhancement of the project M&E system. This helped the Rwanda AGI team upgrade and enhance its M&E system. The EPAG M&E continued to provide technical support to the Rwanda AGI M&E consultant from August 2014 until November 2014. Thee consultant collected and collated data using the M&E system, to create a database, and to generate M&E reports on different aspects of the project.
Hon. Henriette Umulisa, Permanent Secretary, MIGEPROF
Ms Pamela Nibishaka, Project Manager, MIGEPROF
Mr. Sam Barigye, AGI Focal Point, WDA
Ms Assumpta Ingabire, Head, Socio Economic Development Unit, Imbuto Foundation
Mr. Andrew G. Tehmeh, Acting Minister, MOGD
Ms Comfort M.D. Kollie, EPAG National Project Coordinator, MOGD
Mr. Dominic M.S. Massaquoi, EPAG Adolescent Girls Unit (AGU) M&E Director, MOGD
Mr. Barclay B. Dennis, Jr., EPAG Project Officer – Grand Bassa, MOGE
Ms Agnes Horton Nushann, Acting Coordinator, Adolescent Girls Unit, MOGD
Ms Samrica K.Z. Thomas, AGU Office Assistant, MOGD
Mr. Dala T. Korkoyah, Jr., Senior Program Advisor (part-time), MOGD
Ms Eve LA Chacra, Senior Technical Advisor (part-time), MOGD
Mr. Saah Charles N’Tow, Deputy Minister for Youth Development, Ministry of Youth Development
Mr. Geoffrey S. Kirenga, Child and Youth Protection & Development Coordinator, EPAG Team Leader – BDS, International Rescue Committee (IRC) – Liberia
Mr. Malay S. Taylor, EPAG / SOS / CYPD Project Manager, International Rescue Committee (IRC) - Liberia
Ms Avril Fortuin, Executive Director, Team Leader – JS, LEED EPAG
Ms Comfort Togba, Private Sector Liaison Officer, LEED
Ms Desterlyn Allen, Executive Director, NAEAL
Mr. Luther N. Mafalleh, NAEAL EPAG Coordinator, NAEAL
Ms Deola O. Famak, Executive Director, Educare Liberia
Ms C. Luvenda Toby, EPAG Trainer (BDS and life skills), Educare Liberia
The Permanent Secretary (PS) of MIGEPROF, Henriette Umulisa emphasized that South-South cooperation was critical to finding solutions to common issues of gender inequity, unemployment, and poverty. She noted that while Rwanda had made advances at the policy level with regard to gender equity, there were still challenges with regard to overcoming poverty, creating employment opportunities, and eliminating gender-based violence. She was especially interested in learning about the challenges and success of the Adolescent Girl’s Policy and Adolescent Girl’s Unit established by the Ministry of Gender.
Hon. Andrew G. Tehmeh, Liberia’s Acting Minister of the Ministry of Gender and Development, noted that while Liberia had come a long way, it too faced challenges with high unemployment, issues of safety and security of girls in schools, and the need to provide opportunities for young men alongside girls. Liberia faced a wide gap in literacy rates with 63% and 79% for girls and boys, respectively. One-third of girls between the ages 15 to 19 are expecting and/or already have one child. Rural girls are even more disadvantaged and more likely to be in early marriages. “But all is not lost. Government has an Agenda for Transformation (AFT) which is being led by the Adolescent Girls Unit in the Ministry of Gender, which was created out of the good results of the Liberia EPAG,” he stated.
Hon. Charles N’Tow, Minister of Youth Development, Liberia hoped to “learn from Rwanda’s well-established technical vocational education and training (TVET) structure as Liberia developed its own TVET institutions.”
Pamela Nibashka, Rwanda AGI Project Coordinator, noted that by visiting the centers and meeting the girls, she was able to see the practical solutions that Liberia AGI had taken to find girl-friendly solutions such as renting spaces within the girls communities and near their homes to reduce safety and security concerns and providing child care space within the homes simply by hiring a nanny and providing clean bedding and mattresses, a feeding station, and toys for the child.
Dala Korkoyah and the service providers from Liberia EPAG wished to learn more about the agricultural threads: “This was not something we had considered before but which we need given the high unemployment rates in the rural areas.”
Sam Barigye, Rwanda AGI Focal Point for the TVET component said, “A key take away from this visit is that we need to put much more focus and resources into the mentorship and transitioning the girls from training to work.”
AGI South-South Learning Exchanges: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2014/03/19871443/agi-south-learning-exchanges