On the premises of Haiti Tec, a certified vocational training center, a group of young girls wearing protective goggles and masks are sawing wood. Other groups are even busier with plumbing, electricity and masonry classes.
500 young girls have been receiving training in various technical areas at a number of centers in Port-au-Prince since October 2012. They participate in the World Bank’s Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) program which, by end-2013, in cooperation with the Ministry of Women’s rights and Women’s condition, will have provided training to 1,000 young girls between the ages of 17 and 20 in vulnerable situations living in poor neighborhoods.
According to President Martelly, vocational training is of critical importance in a country getting back on its feet. Last November, at a forum on the sector, he stated that he wanted “vocational training to be a pillar of Haiti’s reconstruction.”
In order to take advantage of post-earthquake employment opportunities in the sectors with strong growth potential that are traditionally dominated by men, young girls are being trained in five vocational areas not considered traditional for women—carpentry and woodwork, heavy machinery, masonry, plumbing, and electrical work.
“The strategy is important. Instead of ‘cash for work,’ the individual learns a trade, which is much more important. I think this will contribute to Haiti’s development and growth,” explained Rhony Desrogene the Director of Haiti Tec.
The young girls receive a monthly stipend of 2,000 gourdes (±US$50) to cover the costs associated with training sessions. They are also accompanied in their neighborhood by recognized community organizations, in charge of encouraging and assist them in case of problems that would prevent them from continuing the training.
“This is an opportunity given to many young girls who needed it,” stressed Daniela, a student, adding “I tried hard to get into this program.”
They all share the same goal—to have a profession and earn a living. In an economy with a low GDP growth rate and high unemployment, job opportunities for young girls from poor backgrounds are virtually non-existent, with the exception of work as domestic helpers.
Studies are expensive. Jobs traditionally dominated by women such as secretaries and estheticians and in the linguistic field offer very limited prospects.
Integration into the non-traditional sector offers excellent opportunities. “Young girls are more sought after than men on work sites because they are more disciplined,” explained Rhony Desrogene.
Carpentry and woodwork jobs have the potential to offer attractive wages and annual contracts. Heavy machinery is also a high-income area. With a diploma from Haiti Tec, young girls should be able to start jobs paying 500 gourdes (±US$12) a day—twice the local minimum wage, which is not even observed by all companies.
“Women are not held in high regard in this sector. The thinking is that they cannot be competent and operate in a market very often reserved for men. This is a challenge for us. We are used to this and are doing all we can to integrate women into the workforce,” stated the Director of Haiti Tec.
To facilitate this integration, training is being tailored to the needs of employers, the local companies. The compulsory training in life competencies (professional ethics, self-esteem, conflict management, sexual and reproductive health etc.) is an additional asset.