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How vocational training empowers women

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Even once they finish school, many women struggle to find safe, stable employment. Vocational training and professional mentoring offer a way forward.

 

The same gender bias that makes it more difficult for women to pursue education also influences global employment. Research has shown that due to occupational segregation, there’s an overrepresentation of women in vulnerable positions around the world. Women are more likely to work in the informal economy, for example as street vendors or domestic workers, where they are not protected by labour laws, do not receive fair wages, and are at greater risk of sexual harassment. In general, a large gender employment gap exists, with more men than women participating in the labour market.  

 

The effect of the pandemic on women’s job security  

WONDER has been supporting programmes that provide women with job skills and mentoring for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has more urgently underlined the need for vocational training. Many families have lost their income from declines in the tourism industry, or due to the death of a relative, and women may feel coerced into vulnerable employment due to a further reduction of options.  

 

Closing the gender gap in employment 

Even once they complete their formal education, many women don’t have clear paths into an occupation. This leaves them with dangerously little to no financial independence. Alternatively, this lack of opportunity may drive women into vulnerable work, where there is the hazard of exploitation. 

 

Working with our partners, we help women find life-long careers in tourism, nursing, hospitality and more. By providing a woman with tailored vocational training, she’s less likely to feel pressured into accepting exploitative work, such as working long hours at underpaid jobs or in unsafe conditions. Moreover, if a job grants her financial independence, it’s less likely that she’ll experience domestic abuse, child marriage or coercion into sex-trafficking. 

 

Our partner in Kilifi, the Tewa Training Centre, helps women gain secure employment in Kenya’s biggest export: the hospitality and tourism sector. Male education and vocational training tends to be prioritised on the Kenyan Coast, with data showing female literacy rates at 53% and male rates at 74%. This lack of opportunity, alongside high rates of poverty, results in an increased chance of women and girls entering into transactional sexual relationships. For many women facing financial or familial pressure, sex work may be the only viable avenue to support herself.  

 

Programmes like Tewa help provide women with more options. It prepares them with multi-faceted vocational training that leads to secure, safer employment. Tewa helps women achieve economic self-reliance, so they don’t have to depend on others to make life-changing decisions for them. 

 

The value of mentoring women 

Effective vocational teaching includes more than just practical education. Globally, 20% of men believe women shouldn’t take paid jobs outside the home. This can make it challenging for women to seek secure employment, particularly if they don’t see other women working outside the home and believe it cannot be achieved.   

 

This is why mentoring is important when helping women build a career for themselves. Women who learn confidence-building soft skills tend to benefit from greater job security. With a mentor, women not only learn that someone believes in them, but are connected with a network of professional women and understand what is acceptable behaviour in the workplace. This ensures they will not be taken advantage of once they begin work.   

 

Learning in a supportive environment can help provide women with a sense of personal identity, success and support. It additionally gives them the confidence to create a sustainable change in their community.  

 

 

Author: Sophie Harris, volunteer at WONDER Foundation

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