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Project background

Plan International Australia has been supporting a Youth Economic Empowerment program (YEE) with Plan International Sri Lanka since 2014. The project is currently entering a third phase, from July 2019 – June 2021. 

Employers in Sri Lanka are recognizing a critical skills mismatch between competencies of entry level workers and the  competencies required in the work place. One out of five youth (15–24 years) is unemployed, and the youth unemployment rate is five times higher than the overall unemployment rate in 2016. 

Comparison of annual data from the last few years show that women enrolment in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is decreasing. 

The underlying reasons for lower female TVET completion rates, and significantly higher levels of unemployment for women include: 

  • Negative perceptions of vocational training as a less desirable option than university amongst high school students and their families.
  • Domestic responsibility is almost entirely put on women.
  • Prevalent social norms and negative stereotypes associated with women working in professional sectors. 
  • Constraints in women’s physical mobility and, for the poorest women, insufficient money to pay the costs for transport and accommodation for them to complete their TVET training.
  • A lack of working flexibility for pregnant and lactating mothers.
  • A lack of role models and incentives for women to step into professional/technical fields.

Project overview

This project aims is to empower 2,505 young people, especially young women, to reach their full education and career potential in Mullative district of Northern Province in Sri Lanka. 

By actively engaging the community at the secondary school level this project will promote young women’s empowerment and enrolment in public TVET courses of their choice. It will also promote the benefits of enabling young women to reach their full potential in making informed and supported choices about their education and training post-secondary school. This will enable their access to government-funded public TVET education which all young people are entitled to receive in Sri Lanka. 

Over the course of the 24-month funding period, through community engagement and training of school teachers, school principals and committee members, the project is creating a supportive, empowering environment for future female students to follow in the footsteps of their peers.  

Specifically the project will work to overcome some of the underlying barriers which are preventing young women and marginalized young men from enrolling in, and completing their vocational training. The project will:

  1. Work in 25 high schools to promote and increase awareness of the benefits of undertaking TVET courses and disrupting the existing challenges of negative gender stereotypes. Particular emphasis will be placed on promoting TVET to female and male students in their final years of secondary school. 
  2. Work in all six divisional areas of Mullative district (Oddusudan, Welioya, Puddikudiirippu, Maritimepattu, Thunukkai, Manthai-East divisions) to promote the benefits of TVET, specifically targeting parents of high school students, to overcome negative perceptions and stereotypes relating to vocational training. In these communities, the project will also promote gender equality and specifically target negative gender norms and practices through participatory community activities and the identification of male and female ‘champions’. 

Key outcomes

  1. Families and communities are actively supporting young people, particularly young women, to enrol and complete TVET training of their choice. 
  2. 25 schools provide gender-sensitive career counselling to 2,705 students with a particular focus on TVET. Provide training to 180 teachers, principals and school development committee’s on career counselling for their school students with a strong gender lens. It will seek to ensure that training participants are able to identify and consciously consider their own gender biases, negative gender norms, and stereotypes which might prevent young women undertaking a TVET course of her choice. 

What's covered in project cost

The contribution from the Footprints Network can provide support in the following ways: 

  • Promotional campaigns in all 6 divisional areas of the Mullative district specifically targeting marginalized young women and men to encourage participation in the TVET sector.
  • Conduct awareness raising programmes (materials and the staff to conduct them) in all 6 divisional areas of the Mullative district for families and communities of vulnerable youth on the importance of TVET.
  • Conduct capacity development programmes for teachers and principals across 25 schools in order for them to be able to deliver gender sensitive career counselling to students.
  • Support 25 school development committees to promote gender sensitive career guidance.
  • Management, reporting and monitoring. Ensuring the formal requirements across all stakeholders are met and make agile improvements based on our learnings within the communities as we move through our work. 

Partners and community involvement

The project will conduct awareness raising campaigns in target communities, working with parents and community members to promote the positive benefits of TVET courses. The campaign will also target fathers and community leaders, who are often the key decision-makers in the household and community, and can therefore act either as gate-keepers or champions for young women’s empowerment. By targeting fathers and male leaders, the campaign will seek to build a groundswell of male champions for women’s empowerment, and a sense of pride within the community for driving positive changes in the lives of young women living in their communities.

School principals and teachers will be engaged with to raise awareness about the project, its objectives and explain the project approach within schools. Plan will provide training to teachers, principals and school development committee’s on effective career counselling for their school students. 

The project will also work with schools/TVET Centres to promote public TVET amongst students in their final years of schooling. Where possible, students will also be supported to participate in an exposure visit to public TVET centres, or as an alternative, Plan will organize a ‘TVET fair’, in which students can be supported to speak with and learn about the courses on offer in the district provided by the public TVET centres. 

Part of a larger strategy

This project is part of Plan's larger strategy to demonstrate inclusive access of public TVET services to government stakeholders.

The government of Sri Lanka has prioritized increased youth access to public TVET, as a core component of their education and training policy, with public TVET funded through their high profile ‘Skills Sector Enhancement Program’. Whilst the government funding to TVET centres is a very welcome and positive development in Sri Lanka, the underlying factors which prevent young women and students from poor and marginalized households from accessing public TVET are not directly addressed at a government policy or service delivery level, resulting in inequitable access to TVET. 

This project will seek to demonstrate low-cost and effective strategies at the high school and community level, which can enable increased access and inclusion of poor, marginalized young women and men, in the public TVET system. 

The project also contributes to objective of The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Aid Investment Plan (AIP) in Sri Lanka to expand economic opportunities for the poor. By empowering young people especially young women to follow TVET will open avenues to increase their income by engaging in prospective gender equality. There will be an emphasis on targeting women and young women and addressing their barriers to participation in TVET through both 'principle' and 'significant' gender.

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