Zimbabwe has experienced severe economic and political challenges, with key economic and well-being indicators declining drastically over the last two decades. The majority of the population lives below the national poverty line, many of whom experience multidimensional poverty comprised of income poverty, low educational attainment, and poor health and standards of living. Among those most affected are adolescent girls and young women whose economic vulnerability increases their susceptibility to HIV, early pregnancy and marriage, and gender-based violence.
In response to these challenges, Bantwana developed and piloted the Siyakha Girls (Building Girls) comprehensive livelihood model. Layered with linkages to essential health and social protection services, Siyakha Girls prepared vulnerable adolescent girls and young women who did not complete secondary school for formal, informal or self-employment. Under FHI 360’s ASPIRES project, and building on the 2018 Zimbabwe Employment Market Opportunity Analysis, this innovative model coupled life skills, job preparation, and financial literacy with vocational training and practical internship experience in high-growth, male-dominated sectors. Social asset building empowered the adolescent girls and young women with negotiation, communication, and other soft skills to mitigate violence, pressure, discrimination, and stigma in the workplace. To ensure the relevance of training for immediate economic prospects, participatory micro-value chain analyses conducted by young women themselves identified entry points and niche areas in their chosen industries in Bulawayo.
In addition to full-time or self-employment as key benefits of the program, group and individual savings components enabled participants to augment their income to meet basic needs and to acquire start-up equipment (e.g., sewing machines for textile-manufacturing).
The 7-step model, diagrammed here, has been recognized as a promising youth livelihood strategy for DREAMS partners:
By the end of the project:
- Increased job readiness of vulnerable adolescent girls and young women: 96% of participants strongly agreed that the skills acquired from the program prepared them for the job market and making a living in the future.
- Increased employment for vulnerable adolescent girls and young women: 15% of participants secured full-time employment at their internship organizations and 8% extended their internships;
- Increased economic resilience for vulnerable adolescent girls and young women: 27% of participants started their own individual or group businesses;
- 25% of remaining participants were actively seeking employment at end of the project