The STEM II project (Supporting the Education of Marginalised Girls) was funded by UK aid through the Girls’ Education Challenge. The project implemented a number of activities to ensure that out-of-school girls had work-ready skills and better access to income generating activities. These included providing training in financial literacy and business skills, linking girls to vocational training opportunities in Kailali, and establishing the STEM Young Women Entrepreneurs Association. The project also established and provided peer-to-peer counselling services and created a Girls’ Transition Fund to provide loans for girls to start up or expand businesses.
STEM II worked with out-of-school girls who had dropped out of STEM schools between Grades 6 to 10 since 2009. The table below shows the number out-of-school girls that participated in STEM II.The project provided them with skills to prepare them for work and gave them access to income generating activities. The project designed an out-of-school Girls’ Club that provided youth financial literacy training, business skills development training, adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) information, vocational training, and access to the Girls’ Transition Fund, which provided low interest collateral-free loans.The training provided the technical skills needed for girls to venture into a number of career paths and boosted their self-efficacy. The results from the endline evaluation clearly showed that the participants not only increased their self-worth and confidence, but they could see their futures through a more self-managed, aspiring and fulfilling lens. The unique aspect of the out-of-school intervention was its robust design, where girls gained the required skills before starting or expanding their business. This design also helped counter any underlying assumptions in Nepal that young girls are not suitable for business.
Out-of-School Girls’ Clubs
The social stigma that often plagues people who have dropped out from school at an early age is significant, as are the limited life opportunities to which this can lead. This can directly affect livelihoods, career possibilities, social inclusion and political participation, as well as health, well-being and general security.
Establishing out-of-school Girls’ Clubs aimed to narrow this gap and provide better opportunities to girls who have dropped out from the 30 STEM schools. The main objective of establishing out-of-school Girls’ Clubs was to enhance knowledge on youth financial literacy, business skill development and sexual and reproductive health. The table below reports the number of girls engaged in the 44 established out-of-school Girls’ Club by training activity. During the third year of STEM, the project also introduced self-defence training to out-of-school girls, which enables girls and women to deal with day-to-day challenges and lowers the risk of them being subjected to some forms of abuse. It strengthened their ability to defend themselves through the use of psychological, verbal and physical safeguarding techniques.
Total number of school graduate and out-of-school girls who received economic support training packages and support from project:
Youth Financial Literacy Training
During the second round of out-of-school Girls’ Clubs, 14 hours of financial literacy training were delivered in 17 clubs, with 269 girls participating. The sessions covered topics ranging from determination of financial goals, saving and its importance, calculation of interest rates, family budget preparation and analysis of expenses, analysis of sources of income, insurance, internet banking, the use of ATM and VISA Card.
Youth financial literacy training – details and scores:
Business Skill Development
10 hours of business skills development training were delivered in 44 clubs, in which 1,033 girls participated. The sessions covered topics ranging from improving business skills, dealing with customers, selecting a profitable business, preparing business plans, and identifying market needs and customers for their business. The main objective of this activity was to enhance the business skills of those girls who want to establish their own business or want to expand their current business.
Vocational training was skill-based training that provided knowledge and skills that could be used in employment. The STEM II project provided various forms of training based on Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) curricula through CTEVT-affiliated institutes. The vocational training was provided according to the needs of the participants and covered a wide range of industries. These included agriculture, engineering, management, tourism and computing. The duration of the training workshop ranged from 39 to 1,500 hours. Most of the training institutes provided training on subjects such as tailoring, vegetable production, housekeeping and cooking.
The project emphasised vocational training for girls and young women who were from female-headed households. The main objective was to produce a female workforce with skills relevant to current and emerging market needs, improving their employability and entrepreneurial skills. Once the girls graduated, they became eligible to apply to the Girls’ Transition Fund (see more below). The second round of training focussed on skills in beauty, hand embroidery, machine hojiyari (clothing and undergarment making) and vegetable farming. It was delivered to 560 out-of-school girls at four training institutes. The total training time was 390 hours. The training methodology included lectures, group work, experience sharing, discussion and demonstration, and using tools such as flip charts and flash cards. While 20 percent of the training time was devoted to theoretical training, 80 percent of the training was practical.
Girls’ Transition Fund
The Girls’ Transition Fund was established to provide affordable, small loans to out-of-school girls and women between the ages of 16 and 34, living in the Kailali district. The loan offered them the opportunity to set up their own business.
STEM worked with four local cooperatives to distribute the funds to girls who met the criteria, with Mercy Corps conducting strict monitoring throughout to ensure the most marginalised girls were being supported. With an investment of $275,430 to local financial cooperatives, Mercy Corps supported 459 young women to set up or expand their businesses in Kailali district.
The 459 girls who received loans have increased their incomes. The increase ranged from $166 to $1,664 per month depending on the business and the season, much higher than the average per capita income of $108 per month. A project survey showed that the loan enabled marginalised girls to improve their quality of life by exploring opportunities to engage in better employment, expand their already existing business or start a new business. This helped them and their families to meet their basic needs.
Not only did the Girls’ Transition Fund benefit the recipients, the establishment or expansion of their businesses led to the employment of 1,820 young women in their villages, providing them with marketable job skills and a stable income in shops for hardware, mobile repairs and electronics, bicycle repair, and clothes shops. To ensure the sustainability of the fund, Mercy Corps handed it over to the local government who committed to provide more resources and provide vocational training and tools to help more young women to start their own businesses.
Qualitative findings for the endline study show that the provision of vocational training and financial literacy skills has improved girls’ self-confidence, self-efficacy, decision-making ability and agency. These findings warrant an extensive focus on expanding the outreach to graduate and out-of-school girls to facilitate their transition into further education and employment.
Highlights from the interventions include:
- An aggregate of 60 percent of out-of-school girls demonstrated increased confidence, decision-making ability, self-efficacy, livelihood opportunities and agency, as a result of receiving training and/or being involved in interventions delivered by STEM II.
- 7 percent of girls who participated in the youth financial literacy training said it helped them increase their knowledge and skills, and 87.9 percent of girls who took business skills training said it was helpful in their current business or to start up a business or employment.
- Girls and young women who participated in the vocational training said that of all the training combinations the vocational training was the most useful, as it provided them with employable skills that they could use for income generation.
- 6 percent of girls and young women supported through the Girls’ Transition Fund said that opening and running a business made them more confident in managing relationships with their families and communities, while all of girls and your women said they have gained more status and decision-making power within the household since they became a business owner.