It's International Women's Day! Check how UNESCO and the EU empower women in Malawi

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© Jessica Alderman
08 March 2017

The UNESCO project Skills and Technical Education Programme (STEP) funded by the European Union strengthens the governance structures of the Technical and Vocational Education Training in Malawi with a particular focus on women empowerment.

In November 2016, UNESCO started a new project funded by the European Union: Skills and Technical Education Programme (STEP) in Malawi. STEP strengthens the governance structures of Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) in Malawi, which includes formal, non-formal and informal learning for the labour market. Young people, women and men, learn knowledge and skills from basic to advanced levels across a wide range of institutional and work settings and in diverse socio-economic contexts. 

'The EU believes that technical training is essential in order to increase the quality and volume of the skilled workforce and thereby contribute to inclusive and sustainable growth in Malawi', said EU Ambassador to Malawi, Mr Marchel Gerrmann. 

There are many challenges young women face when entering Technical, Entrepreneurial, Vocational Education and Training (TEVET) programmes, including poor sanitation and dormitory facilities, male-dominated faculty and student body and limited support for women to enter the labour market. Therefore, UNESCO focuses on shaping a positive and supportive system for young women in technical trades. 

Justina Frank is a first year student in plumbing and is very engaged in her course, with her fellow students, and particularly with her instructor, who is a successful woman plumber. Justina affirms that having a female instructor is very encouraging and is one of the key reasons she enjoys her time at Mponela Community Technical College. Justina also plays a significant role in her college as the Student Council president, organizing events and advocating for improved education. 

Justina is optimistic about how plumbing can open work opportunities for her. She explains that most young women her age are already married, limiting their options to enter the labour market: 

“Some of my friends are in abusive relationships and are very unhappy. With a skill, I will be able to have my own company and will not feel forced to enter into a bad marriage.” 

Breaking down gender stereotypes regarding career choices is a core part of the UNESCO-EU STEP, which is achieved by supporting young women such as Justina to enter and complete a technical course and to become employed or start a business. 

Find out more about the programme here.