Improving Training and Employment Program Design for Young Women in Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s Female Youth Employment Initiative to transition girls from schooling to wage employment was piloted as one of five Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) projects in low-income, conflict-affected countries with input from the Nepali experience. The community-centric project design focused on trauma resolution and life-skills training and on communal safe spaces in the Balkh province for participants to develop marketable skills and connect with employers.
After decades of war and Taliban rule, educational attainment is low and wage employment is out of reach for many Afghani adolescent females, with employment either household-based, mainly agricultural, or not monetarily compensated. Moreover, World Bank forecasts of a slowdown of about 3 to 4 percent in current strong economic growth (decreased high military and international donor spending) highlighted internally generating job growth a key to increasing young female employment, in particular.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) implemented the Female Youth Employment Initiative (FYEI) with support from the Finance Ministry and the IDA-financed Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP). The FYEI focused on social mobilization, marketable skills training and placement for wage employment, and project monitoring and impact evaluation. But because both the MoE and EQUIP lacked experience in designing and implementing such a program, as did the selected NGO program service provider, an institutional capacity challenge emerged.
One of several Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) women-and-youth training and employment projects in low-income, conflict-affected countries, the Afghanistan FYEI scaled up the substantial achievements of the Nepal AGI Project (an IDA-financed Enhanced Vocational Education and Training Project).
The Afghanistan and Nepal teams had an initial interaction during the AGI technical workshop in Liberia in August 2012. These are the only AGI projects in the South Asia Region, and because the Nepal project is substantially advanced in its implementation and experienced in working in socially as well as culturally conservative communities, the Afghan team learned tremendously through a brief interaction. The two teams agreed in principle to undertake knowledge exchange.
The Afghanistan-Nepal Exchange aimed at building on and improving project design and implementation, resulting in about 88 percent of the 1,300 trainees – female high school graduates aged 18-30 – completing the training and 77 percent securing internships. Although security threats suspended a planned visit of Nepali experts to Kabul, videoconferences prepared participants for the upcoming study tour: the agenda was set, objectives and expectations discussed, ideas exchanged, and lessons shared. Also, a dissemination workshop (knowledge fair) was organized in Kabul — targeted to relevant ministries, donors, and NGOs in the employment sector.
The September 9-14, 2013, tour included both structured learning sessions and field visits to communities in Nepal. The Afghan delegation engaged with Muslim women graduates in Birgunj who were garment fabricators; others, automobile mechanics; and yet others, receptionists. The delegation also visited a slum community receiving garment fabrication training in Simara, in southern Nepal. They also observed hospitality training courses and visited female graduates of wood-carving and housekeeping training in Kathmandu, the capital.
During project implementation, two videoconferences informed Afghani participants on how to retain students during training and to engage the private sector early to secure demand-driven job placements.
Observations and lessons learned were captured proactively during the study tour and incorporated in the project design — for example, the Bank asked Afghanistan participants to highlight and share main challenges with their Nepalese counterparts before the study tour.
- The Exchange was a catalyst for FYEI: the Afghan delegation directly observed a similar, ongoing long-term AGI project in Nepal — with proven good results and outcomes. Moreover, the study tour encouraged OCHA and the FYEI project office to launch FYEI in the Balkh province, providing further needed insights for project design and implementation.
The Exchange enhanced the Afghanistan FYEI pilot project design and implementation by
- Developing private sector working groups if the project is implemented before the start of the employment phase, ensuring the exposure of potential employers to the training of women;
- Incorporating AGI Nepal best practices and initiative results and outcomes, encouraging both the private and the public sector to participate in FYEI; and
- Developing job search centers connected to the training centers so as to offer career guidance to the FYEI trainees.
In addition to sharing lessons learned from the exchange, a dissemination workshop held in Kabul on March 25, 2014 launched the FYEI project’s job placement phase by building partnerships with the private and public sectors. Showcased was the Nepal example, creating momentum among public and private sector representatives to engage in supporting FYEI trainees.
The Nepal experience included conducting rapid market assessments before selecting beneficiaries, shopping among service providers for different trades to improve training quality, using performance-based contracting to achieve employment outcomes, providing employment counseling services and long-term follow-up to increase placements, focusing on self-employment and facilitating credit access, designing an MIS system based, and considering childcare to prevent dropouts. The exchange highlighted useful lessons:
- Being flexible in the Exchange design. When the country’s security situation threatened a planned expert visit, for example, videoconferences were hosted.
- Ensuring that the dissemination workshop goes beyond sharing lessons learned by incorporating an action plan.
- Noting that despite cultural differences, training and employment challenges were common in both countries though participants greatly appreciated the importance of both the similarities and the differences.
- Particularly in fragile and conflict countries (Afghanistan conflict, and Nepal post conflict), such exchanges are crucial; participants from both countries shared many lessons from their experience about resilience and coping with new realities that are often not considered in development projects.
This activity took place in support of a World Bank pilot project that closed in December 2014. However, many of the lessons on retaining students, engagement with the private sector, and support for employment were incorporated into the design of FYEI.
Task Team Leaders (TTLs) in Afghanistan and Nepal collaborated closely, ensuring the tour addressed both countries’ needs and that lessons learned could be captured effectively. TTLs served as videoconference moderators and subject matter experts, engaged in phone conferences to develop the study tour agenda, and met in Nepal on several occasions to discuss next steps and find synergies between the two projects. The South-South Facility provided grant funding of US$26,032.
- Female Youth Employment Initiative (FYEI Project Office in Afghanistan)
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, OCHA (Service Provider in Afghanistan)
- Employment Fund in Nepal, the implementing agency of the Nepal AGI Project and the IDA-financed EVENT (Knowledge Provider during study tour)
The Afghanistan study tour delegation included:
- Project manager, FYEI;
- Administrative assistant, FYEI;
- Project manager, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – implementing agency;
- Curriculum developer, OCHA;
- Private sector relations, OCHA;
- Representative, Afghanistan Curriculum Development Board; and
- Representative, Deputy Ministry of Technical and Vocational Education, Ministry of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The Nepalese knowledge provider was the Employment Fund in Nepal, the implementing agency of the Nepal AGI project, established in 2008.
Project Manager, FYEI: "We have learned a lot, few things we can't implement in Afghanistan, others we have to tweak or use for scaling. But the most important thing, we saw how targeted training can help with employment, and how these things are done on a day-to-day basis. We didn't know how to do it."
Curriculum Developer, OCHA: "We need to pay attention that the curriculum development is hands-on and not too theoretical. We need the trainees to do, not only to listen."
“The life-skills training was crucial to transform the internship at the Department of Electricity and Water Supply in Balkh into a full-time job,” said Ms. Benazir, graduate of the FYEI. “It taught me how to interact with colleagues and build new collegial relationships.”
She is now a salaried employee following a three-month internship and provides financial support to her family of four.
- “A Promising Path to Work for Young Women in Afghanistan”: http://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/promising-path-work-young-women-afghanistan
- Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) IN BRIEF: AGI SOUTH-SOUTH LEARNING EXCHANGES.“World Bank teams and implementing partners of the Adolescent Girls Initiative are actively engaging in cross-country learning exchanges that are helping to improve the implementation of projects and increase the dissemination and cross-fertilization of practical lessons learned.“ http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/Gender/AGI%20South-South%20Learning%20Brief_March2014.pdf
Video: Afghanistan and Nepal: AGI South-South Knowledge Exchange http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/video/2014/07/03/afghanistan-nepal-agi-south-south-knowledge-exchange