Two studies of young women’s employment challenges in Ghana and Senegal conducted by ACET in 2020 map the barriers and enabling factors faced by young women in the world of work across three sectors: agriculture, tourism and hospitality, and business process outsourcing (BPO). Using the Most Significant Change approach, life stories from the childhood, education history, and career paths of young women were used to identify turning points in their interaction with the world of work. This synthesis report identifies common findings and offers overarching recommendations for policymakers.
Six key barriers were identified. The first barrier relates to the high and unequal domestic burden faced by both girls in school and women in the workforce. The second barrier covers skills development challenges, including poor access to appropriate education and training. The third barrier of financial hardships and lack of access to capital covers the way economic and financial constraints affect women’s access to education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The fourth barrier covers workplace stereotyping and harassment, and the fifth barrier is the lack of career guidance and mentorship networks. The final barrier looks at the impact of COVID-19 — which has generally exacerbated the effect of the other five barriers.
Three enabling factors emerged from the life stories. By far the greatest facilitating factor was a supportive family environment. The second enabling factor is support from teachers, mentors, and peers, and the final and least significant enabler is support from the public and private sectors. The study also uncovered a pervasive mismatch between education and skills requirements for the future world of work in both countries and identified the most crucial skills required in each of the three sectors.
Based on these findings, the study makes the following overarching recommendations:
- Reduce the unequal domestic burden and improve home learning environments for girls.
- Modernize schools to become all-inclusive, dynamic learning centers that can train young girls and women in the technical and digital skills required for the future world of work.
- Provide more career guidance, mentoring, and coaching opportunities in education and the world of work.
- Encourage stronger gender-sensitive policies and an adaptive workplace.
- Promote accessible digital training programs for formal and informal workers.
- Address labor market barriers.
- Encourage entrepreneurship among young women.
- Support additional research on barriers facing young women in the world of work.