Twenty three-year-old Ek Maya Rai is busy working at a mobile repair shop in Mahendra Pul, a busy area in Pokhara, Western Nepal. Ek Maya’s formal education ended at fifth grade, when her parents lost interest in sending her to school. After that, she stayed at home and helped her family with housework, with no prospects of a future to look forward to.
A year ago, she heard about a three-month long training on repairing mobile phones at the nearby Panchakanya Technical Institute. In this course, she saw potential for her to do something productive with her life, and enrolled. The training is part of the World Bank’s Adolescent Girls’ Employment Initiative (AGEI), which equips young girls aged 16-24 with the skills required to find employment and become independent adults.
“It was very difficult at first, because I had to take notes, but I hadn’t read or written anything for 10 years,” says Ek Maya. “Other trainees in the program helped me overcome this hurdle.”
Immediately after the training, Ek Maya’s job in a mobile repair shop was secured through the job placement program.
For women working in traditionally male fields like gadget repair, or aluminum work, gender stereotypes can get in the way of job placement. The program works with private sector partners to help graduates secure employment.
“Mobile repair shops don't think women can repair mobiles, many times we have to vouch for their ability ourselves,” says Madan Ranjit, who runs the mobile repair training at Panchakanya.
Today, Ek Maya earns Rs. 7,000 per month, a higher entry-level salary than is received by most Bachelors’ graduates in Nepal.
Ek Maya’s success is not atypical. In a nearby workshop in Pokhara, 20-year-old Babita Nepali is cutting sections out of aluminum blocks to construct window frames.
A school dropout like Ek Maya, Babita could not see any avenues open to her either, until she heard of the AGEI. After her training in aluminum work, she was placed in her job which pays her Rs. 8,000 per month.
Graduates of AGEI also have to go through skills testing. The rigorous process ends in a certificate issued through the government’s vocational certification program, CTEVT, which qualify graduates for employment anywhere in the world.
While the young girls trained as part of the AGEI formed a pilot group, the success of these vocational training programs have resulted in a new initiative implemented by the Government of Nepal, with support from the World Bank.