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The EU’s Comprehensive Strategy with Africa

Giving girls and young women the opportunity to be whatever they want to be! 2020 is a key year for the relationship between the European Union and Africa. The Post-Cotonou negotiations are ongoing, including a pillar of the agreement dedicated to the partnership between the EU and African signatories. At the end of the year, the 6th EU-AU Summit will take place. In addition, EC President von der Leyen has tasked the European Commission with the development of a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa. In light of these developments, Plan International would like to highlight the importance to ensure girls and young women can be whatever they want to be! This can be done by putting youth economic empowerment (YEE) with a gender lens at the centre, emphasising in particular the knowledge, competence and skills young people need to succeed.

We believe it is crucial to support simultaneously youth economic empowerment from an early age and gender equality to make sure all young people, including young women, unlock their potential.

Our recommendations

We strongly encourage the EU to consider the following:

Partners for Sustainable Growth and Jobs

  • Promote measures to eliminate specific barriers to girls and young women’s education, including their access to secondary education, vocational education and training, taking into account diversity and intersectionality. This means for example ensuring flexibility for trainings (evening, parttime etc.), safety in, around and on the way to educational facilities, improving sanitation facilities, and special learning initiatives for the retention of marginalised girls, boys and young people;
  • Improve the quality of learning in education and training, ensuring it supports employability and is relevant to the 21st century economy;
  • Support entrepreneurial and financial skills development, in conjunction with equal access to economic resources (capital, land and markets) for young women.

Partners for a Green Transition

  • Promote green skills in formal and informal education and training, and encourage girls and young women’s participation in these subjects;
  • Support green jobs and green entrepreneurship that contribute to preserving or restoring the environment in existing industries or new green sectors.

Partners for a Digital and Data Transformation

  • Mainstream digital literacy and skills in education;
  • Promote girls and young women’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) subjects, including by addressing gender biases and occupational stereotypes in curricula and training materials.

Partners for peace, security, governance and resilience

  • Ensure that in fragile settings and in situations of forced displacement, girls and young women have access to education and training opportunities including vocational, life skills and language training, and address genderbased barriers:
  • Support the recognition of previous qualifications for displaced young people.

Our reaction to the Joint Communication By the European Commissioner and EEAS

Overall, we welcome the EU’s priorities and proposals related to youth economic empowerment and recognise the effort to address girls and women’s needs in this area. However, we think that for example, the green sector wth its potential for job creation needs to be better linked with Youth Economic Empowerment. In order for young people to benefit from opportunities in the green sector, the EU and the AU should consider actions for green skills development in order for young people to access those jobs, as well as support for green entrepreneurship. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the response can help support young women’s businesses and livelihoods, and the transitions towards a climate-friendly, green economy. In addition, we believe that in fragile and emergency contexts, young people’s access to economic opportunities is often limited. The EU needs to identify and address the barriers that young people. For example, through the recognition of previous qualifications, laws and policies that restrict young refugees’ ability to work legally in a host country, as well as specific gender-based barriers such as safety concerns. Here you can find the full version of our reaction to the joint communication.

Photo by Plan International / G. Van Buggenhout