WASHINGTON — The World Bank wants to expand to Haiti and Yemen an international public-private initiative that helps adolescent girls and young women improve their lives and economic prospects, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick announced today.
“We have secured initial funding for an expansion of the Adolescent Girls Initiative and we are hoping that the first country to benefit will be Haiti,” said Zoellick. “Adolescent girls and young women living in poor homes have a hard time making the school-to-work transition. So investing in their skills development and job prospects will contribute to break the inter-generational patterns of poverty in their communities.”
“Haiti has the youngest people in the Caribbean with about 70 percent of the population under 30 years old,” said Haiti’s Finance Minister Ronald Baudin. “Improving the lives of Haitian adolescent girls and young women is a good investment in the country’s future, especially after the devastation caused by the earthquake earlier in the year.”
As part of the Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI), already active in seven countries, the Gender Action Plan of the World Bank and the Nike Foundation have pledged $1 million each to help poor and disadvantaged Haitian young women (aged 15-24 years) make the school-to-work transition and improve their employment and earnings potential. The project, which has been submitted to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) for final approval, is expected to reach some 3,000 adolescent girls and provide grants and cash stipends so that they are able to take vocational and training courses, as well as skills development programs.
In addition, Zoellick said that work is also about to begin in Yemen through an existing World Bank-funded cash transfer program. In that country, the AGI will evaluate transfers that aim to get adolescent girls to school, and help them complete their education.
Previous experience with cash transfer programs to adolescent girls in Malawi has shown improvements in school enrollment, declines in teen marriage and pregnancy, and decreases in risky sexual activity and in the prevalence of HIV AIDS.
Evidence also shows that investing in adolescent girls is one way to break inter-generational poverty. Young women that are more educated and have greater access to reproductive health are more likely to delay marriage and childbirth, have healthier babies and attain higher literacy rates. An extra year of secondary schooling, for instance, can raise their future wages by 10 to 20 percent.
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