By DUSABEMUNGU Ange de la Victoire
When it comes to technical and vocational education and training (TVET), there is no doubt that it has traditionally been a male-dominated field. However, times are changing, and more and more girls are expressing an interest in pursuing careers in areas such as engineering, computer science, and other technical fields. But while the drive and interest are there, many girls still face significant challenges when entering these fields, including a lack of support, discrimination, and even harassment.
We explored this topic with Ms. Prossy Ogwang, the Gender Advisor for the Gender Matters for Green TVET Project. The project is implemented in five Salesian TVET Centers in Rwanda and Uganda with funding from Jugend Eine Welt and Austrian Development Cooperation.
During the interview we discussed the importance of creating safe spaces for girls in TVET and how this can help break down barriers, paving the way for a brighter future for all.
Salesians of Don Bosco believe that TVETs are very instrumental in ensuring that the women are empowered beyond the level that they are right now.
Ms. Prossy Ogwang, the Gender Advisor, explained that there are numerous problems they are addressing, such as analyzing the capabilities and participation of women, as well as issues of retention within TVET. However, they recognize that there is already a gap not only within institutions but also outside of them, where people’s attitudes towards girls pursuing TVET courses remain very negative.
Based on the findings, there is hope that institutions of learning in general should take the step of empowering the girl child, caregivers, and other stakeholders responsible for the education sector. This will ensure that the girl child is supported and communities are empowered to understand the importance of educating girls.
“The best thing we can do is to have policies that are gender-sensitive, empowering to the girl child, and supportive so that girls feel comfortable within these institutions of learning,” explained Ms. Prossy.
She also mentioned the need for safe spaces for girls. It has been observed that girls drop out of school due to the lack of supportive mechanisms within the institutions. Safe spaces can provide comfort to girls when they need to discuss deep issues with someone who can help them through their journey.
Additionally, it is important to help them understand that education is not solely about attending classes, studying, and passing exams. It is also about how one can contribute to their personal growth and the development of their community. This can be achieved by setting goals, writing them down, and seeking support from others who can encourage and guide you towards completing your education and continuing to thrive after graduation.
She explained that girls should also feel confident in enrolling in TVET Education. ‘When we get to the different sectors, can we involve them?’ she asked. ‘All these people are part of the value chain, contributing to the education of the girl child. It is important that they understand that education is something that needs to be continued, not just studied, but practiced beyond TVET.’ Ms. Prossy noted.”
She stated that various business stakeholders must provide support for vocational training courses and also support girls. “They need to realize that when girls study within TVET, they become qualified. Therefore, we must offer them support and motivate them to join these companies and demonstrate their abilities.”
“Allow them to enter, let them perform their duties, and evaluate them based on their work, rather than solely on their gender. Allow them the opportunity to excel. I appreciate your support, but they cannot succeed if you do not encourage them to join and if the work environment is not suitable for women or young women.” She advises.
She also noted that different firms need to have policies that protect the girl child, such as prevention of sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse. These are fundamental policies that institutions need to have in place so that girls feel safe when working in these environments.”
“These are some of the strategies that we can implement to encourage women and young girls to work and study within schools. We need to establish good policies and structures, as well as having supportive individuals who encourage girls to pursue education. This includes parents, caregivers, and the community as a whole. It is important for them to understand that a change in mindset starts with them,” she said.
“If only you would encourage girls to attend school, make efforts to provide support for both boys and girls, and help them understand that education is their right and should be protected until they graduate and enter the workforce. Ms. Prossy emphasized the importance of this message.”