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Insight report: the future of work for young women in Kilifi

In this report, WONDER Foundation highlights the need to equip young women in rural Kenya with a diverse skill set so they can adapt and thrive in the post-COVID world.

Kenya’s coast is one of the poorest regions in Kenya. Here women and girls face unique barriers to fulfilling their potential due to gender-based inequalities and cultural expectations. Girls’ education is seldom prioritised by families, sometimes even rejected. The coastal areas of Kenya which heavily rely on the tourism industry as a source of income have been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing an increase in poverty in the region. Many families who depend on this industry to survive are going hungry. Even before COVID the limited opportunities and choices of young women and girls predispose them towards early marriage, teenage pregnancies and being pushed into prostitution by their families, reinforcing the vicious cycle of poverty. The pandemic has exacerbated these poverty and gender inequalities, and girls’ education has been adversely affected. Students at Tewa Training Centre, WONDER’s partner school, haven’t had access to the technology needed to continue their education with classrooms closed and have reported taking on increased responsibilities at home, adding to their challenges in returning to education. In this report, WONDER Foundation explores the situation of women in Kenya’s coastal region and offers a compelling case for why equipping women with a diverse skillset in business management and self-employment, alongside hospitality and tourism training, will equip vulnerable young women with the tools they need to be self-sustaining in a fragile marketplace post-COVID. During the pandemic, women who had both hard and soft skills benefitted from greater job security and resilience in a volatile economy that increasingly call for an entrepreneurial mindset. As sources of income dried up following the pandemic, some of Tewa’s students and alumni have successfully set up their own businesses, providing new sources of income for their families. This has highlighted the value of a diverse skill set, and the role of education in developing young women’s capacity to make informed decisions about their futures.

Thanks to the entrepreneurship course at Tewa, I am able to jump on any available opportunity. Veronica (30), Tewa alumna

Tewa Training Centre was established in 2010 with the purpose of providing young local women with the skills that are necessary to thrive in Kilifi’s main industries: hospitality and tourism. What makes Tewa unique is its holistic and integrated approach. The two-year hospitality and entrepreneurship training course at Tewa not only develops young women’s hard skills but also develops their soft skills through mentoring. In order to maintain progress and stay relevant in a continuously changing and fragile marketplace, Tewa is working with WONDER Foundation to develop Project Jitegamee which will adapt the curriculum to these new trends in entrepreneurship and challenges in the hospitality industry, which experts are confident will continue to grow. Project Jitegemee will supplement Tewa’s accredited hospitality and tourism training with short courses geared towards business management and self-employment, training its students in social media management, marketing and e-commerce — tools that will be relevant even after COVID-19.

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Tewa Training Centre is a project of Nurisha Trust an offshoot of Kianda Foundation

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