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Innovative Solutions: Fostering an Entrepreneurial Spirit to Fund Education

©UNICEF Thailand/2012/Jingjai
Daojai Saetor, 20, prepares dinner in the kitchen of JW Marriott hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. She is taking part in the Youth Career Development Programme, an innovative job-training programme carried out through a partnership between UNICEF and private co

Financial difficulties are one of the common barriers to girls’ education. When parents must decide which child to send to school given their limited funds, it is often the girl child who is left behind. In some cultures, educating a girl is not valued and the returns are not worth the investment. Her future may be destined to staying home to help with domestic work, taking care of younger siblings, or getting married off as a child bride.

Addressing these notions is one of the first steps, but coupled with innovative entrepreneurship, solutions are abundant. Through programmes that help families generate sufficient profits - either targeted at parents or the girls themselves - girls will have a better chance of attending school.

In the Nwoya district in Northern Uganda, 14-year-old Jennifer was taken out of school to be married to an older man in order to pay off her father’s land debt. Financial hardship is one of the common barriers to girls’ education. When families are trapped by desperate circumstances, it is often girls like Jennifer who pay the price.

Fortunately, the local school garden committee in the district intervened on Jennifer’s behalf. The school committee worked together to negotiate as one community and were able to repay the debt in order to get Jennifer back into school. Further, the decision was made to recruit Jennifer’s father into the school garden committee so that he will be able to earn more money in the future, which he did.

The school committee is part of an innovative school garden demonstration project supported by UNICEF Uganda, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the local community-based organization African Revival. The committee, composed of 26 women and 16 men, promote gender equality through support to girls’ enrolment through support for school fee payments directly associated with income generation from the garden, thereby increasing both enrolment and retention. At age 15, Jennifer is now determined to complete her education and wants to become a teacher.

In Thailand, the Youth Career Development Programme (YCDP) teaches a trade to young people from disadvantaged communities, either in hotels, banks or hospitals. The income they receive can help pay for their school fees, while at the same time, it is a way of tackling child trafficking and sexual exploitation by providing employment. Not only has it changed the lives of the young people, but also the lives of their brothers, sisters and families because of the money that they sent back home for their education. Eighteen year old, Urairat Srisara, from northeastern Thailand participated in a 5-month hotel services training because her parents were struggling financially. At the end of the programme, Urairat said, “I was afraid that my family couldn’t support me until graduation. So I’d like to thank this programme for such a good opportunity in life.”

A focus on entrepreneurship is one innovative route to addressing the financial barriers to girls’ education. Entrepreneurship initiatives targeted at young people have also shown to foster enterprising individuals with an innovative spirit. In the long run, this can help alleviate youth unemployment as well.


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