In partnership with African Skills Hub (ASH), CWY-JCM is excited to launch the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Livelihood Initiative (WELI), funded in part by Global Affairs Canada. This initiative is a youth-centered and gender-responsive project designed to increase economic empowerment and resilience for young women in the communities most affected by COVID-19 in Ghana and Senegal.
CWY-JCM enables young Canadians to become Global Learners so they can make positive changes for themselves, their communities, and the world. The Canadian nonprofit has experience engaging hundreds of young Canadians in similar development projects. Notably, students from Humber College, Sprott school of business, and Université de Sherbrooke have sent many students overseas in the last five years with CWY-JCM to assist in the delivery of livelihoods programming. However, in this new WELI program, Canadians will have to be engaged virtually in supporting young female entrepreneurs in their start-ups. Due to the current global context, they have adapted this learning model to e-volunteering. This is an opportunity for young Canadians to grow their skills and have a global impact by supporting the implementation and delivery of the project remotely. This new innovative Project will focus on the economic empowerment of adolescent girls and young women.
Through training, business support, and employability modules, WELI will help improve economic opportunities and reduce barriers for these women. Most of the barriers have existed for a long time and have been strained by COVID-19. Barriers such as financial exclusion, equal access to capital, markets, digital technology, and business development services. WELI will help address unpaid work and the disproportionate burden of care shouldered by adolescent girls and young women during COVID. This first phase of implementation will further engage three in specific geographic locations. These locations were selected based on limited COVID-19 responses and high rates of sexual and gender-based violence. In Ghana, the WELI will be in 2 peri-urban regions in Sagnarigu and Northern districts as well as in a rural setting in 2 regions in Afadzato South and Volta region. In Senegal, WELI will be in 2 rural communes of Malikounda district and the Thies region.
COVID-19 is impacting the overall macro-economies of countries in terms of trade and investments and is filtering down to have more dramatic impacts on individuals and communities, limiting mobility and access and further exacerbating poverty and increasing vulnerabilities. Youth were already vulnerable due to high unemployment and most were engaged in the informal sector carrying out often precarious jobs some of which were exploitative. In Ghana, young people between 10 to 24 years makeup one-third of the population (UNICEF 2018) and are an important asset for Ghanaian socio-economic development. Similarly, in Senegal, more than 60% of the population is under 25 with young people between 10-25 making up more than half of this (IndexMundi, 2019). These compounded economic impacts have been much harder on women and girls: who are generally earning less, saving less, and holding insecure jobs or living close to poverty. Unpaid care work (mostly carried out by young women) has increased, with children out-of-school, heightened care needs of older persons, and overwhelmed health services, with closure of schools. Not only are girls missing out on education, but they may become more vulnerable to exploitation due to the economic situation; deepened economic and social stress coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures. Gender-based violence is increasing exponentially and services to support survivors are being disrupted or made inaccessible. (Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women, April 2020).
Social distancing measures in Ghana and Senegal, even though temporary, had a debilitating impact on the informal markets where most of the population relies on, for their daily sustenance. Furthermore, COVID-19 incapacitated education facilities and hampered on-the-job training opportunities affecting low-skilled (often informal) employment uptake and progression and created social anxiety among families and households. Adolescent girls and young women face further challenges due to gender inequities as the pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political, and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.
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