3.2.3 Employ women as staff and engage women mentors and role models to increase female participation in YEO programs

Encouraging adolescent girls and young women to participate in co-educational YEO programs remains a challenge. In certain regions or communities, concerns about girls’ safety or social norms about public spaces may limit girls’ mobility and make participation more difficult. YEO programs have found that increasing female representation in staff positions and as role models can be an important motivator for girls’ participation. In addition to female representation, YEO programs also need to plan for and adapt to the cultural, linguistic, and mobility issues that might limit or alter AGYW’s participation. The Iraqi Youth Initiative, highlighted below, found advance and contingency planning to be critical for success.

Checklist: Promoting AGYW Participation in Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programming

The USAID-Tijara Provincial Economic Growth (PEG) Program includes the Iraqi Youth Initiative, a program that seeks to create opportunities for youth, primarily recent graduates, to enter new professions, establish new businesses, and generate additional employment. The Iraqi Youth Initiative is implemented in 14 provinces through 8 small business development centers and non-governmental organizations supported by USAID-Tijara. The program has three main focus areas:

  • Increasing youth access to finance through partnerships with MFIs
  • Providing resources and support for entrepreneurship through Youth Entrepreneurship Centers
  • Promoting youth employment by bridging the gap between employers and potential employees and providing training (in English, computer literacy, and interview skills, among others) and apprenticeships for youth

As of April 2012, the Iraqi Youth Initiative had reached over 5,200 young Iraqi adults;  3,627 youths had received training to become business entrepreneurs, of whom 1,306 (12 percent women) had borrowed around US$4.51 million to start new businesses.

Based on the Initiative’s experience, below is a series of questions to ask in order to increase the participation of AGYW in your program. For example, have you:

  • Filled key roles with women? Young women relate to the experiences of women trainers and marketers.
  • Altered language requirements that limit women’s participation? Program leadership decided to eliminate English language requirements for most field positions. In many cases, this was a barrier for female applicants and not critical to their role.
  • Targeted women-owned businesses and apprenticeship sites? AGYW participants responded positively to placement with woman-led businesses.
  • Tapped networks of women? A program trainee tipped staff off to a woman-owned network of pharmacies that hired 26 young female apprentices and offered 15 of them permanent jobs.
  • Offered female-only training? Female trainers found that woman-only spaces and trainings increased female participation.
  • Planned expenses accordingly? For example, in Iraqi culture young women are rarely allowed to travel alone, so the program had to budget for an adult or family chaperone to accompany participants traveling to major events.