Women at Work

Young Women Will Be Catalysts in Africa’s Transformation

Gender equality is imperative to building prosperous, inclusive economies so that everyone can have the opportunity to learn and prosper. But how do we get there?

Despite the gains that have been made, gender inequality persists and jeopardizes efforts for inclusive development and economic growth. As of 2017, Sub-Saharan Africa was the poorest ranking region in the UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index. And though Sub-Saharan Africa boasts the highest women’s labour force participation rate than any other region, the jobs held by women are more likely to be unpaid, insecure, and part time. Displaced, disabled, and rural women are even more likely to bear the burden of these gender inequities. With our Young Africa Works strategy we are partnering with leaders across the continent to ensure young women can secure dignified and fulfilling work. Our work will focus on:

  • Challenging occupational segregation. In the programs we fund, women challenge occupational segregation to access paid employment by becoming mechanics, working in STEM careers, and owning construction businesses. Inequitable and restrictive legal rights and social norms, unpaid care work, and limited access to opportunities and resources, mean women are more likely to work in less profitable sectors. Women in rural areas, in particular, disproportionately work in time and labour-intensive agricultural roles for little or no pay. We believe it is imperative to include women in all growth sectors of the economy, building a platform for challenging ideas around “women’s work.”
  • Addressing gaps in secondary education and school to work transitions. Increasing the access and quality of education to children is imperative for all youth. Education matters particularly for young women, because of the strong relationship between increased education for girls and lower rates of child marriage, higher incomes, and increased decision-making power in the household. While gender gaps in primary education have been narrowing, secondary education rates for girls in Sub-Saharan Africa still lag significantly behind their male peers and  young women have a harder time making the transition from school to dignified and fulfilling work. We work in education systems change to ensure young women can benefit equitably from the power of learning.
  • Amplifying the voices of young women. Young women have experience and insight that is critical for transformation. For instance, women demonstrate political leadership by working together and with allies, across parties, to advance gender equality in the issues they champion, including parental leave and childcare, access to pensions, the elimination of gender-based violence, and the advancement of equitable legal rights for women and men. We are creating spaces for young women to share their ideas and apply insight to our programs and broader policies and pushing for the greater inclusion of young women in decision-making processes. When women are heard in places of power, we create a more equitable society for all.
  • Supporting women-led businesses. Africa boasts the highest proportion of women entrepreneurs in the world. However, women-led businesses are smaller, more likely to be informal and home-based, and have poorer access to financing than business led by men. Social norms can restrict young women from starting businesses in profitable sectors or from working outside the home. Our programs are designed to provide bundled services, mentorship, and access to finance to SME’s led by young women.
  • Building inclusive digital finance systems. Across Africa, women have poor access to formal financial services, credit, and savings. Digital finance solutions offer the opportunity to reach women across Africa at scale. Building on our research with mobile agents, we will leverage digital solutions to reach young women as well as the leverage the power of young women to spread digital solutions.

We are committed to addressing barriers that keep young women from reaching their full potential. Greater and more equitable access to education, financial services, and employment gives young women opportunities to move themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty to a better life.