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Developing Nations: Technical and Vocational Education

Volume 765: debated on Wednesday 21 October 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage technical and vocational education and training to increase women’s employability in developing nations.

My Lords, good-quality primary and secondary education deliver the highest dividends for poor people, especially girls. The UK Government are supporting 5.3 million girls in school in developing countries, to equip them with the skills for future learning and employment. For example, we are working with Coca-Cola in Nigeria to give 12,600 young women business skills. During 2014 in Nepal, the Employment Fund programme conducted skills training for more than 13,000 young people, of whom 56% were young women.

I thank the noble Baroness for that response. Following the recent African ministerial conference on this subject in Rwanda, can she say how involved the Government will be in this discourse to promote the involvement of girls and women in technical and vocational education in Africa?

My Lords, my department, DfID, has bilateral education programmes in 12 African countries where we support the priorities of our partner Governments. As the poorest children are still denied a quality basic education, that is where the majority of our support is focused. In Rwanda, we are the lead education donor and work closely with the German development agency which leads on support for technical and vocational skills.

Can the Minister tell us why entrepreneurship is not included in that? When you give women in developing countries some eggs or newly hatched chicks, they turn themselves into businesswomen and are able to feed their families because they become poultry farmers. The same applies to many other things—they run a restaurant or something of that type. I was favoured enough to be chairman of Plan International UK for 12 years and saw this across the world, in Latin America, Africa and Asia. It is just as important to be sure that education includes the idea that they might run their own businesses.

My noble friend is absolutely right, but the starting point needs to be good education. My noble friend is right: we must increase female entrepreneurs’ ability to flourish. I have just come back from Zambia, where I saw programmes on the ground where cash transfer schemes have worked and a little money or a little intervention goes a long way in ensuring that women have economic empowerment.

My Lords, despite all the cuts announced recently, it is encouraging that the Government are continuing 0.7% in financial aid to developing countries. How much of that aid is being used or earmarked for increased women’s employability through technical and vocational education and training?

My Lords, the noble Lord asks a really important question. However, we have made sure that women and girls remain at the heart of each DfID programme in each country in which we are working, so we have not disaggregated that amount. I can assure the noble Lord that, with the agreement of the new SDGs, we continue to place girls and women at the heart of those programmes. We are really pleased that we got the stand-alone women SDG within the agreed SDG goals this September. However, there is a lot of work to be done and we are encouraging our partners to step up to the mark, just as the UK is doing.

My Lords, what is DfID doing to ensure that women with disabilities are included in any training? She just referred to the SDGs, which make the point that extreme poverty will not be eradicated unless we leave no one behind.

Absolutely. Again, the UK should be congratulated on the work that we are doing as a Government to ensure that disability features strongly in all our programmes. On disability in schools, we made a commitment in 2013, as the noble Baroness will be aware, that we will directly fund schools only where there is disability access. The disability review is coming up on 3 December, and, if the noble Baroness is interested, I would be very happy to share the outcome of that with her.

My Lords, I know that the noble Baroness is well aware of the work of BRAC in Bangladesh, in particular, in revolutionising women’s employment and entrepreneurship. Can she tell us what work BRAC is doing to advance in that arena to diversify those women’s employment opportunities through technical and vocational training—perhaps including computer training?

My Lords, I will not specifically go into that programme, because we should be proud of our programme across DfID. That is about increasing employment—productive employment—for women. As I said, they start from school, where we give them the opportunity to gain an education and skills. We can then develop to ensure that they are both productive economically and, where they are unpaid, able to use those skills to develop entrepreneurialism outside their workplaces. I read in a recent report that if we give women opportunities, we can add $28 trillion-worth of value to our global GDP.

Is my noble friend aware that the Commonwealth is giving the highest priority to gender equality and full employability of women? That is based on the simple proposition that countries that do not give absolute equality to half their labour force will simply not develop—growth goes with gender equality. Is she aware that in Malta, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November, there will be a major conference on gender equality lasting four days which will be attended by all 53 nations of the Commonwealth?

I absolutely agree with my noble friend, and I will be attending to ensure that we again participate in those important debates. My noble friend makes the poignant point that unless we have everybody involved in economic productivity, we lose the value of 50% of the world’s population.

My Lords, I wholeheartedly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said about the Commonwealth, but I wonder what the Commonwealth is doing to ensure that LGBT people are also properly employed throughout the Commonwealth.

My Lords, the noble Baroness may rest assured that my noble friend Lady Anelay and I raise these issues all the time. Like her, we very much share the belief that accessibility should be for all people and that no one should be left behind.