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Empowering young women to grow, learn & own

“It’s quite hard being an unemployed youth, it’s depressing at times and expensive also as job-hunting is a full-time job,” says a young women on the My Journey Programme. As young women are one of the populations most vulnerable to HIV in South Africa, the My Journey Adolescent Girls and Young Women programme, funded by the Global Fund, aims to decrease HIV incidence. Some of the drivers of risk for young women include unemployment, poverty and lack of economic opportunity, so NACOSA implements an economic strengthening intervention as part of the My Journey programme.

The programme is aimed at young women who are not in education, employment or training and provides them with skills and opportunities so that they can grow, learn and own. The full intervention is implemented in Mbombela, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane and includes livelihood skills like work-readiness, financial literacy and basic computer skills; opportunities like work experience, skills training, youth entrepreneurship and help with learners’ and drivers’ licences; and support for young women on their journey to self-sustainability such as savings clubs, food, clothing and childcare vouchers, small grants and matched savings.

A condensed version of the intervention is implemented in Bojanala in the North West and Mitchells Plain in the Western Cape and includes livelihood skills training, referrals for opportunities and other targeted support.

Economic Strengthening is already having an impact on young women’s lives. According to Reneilwe from Tshwane:

“It has prepared me for the work environment and customer service. Since I am currently running a small business, what I learnt I will implement so my business can grow and I can have happy customers, who will help grow my brand. As a graduate and an entrepreneur I can now confidently say I am ready to take on the world. I am a strong and empowered woman.”

Thandeka from Mpumalanga dropped out of school in Grade 12 but, with the support of implementing organisation Ikhumiseng, was able to go back:

“After Bhuti Noel taught me about education and the importance of it, I was so motivated to go back and complete my matric. I registered and Ikhumiseng paid my school fees, paid for my uniform because there is no one working at home who can do that for me. Thank you so much Ikhumiseng about the support you are giving me. I promise I will pass and change my family situation.”

Hlengiwe, also from Mpumalanga, was able to get a job:

“After seven days I got a job which was for six months and I got another offer and I am now working at the garage. if it wasn’t for Ikhumiseng, I would still be at home doing nothing because honestly you guys are the reason I woke up and went out there to drop my CVs.”

Tshwane-based Oreneile learned a lot from implementing organisation Beulah Africa:

“I like the fact that our facilitators make sure that we learn and know everything and also that they do not rush, they make sure that we all understand. I have leant a lot from Beulah Africa and I would advise another girl to come and join without any hesitation.”

Hope also had a positive experience with Beulah Africa:

“I really appreciate the effort that they gave to us and how well we were treated. Most importantly I have learnt a lot about saving, how to draw up a budget and that I must be in charge of my finances.”

Unemployment rates are higher for women than for men at all ages, but are particularly acute for the youth: 54% for young women and 45% for young men[1]. The latest unemployment figures show a continued rise in the levels of youth unemployment with the expanded unemployment rate creeping up to 52% for young people between 15 and 34[2]. Over 3 million of South Africa’s young people are not in employment, education or training[3].

Economic strengthening interventions that empower young women to enter into the job market or become entrepreneurs are thus critical to South Africa’s economic future. Young women who are in education, employed and financial stable are also much less likely to acquire HIV.

[1] OECD (2010), Closing the Gender Gap

[2] Statistics South Africa. (2019). Quarterly Labour Force Survey: Quarter 1 2019 (No. Statistical Release P0211). Pretoria: Statistics South Africa.

[3] Statistics South Africa (2018), Quarterly Labour Force Survey