A Program Helping Adolescent Girls Will Be Expanded to Haiti and Yemen

October 6, 2010

WASHINGTON, October 6, 2010—The World Bank wants to expand to Haiti and Yemen an international public-private initiative that helps adolescent girls and young women improve their lives and economic prospects, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick announced today.

“We have secured initial funding for an expansion of the Adolescent Girls Initiative and we are hoping that the first country to benefit will be Haiti,” said Zoellick. "Adolescent girls and young women living in poor homes have a hard time making the school-to-work transition. So investing in their skills development and job prospects will contribute to break the inter-generational patterns of poverty in their communities.”

“Haiti has the youngest people in the Caribbean with about 70 percent of the population under 30 years old,” said Haiti’s Finance Minister Ronald Baudin. “Improving the lives of Haitian adolescent girls and young women is a good investment in the country’s future, especially after the devastation caused by the earthquake earlier in the year.”

As part of the Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI), already active in seven countries, the Gender Action Plan of the World Bank and the Nike Foundation have pledged $1 million each to help poor and disadvantaged Haitian young women (aged 15-24 years) make the school-to-work transition and improve their employment and earnings potential. The project, which has been submitted to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) for final approval, is expected to reach some 3,000 adolescent girls and provide grants and cash stipends so that they are able to take vocational and training courses, as well as skills development programs.

In addition, Zoellick said that work is also about to begin in Yemen through an existing World Bank-funded cash transfer program. In that country, the AGI will evaluate transfers that aim to get adolescent girls to school, and help them complete their education.

Previous experience with cash transfer programs to adolescent girls in Malawi has shown improvements in school enrollment, declines in teen marriage and pregnancy, and decreases in risky sexual activity and in the prevalence of HIV AIDS.

Evidence also shows that investing in adolescent girls is one way to break inter-generational poverty. Young women that are more educated and have greater access to reproductive health are more likely to delay marriage and childbirth, have healthier babies and attain higher literacy rates. An extra year of secondary schooling, for instance, can raise their future wages by 10 to 20 percent.

The announcement of the expansion of the AGI took place during the Adolescent Girls Initiative – Where We Are event, which underscored the innovations and achievements of development programs for adolescent girls living in developing countries. The event, held at the World Bank in the lead up to the institution’s Annual Meetings, also featured as speakers Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Bank Managing Director; Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the U.S. President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls; Maria Eitel, President of the Nike Foundation; actress Anne Hathaway, Christy Turlington-Burns, from the RED campaign, musician and ex-child soldier from South Sudan Emmanuel Jal, and adolescent girls from developing countries.

Some examples of the achievements of the AGI include the training in Liberia of more than 1,000 young women in business development or job skills from sectors with high demand, such as hospitality or office/computer jobs. In Jordan, the AGI is providing subsidies to firms to hire new graduates with no experience.

About the Adolescent Girls Initiative

The AGI was launched in 2008, as part of the World Bank Group’s Gender Action Plan -- Gender Equality as Smart Economics -- to promote the transition of adolescent girls from school to productive employment. With total funds of US$20 million so far, the AGI already includes Afghanistan, Jordan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Nepal, Rwanda, and South Sudan. The World Bank’s partners in the AGI are the Nike Foundation and the governments of Afghanistan, Australia, Denmark, Jordan, Lao PDR, Liberia, Nepal, Norway, Rwanda, Southern Sudan, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The Bank is also developing partnerships with other public and private sector organizations interested in joining the Initiative.

About the World Bank Support to Haiti

To help Haiti recover from the January 12 earthquake, the World Bank Group has pledged US$479 million by mid-2011, including relieving Haiti’s debt to the World Bank, which has been completed. As of today, the World Bank has delivered over half of this support: US$91 million are available to Government in the form of new projects, over US$106 million have been disbursed, of which 40 percent is in the form of budget support. The remaining 60 percent has been spent on community reconstruction, transitional offices and equipment for the Ministry of Finance, repairing damaged bridges and roads, draining canals, paying tuition fees for school children and providing them with meals, strengthening Haiti’s resilience to disasters, and figuring out how to better manage and recycle debris.

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