One goal the PROMOST Project (Promoting Market-Oriented Skills Training and Employment Creation in the Great Lakes Region) seeks to achieve is to improve the accessibility of an inclusive and sustainable Vocational Education and Training (VET) System geared towards regional integration.
PROMOST has so far contributed to this goal in several ways. The project-built schools and dormitories, rehabilitated and equipped training centers, provided information and orientation support materials, accommodated students engaged in the pilot dual training program and capacitated trainers through workshops. All these activities are still ongoing in this third and current implementation phase which runs till 2022.
This phase also focuses on encouraging more girls and women to engage in 'masculine' trades within the formal and non-formal Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). The project will promote their active involvement at all levels but also contribute to sustainably creating systemic change within vocational skills training. Considering women and men as agents of change through a non-partisan gender approach will contribute to the socio-economic development of the region.
Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) have always been at the center of PROMOSTs implementing activities. Building schools and dormitories has been the biggest step towards improving TVET accessibility and improving the presence of both genders in schools or training centers (50% girls and 50% boys). This was supported by so many other activities as described above. Though a lot has been done to improve accessibility, several challenges have still been observed. The absence of female trainees from the training sessions during menstruation remains a big concern.
To address this challenge, PROMOST organized several GESI workshops for the female students enrolled in the dual training program and their trainers who are considered gender focal points in their respective schools and learning centers. These workshops aimed to address the issue of low enrollment by females and the occupational segregation observed. PROMOST chose to integrate gender equality and social inclusion in the different stages the trainee goes through i.e., career guidance, recruitment and learning.
The workshops not only enlightened the female students on their menstrual cycles but also on hygienic practices to apply during menstruation. Students openly discussed the challenges they faced which ranged from the high cost of sanitary pads and limited access to information around menstruation. We hope that as a result of the workshops, the stigma around menstruation will reduce and female students will no longer miss training sessions in school or in the training centers. We also hope that the percentage of unwanted pregnancies will reduce among the enrolled students.
The career counsellors and the trainers i.e., the gender focal points also met in a two-day workshop which equipped them with responsive pedagogics towards the challenges faced by school- going girls. They were also equipped with skills to apply gender inclusiveness in their trainings and assessments, and to support their trainees by advising them on age-related developmental issues. It was concluded after the workshop that not all participants had similar understandings of the GESI principles, particularly on how to positively respond to gender equity issues.
It was noted from different discussions with the female trainees that they lacked the right information about their menstrual cycles, or they had very little knowledge. Many used unsanitary materials like cloth and were at high risk of early pregnancies.
Advocacy in reducing the cost of sanitary pads is crucial for the affordability of trainees. PROMOST will continue organizing training sessions on GESI and will target different groups to improve young girls’ awareness of gender challenges while establishing sustainable ways to address these challenges. The project will also support the career counsellors and gender focal points in their efforts to integrate GESI into their daily activities.
It is important for young girls to feel comfortable and confident in themselves to thrive. To achieve this, society must learn to break the gender taboos that surround the female gender and create a safe environment for everyone to coexist and grow together. It is for this reason that PROMOST considers gender a priority in its implementation and has adapted a relative approach where women and men become agents of change in their respective societies.