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Enhancing employment prospects of young graduate women into high value sectors in Ethiopia: An action research project


A low level of marketable skills among women graduating from technical and vocational training and universities is widely recognized as a major barrier to youth employment in Ethiopia. Young women enter the labour market lacking critical soft skills, networks, and female role models. Compounded by social norms, these have reinforced women’s concentration in low-productivity sectors, with little prospect to “cross over” to higher paying jobs. The gendered segregation of the labour market is expected to be further entrenched in the aftermath of COVID-19 as key sectors see job losses. There remains a lack of evidence on what interventions are the most effective at addressing the barriers faced by women and girls, and what can be done to shift social and gender norms that hold them back, particularly in contexts of major economic shocks.

This project seeks to identify effective interventions that facilitate young women’s entry and retention in high-value sectors in Ethiopia. It will do so by investigating the impact of soft skills and job information center services in improving work readiness and employment prospects of young women in early career development in four cities– Addis Ababa, Mekelle, Awasa, and Harar. Using a mixed-methods approach that combines an experimental design with qualitative research, this project will test interventions to identify scalable solutions to enhance young women’s employment prospects. The goal is to inform public and private sector actions to advance gender equality as the country puts in place COVID-19 response and recovery measures.

The project is supported under the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) East Africa initiative, jointly funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and IDRC. GrOW East Africa seeks to spur transformative change to advance gender equality in the world of work.

Project ID
Project Status
36 months
IDRC Officer
Annet Abenakyo Mulema
Total Funding
CA$ 690,500.00
Institution Country
Network of Ethiopian Women's Associations