Recommendations of the study "Enhancing the contribution of the Belgian TVET programmes to girls’ empowerment"

To empower girls and women through TVET programmes, it is important to bear the following six recommendations in mind:

1. Invest in the three stages: Access, Completion and Transition

To ensure girls’ and women’s access to TVET programmes, their completion of the training and a (smooth) transition to decent work opportunities, it is important to "ACT" simultaneously on all three aspects.

Interventions which focus on one of the three only will often not reach their full potential: there will not be enough incentive to invest in girls’ education if they have low chances to complete their studies and/or if the investment in their education will not result in a decent and adequately paid job opportunity.

2. Focus on poverty and safety

There is a lot of evidence that poverty is the main factor why young people, and especially girls, do not continue their studies. To enhance girls’ access to and participation in TVET, programmes should consider extending specific financial incentives.

Another important influencing factor is safety. This is associated with gender based violence, which in turn is linked to the attitude and behaviour of people. The (perceived) safety in the school or training context – or lack thereof – is a very important consideration for parents to send their daughter to school (or not), and for young girls and women to consider and complete their education.

All TVET programmes should therefore consider safety as a priority, and take measures at different levels to tackle this.

3. Work towards a mentality switch

To work on gender equality and equity means to sustainably change mentalities at all levels – communities, schools, governments, etc.

Empowerment of girls and women means that communities need to consider women as equal partners in the household, in the community, in the workplace, and in society. They must be recognised as important actors who can contribute to the development of their society, by their knowledge, financial means, relations, ….

As development actors, to work on these challenges and cope with resistance, it is essential to look for support from and invest in local civil society. Working towards a fundamental change of convictions is impossible without credit/trust within the community and at the level of school directions, staff, … This supposes long-term commitment and/or work via a range of strategic partners.

TVET programmes that want to contribute to girls’ empowerment should integrate measures to target mentality change and empowerment of communities in their actions, in the resources they spend, and in the results they want to achieve.  

4. Importance of non-formal education

Because of the advantages of non-formal TVET initiatives for girls and young women (closer to home, short courses, free of charge, etc.), it is important to offer and valorise these types of training.

However, it is equally important to aim for the formalisation of non-formal TVET and obtain official recognition of this type of training, for example through the extension of a diploma or, at the very least, a certificate. This will help to improve students' chances to secure better-paid jobs or credit for self-employment.

Efforts should also be made to create interconnections (“passerelles”) between non-formal and formal TVET programmes. This will facilitate the transition for girls (and boys) from one to the other.

5. Empowerment to choose and have options

Schools that want to contribute to gender equality should diversify their offer and should inform potential students and their parents about the advantages and disadvantages of all options in terms of trades and careers, so that girls (and boys) can make informed choices, independently of the traditional conceptions of “female” or “male” professions.

Schools should also invest in options to facilitate the transition from training to workplace, by organising internships in companies or workshops or in production departments in the schools. These departments could offer a “safer” environment for girls to learn, but should not be considered an end-goal in themselves.

Another important aspect of empowerment is to facilitate girls’ access to decent work. The strengthening of the internal power of girls is crucial to enable them to analyse situations, to feel confident not to accept inappropriate working conditions and indecent behaviour, and to make choices based on their own values.

6. Need for a holistic approach

To effect sustainable change, practices need to be supported by an empowerment vision and by the right means: gender knowledge, motivation, appropriate tools and financial support (see the INTRAC Triangle approach). The context – favourable or not – will also play a role and will influence the effectiveness of practices, visions and means.

Therefore, development actors should ensure that

  • all practices working towards the empowerment of girls are supported by the policies of NGOs, governments, institutions and schools;
  • knowledge and financial means are made available; and
  • staff are convinced about the importance of gender equity.