Women’s Economic Empowerment in South Asia             (Hosted by SAR GIL)

Blog » Skills & Training Best Practices: Pratham and BRAC

Skills & Training Best Practices: Pratham and BRAC

Created Sep 05 2023, 5:42 AM by Unknown
  • Education and Skills

Organizations throughout the South Asia region have pioneered innovative skills training programs addressing women’s participation in labor markets. A recent systematic review of skills interventions in South Asia shows that skills programs often improve women’s economic empowerment and labor market participation. A combination of interventions can not only break barriers but enable a woman’s participation in the workforce. Nevertheless, women throughout the South Asia region continue to face challenges in learning and career advancement due to institutional, societal, and structural barriers – and a variety of organizations are providing vocational training to break these barriers. We at WEESA, a collaborative knowledge community hosted at the South Asia Regional Gender Innovation Lab, seek to amplify local voices, and share the knowledge on what works for empowering women’s economic empowerment in the South Asia region. In this blog, we will share the work of two notable projects led by organizations in the region: BRAC and Pratham.  

In Bangladesh, BRAC has spearheaded a portfolio of vocational training programs, including its flagship vocational skills program, Skills Training for Advancing Resources (STAR). Designed for young adults from poor and vulnerable households who have dropped out of school, STAR uses an apprenticeship model that equips underprivileged youth with specific skills that are in demand in their local markets. The program provides in-class and on-the-job trainings on various trades, ranging from mobile phone servicing to tailoring, throughout a six-month period. Apprentices also receive soft skills training in areas like financial literacy, customer relationship management, and social awareness. A key feature of the program’s success is its targeting mechanisms. Market and trade selection are carefully done, to incorporate issues such as safe work environment and distance from the market for the apprentice. Furthermore, STAR requires at least half of its participating apprentices to be women and selected apprentices undergo a robust selection process. According to BRAC, as of December 2018, almost 30,000 apprentices have graduated from STAR, with a 95% job placement rate. An RCT conducted by Narayan Das found that, among participants, the program increased labor market participation by 22.6 percentage points to 59 percent, hours of work by 59 percent, and earnings by 44 percent – and that the effect on employment of participating women, particularly unmarried women, is even greater. STAR’s success has led to other training programs at BRAC, including PROGRESS, which is like STAR but focuses on developing small, light-engineering enterprises in rural areas.  

In India, Pratham works within villages through small networks called skill sakhis. Using low-cost computer devices, the groups can view videos that not only address skills training but provide content relating to life skills development that have allowed women to learn a variety of new skills such as the ability to search the internet as well as create their own CVs. Based on anecdotal evidence, the effects of the program have been encouraging. The number of women who enrolled in vocational training courses doubled, within a year of launching the program. There has also been a surge in interest in electrician courses, which coincides with a video featured in the training that had a female electrician, as well as several women starting their own micro-enterprises in their own homes. The comradery of the skill sakhis provides women the encouragement and confidence to pursue further education as well as to conform to societal norms. 

Pratham has other vocational training programs that focus specifically on women, including a stitching and tailoring program jointly led by SATYA (Social Awakening Through Youth Action). Pratham launched this training program geared towards women in underprivileged areas of New Delhi. Researchers Pushkar Maitra and Subha Mani found that six months after the training was completed, the women who were offered training were 6 percentage points more likely to be employed and earned 150 percent more per month than women in the control group. Moreover, these effects were sustained 18 months after program completion.

The work of BRAC and Pratham is just a snippet of how organizations can equip women with the confidence and skills needed to increase their participation in the labor markets. Throughout South Asia, programs have provided innovative skills training interventions that address systematic and cultural challenges. Yet, there is a significant lack of rigorously evaluated interventions and policies targeting skill training of women in the South Asian region and learning more about what works in skills training can be very valuable.

WEESA is supported by the South Asia Trade Facilitation Program (SARTFP) and implemented by the South Asia Gender Innovation Lab. SARTFP is a trust fund administered by the World Bank with financial contributions from the Government of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.