To mark Canada’s second Gender Equality Week, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the first installment of our #EveryoneBenefits blog series. This is written by MEDA Project Manager, Catherine Walker on the importance of integrating youth into the gender equality discussion.
Young men and women are the future leaders and employers of tomorrow. If we can educate youth now on the benefits and importance of gender equality for all there is huge potential for positive change.
Agriculture as a sector is a particularly important vehicle for gender equitable employment going forward. Agriculture is central to the economies of many developing nations; however, there are generally low levels of interest among youth in engaging in agriculture as a career. Young people are migrating to cities in search of jobs when there is huge potential in agricultural production. That is if we can convince young people that this potential exists and give them the skills and resources needed to harness it.
From a gender perspective, women are highly represented in agriculture, but their productivity is much lower than men overall due to factors such as limited access to land, markets, farming technologies, fertilizer, credit and training. Addressing these gender constraints is truly beneficial for everyone, as it encourages economic growth and increases food security.
In Ethiopia, the next generation of agricultural entrepreneurs is trained through Agricultural Technical Vocational Education and Training (ATVET) institutes. Traditionally, most graduates from these institutions go on to be employed by the government as development agents (DAs), but these jobs are no longer readily available, and agricultural students need to be prepared for other opportunities, including entrepreneurship and private sector employment.
The Agricultural Transformation Through Stronger Vocational Education (ATTSVE) project, funded by Global Affairs Canada and implemented by Dalhousie University in partnership with MEDA, McGill University and Jimma College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (JUCAVM) is focused on strengthening the capacity of ATVETs in Ethiopia to deliver relevant, market-driven programs that will more effectively prepare young people for employment and self-employment opportunities.
The focus of MEDA’s work is supporting the ATVETs to deliver programs that strongly integrate business and entrepreneurship focused on agricultural products with strong market potential. MEDA conducted market assessments at each college to identify areas with growing employment and entrepreneurship opportunities and worked with Dalhousie to develop specialty programs focused on these areas.
MEDA also manages an Innovation Fund which provides funding to graduating students to start their own businesses and works with local staff to provide coaching and support from business plan development through implementation. The project is targeting both male and female student entrepreneurs; however, given the under-representation of women as business owners, the project is particularly excited about the success of female entrepreneurs like Mebrehit Hagos.
Mebrehit is one of first recipients of grant funding through ATTSVE and has now been successful implementing her poultry business more than two years and maintaining a profit from producing eggs from a total of 200 birds. In the future, she hopes to expand the business from wholesale by selling eggs directly to customers as a retailer in order to increase revenue.
To continue to improve gender equality and support young entrepreneurs like Mebrehit, MEDA has been working with project gender-lead McGill University on strategies to sustainably finance on-campus Gender Clubs established by the project. MEDA recently offered a week-long training to Gender Club leaders to develop business plans to generate internal revenue as well as support young entrepreneurs on campus, with a particular focus on strategies for engaging with young women.
With strong examples like Mebrehit and the support of their instructors, ATTSVE is promoting gender equality among a new generation of young entrepreneurs and demonstrating how everyone can benefit from increased gender equality in agriculture.
MEDA will be further discussing the role of the TVET sector in supporting young entrepreneurs and promoting gender equality during its upcoming presentation at the Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit with Dalhousie University and Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) entitled – No Longer a Last Resort – Transitioning youth into the workforce through strengthened TVET education in Ethiopia and Kenya. Please see the conference website for further details on this session (https://www.youtheosummit.org/).